Shaneel Lal condemns tomato juice thrower in Posie Parker protest debate

Shaneel Lal condemns tomato juice thrower in Posie Parker protest debate

Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull aka Posie Parker lasted less than 24 hours in New Zealand, before she was back on the plane to the UK.

The controversial activist was doused in tomato juice and had water thrown at her at Auckland’s Albert Park, saying afterwards that she feared for her life.

But Rainbow groups say they reject the narrative that Parker was forced to abandon her planned event because of violence from their community.

LGBTQIA+ rights activist Shaneel Lal and Free Speech Union CEO Jonathan Ayling shared two sides, two perspectives surrounding the events on Saturday.

Ayling told Tova O'Brien that the Free Speech Union was in support of the counter-protest until it became unsafe for those involved.

"Right up to the event itself, we were in boots and all for the rights of counter-protesters to gather there and speak against her thoughts and opinions," said Ayling.

"But what we saw there was actually a lot more than what anyone signed up for."

He said the scenes were comparable to the Wellington Parliament protests, noted that the media was highly critical of the breakdown of communication by the end of that protest, and said the same accountability needs to be held for this event.

Ayling acknowledged that the vast majority of protestors were peaceful, though there needs to be an investigation into those who instigated unrest.

"That's why we have a public letter that we released that's been signed almost 15,000 times in less than 24 hours. And the reason that we've released that is to call on the Minister of police and the police commissioner to speak out against this, because the issue there was the fact that the police failed to do their jobs to ensure the rights of Kiwis that wanted to hear from Posie Parker were guaranteed.

"I stood next to one of the police commanders there and he said to one of the women who approached him... He said, "This is a public space. If she feels unsafe, she needs to leave."

"And I wrote that down because I felt so chilled by that comment. The role of the police is to guarantee the rights of lawful assembly and lawful speech in public spaces.

"If she feels unsafe, the police need to ensure that the rule of law is guaranteed. And that's the problem here."

O'Brien pointed out that the trans community felt unsafe by the rhetoric from Posie Parker during other rallies. Ayling said the police had a duty to keep everyone at the Auckland rally safe and they failed.

He said our current speech laws must be enforced and protected for everyone, including those we disagree with.

"We have this idea that we can outlaw hate. I wish we could - It's a pipe dream. What we need to do is build communities of love. And what we saw on Saturday was not that."

LGBTQIA+ rights activist Shaneel Lal, who had been very vocal in the need for rainbow attendance at the counter-protest leading up to the event on Saturday, said the situation is not black and white.

"I think this is a difficult situation to assess, right?" said Lal.

"It is one of the very few protests that had an immediate resolution. That is that Posie Parker was not able to speak at all. But on the other hand, we did put out an explicit communication that there was to be no use of violence and force. And I think that those who did use violence or force, which was a very small number of people on either side, could have possibly jeopardised the safety of all.

"My concern primarily laid with the kids and the elderly that were there. But I generally think that most people were incredibly well behaved and the protest was something that I could not describe as violent. I think it very quickly turned into a colourful celebration."

Lal condemned the actions of the individual responsible for pouring what is believed to be tomato juice over Parker's head.

"I was very explicit in the communication that counter-protesters were not to use violence under any circumstances other than self-defence, and that person was not with us. The issue with these large protests is that multiple organisers are mobilising their own people. So there's no one central person that anyone’s listening to. This is something the police knew.

Lal said they had contacted police in the morning to understand how many officers would be present at the rally.

"I personally called the police in the morning and I said, "Thousands of people could show up. How many police are you sending?" And what I was essentially told was that there wouldn't be a high police presence and that in a sense, did concern me. But equally, I'm not the police. I have never done policing before, so I did not tell them how to do their job."

Lal said they were only there to protest Posie Parker, and instructed people not to get involved in the Destiny Church march.

"We had communicated to the counter-protesters not to go down to Queen Street because we went to the counter-protest with a very specific purpose, which was to drown out transphobia by Posie Parker. And we had done that very successfully. So we had clearly instructed people not to go down there and people who did were of their own volition.

"However, Destiny Church did use an incredible amount of violence against counter-protesters who were there peacefully. They rammed bikes into people. They hit people with bats. They knocked people down to the concrete floors. They were inappropriately touching women - grabbing them by the hair. They were also grabbing signs from people and breaking them. They were using significant amounts of intimidation and violence."

Lal said the organisers were not responsible for the protest "getting out of hand."

"I don't think you can control a protest like this."

Listen to the full interviews between LGBTQIA+ rights activist Shaneel Lal, Free Speech Union CEO Jonathan Ayling and Tova above.

You can also download the full interview on the Tova podcast, and listen on the go. Download the rova app on apple or android to listen to this podcast on the go, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.