Australian human rights activists and politicians expressed concern about police filming and monitoring pro-Palestine demonstrators, but not other demonstrators.
Human rights lawyer Nick Outram, who works as a legal observer for the volunteer group Action Ready, said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper that police forces in the state of Queensland record the license plate numbers of cars displaying Palestinian flags, and store information about participants in events in support of Palestine.
On December 8, Action Ready issued a statement about the Queensland Police's close monitoring of individuals who attended pro-Palestine demonstrations. The police were recording and photographing peacefully protesting demonstrators, and collecting other information about them.
Action Ready added in its statement that “the team observed police officers taking photos of the group, as well as individual attendees (including children) on devices believed to be equipped with facial recognition technology.”
Last month I wrote to the Qld Police Minister and QPS Commissioner about growing police surveillance at peaceful protests, particularly rallies in support of Palestine.
The response I received from the minister – that this is standard practice for protests – is truly alarming.🧵
— Michael Berkman (@mcberkman) January 19, 2024
Australian parliamentarian and lawyer, Michael Berkman, said that it is not the role of the police to monitor demonstrations in this way, adding that freedom of expression and democratic protest is protected under the Queensland Human Rights Act, and he wrote in his statement, “I am concerned that this excessive verification may discourage or limit free participation.” “In peaceful demonstrations, especially for marginalized and vulnerable groups.”
A Queensland Police spokesperson said the wearing of body cameras and the use of hand-held devices by officers at demonstrations was sound and normal practice, and was not specifically targeting any groups.
For his part, Queensland Police Minister, Mark Ryan, said that he expects the active forces to act in the interest of community safety, stressing that there is no evidence to indicate that the Queensland Police Service acted contrary to this expectation.
However, Terry O'Gorman, vice president of the People's Rights Council of Queensland, said there was no justification for police filming of peaceful protesters, and the police and government must stop immediately. He added that such monitoring reflects the gradual decline in the “right to peacefully demonstrate” across Australia.