Police presence concerns activists

A police officer enters a school climate strike banner-painting session in Dunedin on Tuesday to question people. Photo: Supplied
A police officer enters a school climate strike banner-painting session in Dunedin on Tuesday to question people. Photo: Supplied
Police questioning attendees of a Dunedin school climate strike banner-painting session about future protest plans left some feeling ''scared'', an environmental activist says.

About 20 people, from teenagers to people in their 60s, gathered at Knox Church hall on Tuesday to create banners for the School Strike 4 Climate tomorrow.

Two uniformed officers came to the banner-painting and began asking people about their protest plans regarding a petroleum conference in Queenstown next week.

Environmental activist Jack Brazil said it felt ''intimidating'' and left some first-time strikers ''feeling very uncomfortable and scared''.

They told police they were there for a school strike banner-painting, he said.

''The police said they were looking for numbers for the petroleum conference as there was 'only one ambulance in Queenstown'.''

It was ''completely unacceptable behaviour'' and seemed as though the police were acting on behalf of the conference organisers, he said.

A police spokesman said the officers were trying to ''establish a line of communication with the group'' and discuss ways to keep them and others safe during the conference.

''The group refused to engage with police, which is disappointing.

''Police acknowledge the importance of freedom of speech and the right to protest, and would always prefer to communicate with those planning public events in advance to help ensure safe protest activity.''

jono.edwards@odt.co.nz

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