In Australia, we do not have a constitution that guarantees us the first amendment rights that so many protestors in America jump behind when questioned about what they are doing standing outside abortion clinics protesting as aggressively as they do. We do have however, our own constitution that provides us with 5 basic freedoms. Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and freedom of movement. The first 3 from that list would suggest that in a protest situation the protestors are merely exercising these freedoms and as such have every right to be there expressing themselves, and for the most part they do. However as soon as other parties start feeling harassed, intimidated or bullied, there are other laws that are in place to protect them from being persecuted, and as such the law is obligated to intervene. Protestors should be free express themselves, but not at anyone else expense. One persons liberties do not out way anyone else’s. Offensive signage and stand over tactics are protest strategies that cross the line when it comes to public decency and civil liberties.
Those of us lucky enough to live in a democracy understand the true power of civilised debate. Our governments function by looking at issues, discussing them, and negotiating law and policy based on the best interests of their constituents. Whilst the actual parliamentary debates might not be as “civilised” as we would like them to be, they do take place in accordance to certain protocols that assure that everyone involved is respected and has a chance to express their views, thoughts and beliefs rationally. Essentially it is a dialogue designed to argue one point of view against another.
I have been looking at a lot of content over the internet, searching for anything related to our cause and i keep hearing people coming back to freedom of speech, “you cant stop me from protesting, i have freedom of speech”. Yes we understand you are entitled to certain civil liberties that do give you the right to protest abortion. But they are CIVIL liberties, and as the name would suggest they need to be exercised with a certain degree of civility.
So if you do decide to protest an issue please make sure to be civil about your liberties!