Benny's beef thrown out of court
After waiting for four months to go to court over his Australia Day arrest, theatrical protesting icon Benny Zable had his case thrown out before it was heard. On Wednesday, May 26, with supporters waiting outside the Lismore Court House, the prosecutors reviewed the evidence and decided not to continue with the charge of trespass. After negotiation between Benny’s lawyer Steve Bolt and the magistrate, the court awarded the defendant $1000 to pay for court costs.
Benny was arrested and charged with trespass when he turned up in his slogan suit and gas mask at Lismore’s Australia Day ceremonies at Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre (GSAC) on January 26. As a vegan, he was offended by the official Australia Day poster with its slogan, ‘BBQ like you’ve never BBQ’d before’ and wanted to peacefully protest. He brought his own poster with the slogan ‘kill like you’d never kill’d before’.
“I was protesting the promotion of the culture of meat eating in Australia,” Benny said. “It was a public awareness campaign about the ill-effects of the beef livestock industry on the environment and human health.”
Benny said that because his arrest had taken place after he had left the GSAC building and was standing in the carpark, the arrest under the charge of trespass was actually illegal.
“I didn’t know I was arrested for trespass till later,” Benny said. “A council officer just asked me to leave and I complied.”
Benny said that the prosecution did not review all of the evidence until the day of the trial and that much of the evidence given was conflicting.
“The council officer who asked me to leave knew I had been inside the building but the police said I was outside trying to push my way in,” he said. “If the prosecution had looked at the evidence earlier I wouldn’t have had to wait four months to have my case heard.
“My style of protest is silent and peaceful. What I do is important and I had reason to be there. The council should have facilitated for me to be able to protest in the building and needed more people to make the decisions – not just one council officer who was on site at the time.
“This sets a precedent that protest is important in our democratic society.”