Of all the people who spoke publicly about this week’s lockdown protest arrests, Amy Benjamin (opens new window), a senior lecturer of international law at AUT, was the most surprising to me.
Amy put out a video (opens new window) this week (which has since been removed from YouTube for containing misinformation) arguing that the arrests of protesters such as Billy TK amounts to the government outlawing legitimate protest. She specifically said that “the government has basically criminalised peaceful protest against its policies”. I’d argue that the government has done no such thing. Peaceful protests against its policies are still legal, but temporarily, while we have an outbreak of COVID, we can’t protest in groups in public. There are other ways that people can protest (such as online) that don’t involve the risk of spreading COVID, and people will be able to protest in public again as soon as the lockdown is over.
While she was at it, Amy also threw out the idea that COVID “is easily treated by therapeutics like Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine”, and she claimed that the lockdown “probably amounts to a crime against humanity”. In an ensuing video she has claimed that lockdowns are a “silent genocide” of the middle class.
My default assumption was that a lecturer on law would have a somewhat nuanced view of legal issues, but I consider Amy’s views to be somewhat extreme - and this is what took me by surprise. It turns out she has a history of similar claims. For example, she’s previously suggested (opens new window) that the 9/11 attack in the US was a “false flag” operation, and argued (opens new window) that the protesters at the 6th January insurrection attempt in the US (which her son attended) were mainly “peaceful”, and just marred by “a small group” who were in no way encouraged by President Trump.