Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel protesters accuse each other of aggression

6:15 am on 27 March 2024
A small group of Palestinians who now call Nelson home have been holding peace rallies every Saturday in 1903 Square in Nelson calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and vowing to continue for as long as the conflict does.

Protesters in Nelson calling for a ceasefire in Gaza in January. Photo: Supplied / Paul John Brennan

A group holding pro-Palestinian rallies in Nelson has taken a complaint to the police about alleged aggressive behaviour from a counter-protest.

Te Tau Ihu Palestinian Solidarity Network of Whakatū Nelson has been holding weekly pro-Palestinian protests for four months.

Members say they are being targeted by a group of pro-Israeli protesters, largely made up of Destiny Church members.

Zoe James from the Palestinian Solidarity Network said they were calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Palestine, and for the human rights of the people of Palestine to be protected.

She said their protests had been plagued by the presence of counter-protesters, who she believed were primarily Destiny Church members, and they were increasingly being verbally and physically intimidated.

"We have many elderly and some children in our group, and we wish to protect them from intimidation and infiltration from the counter-protester group, but over the last four weeks these protests have become increasingly more aggressive."

She said they had raised concerns with the police on several occasions, and had now lodged a formal complaint.

The organiser of the pro-Israeli rally, Martin Daly, denied the group were acting aggressively.

Daly said his group did involve members of Destiny Church, but also many others.

He said the rallies were intended to give a counter to the pro-Palestinian rally's view, and were calling for the release of Israeli hostages.

Daly said his group was non-violent.

"When our guys do the haka it seems to fire a bit of a physical response from the pro-Palestinian groups, who start leaning and and pushing and shoving the guys trying to do the haka."

Daly said he had been spoken to by the police about the conflict between the two groups, and agreed to keep his group on the other side of the street in future.

In a statement, a police spokesperson said they followed up with organisers involved in the protest action in Nelson CBD on 23 March.

"While recognising the lawful right to protest, police also recognise the rights of those working and visiting the city centre go about their lawful business, and draws the line when the safety of those involved and the public are put at risk and thoroughfares are obstructed.

"The Nelson public deserve better than a repeat of some of the behaviour witnessed on Saturday.

"Police have discussed potential changes with leaders of both groups, and given advice on how to protest safely and legally to ensure a similar incident is not repeated."

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