Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 21. 5th September 1973
Demonstrations: The Game Is Over
Demonstrations: The Game Is Over
The first major test of the Labour Government's line on demonstrations, the Harewood/Weedons protest, was in the distant past of last March yet it was only a short while ago that the last court case was settled. The story of the massive police action and subsequently the innumerable prosecutions have been covered in previous Salients. The Labour Government's alliance with US imperialism and the police's use of various unusual laws has been made clear. By July 11, 21 people of the 23 arrested had been tried on charges ranging from obstructing constables and roadways to wilful damage and unlawful assembly. The police had begun to get the legal precedents necessary to uphold Labour's Law and Order stance. Here Murray Horton looks at the last there cases and draws some conclusions about the state of social democracy.
On July 11 Tony Currie appeared in the Christchurch Magistrates Court on a charge of wilful trespass. He'd been the first person arrested at Harewood airport, being picked up in the carpark-after distributing leaflets and attempting to do guerilla theatre inside the airport. Star witness at his case was Maurice Hayes. Christchurch Town Clerk—he quoted Christchurch City by-law no. 55 (Airport) passed in 1973. "No person shall hold or participate in any reception, parade, exhibition, display, demonstration, protest march or organised assembly held elsewhere than in rooms or areas set apart for the purpose and without first obtaining a written permit or specific authority for such event given by the council or airport manager. He said all airport property was owned by the Christchurch City Corporation and the demonstrators had no authority to be on airport property. He had given the police written authority to remove the demonstrators. So much for the Labour City Council. Currie was convicted and fined $25 plus $5 costs.
Owen Wilkes, main spokesman for the Committee Against Foreign Military Activities in NZ and driving force behind the whole campaign against the US military presence in NZ, became the 24th defendent when he was summoned, in May, on a charge of encouraging disorder. The case was heard on July 24 and centred on a speech made by Wilkes through a mega-phone on Memorial Avenue on the Saturday afternoon (Wilkes is appealing to the Supreme Court and as his appeal centres on just exactly what he said, any discussion on that is sub judice and cannot be reported.) Chief inspector Burrows said he had previously discussed the demonstration with Wilkes but deliberately didn't tell him that roadblocks would be set up. Wilkes said he felt the police had breached their faith. Mr Evans SM reserved his decision until August 13. He took the opportunity to make a high sounding speech advocating peaceful change in "this favoured land"; described Wilkes as "intelligent, energetic, an influential figure and acknowledged leader"... who genuinely wanted the demonstration to be peaceful, but accepted police evidence that Wilkes was a dupe of those who advocated violence and that his speech had encouraged disorder. He said Wilkes misjudged his duty, over-stepped the bounds of lawful protest, although he hadn't meant to do so as he found himself in a situation which to some extent took him by surprise and which was not wholly of his making. Wilkes was convicted, given a two year suspended sentence and ordered to pay $45 costs.
The last case, that of Mike Murphy of Wellington, was heard on August 15/16. Murphy was arrested at Harewood on the Saturday afternoon and charged with obstructing a constable, possession of a restricted poison — a plastic squeeze bottle of chloropicrin — and possession of an offensive weapon i.e. the chloropicrin. (Just after the demonstration Tait had claimed the substance was strong enough to incapacitate 300 men). A DSIR analyst said chloropicrin, also known as "vomiting gas", was one of the three main gases used in World War I, and gave various figures to prove the lethal properties of the 100% pure chloropicrin found on Murphy. Murphy said it had been given to him by a an unknown man at the demonstration; he didn't know what it was, nor did he attempt to use it. He had a lifelong fear of dogs and intended to use it only it attacked by police dogs (the use of police dogs at the March 1972 Mt John demonstration being the basis for this fear.)
Various witnesses, including "Cock" editor, Chris Wheeler, said the same man had offered the stuff to them that day and confirmed that Murphy had a fear of dogs. Mr Brown SM rejected the defence case saying police dogs were a legitimate part of the police force, therefore Murphy had no reasonable excuse for having the stuff. He was convicted on all three charges and remanded on $300 self bail for a probation officers report and sentence. On August 23 — after some gratuitous comment from Mr Brown about how Murphy's work with "Affairs" magazine and the Mt Victoria Peoples Union would be better left to the "experts" — he was fined $100 on the offensive weapons charge, $50 on the obstruction charge (plus $10 costs) and given one years probation on all three charges. The fines had to be paid immediately, in default 90 days prison. They were paid and Murphy went home that day.
Two themes were dominant throughout all the cases — police, Crown and magistrates stressed the State had been caught with its pants down at Mt John and therefore the security measures at Harewood/Weedons were justified to prevent a repitition of this. Secondly, the heavy emphasis put on the the inflammatory role of a Christchurch underground magazine "Ferret 2" published in February. Other pieces of "inflammatory" writing were cited by the police — leaflets and posters for instance. Mr Evans SM noted that the police were worried about the Auckland demonstrators who were coming. But "Ferret" was the bogeyman. When Pete Dalziel said his reason for being at Harewood was to take photos and to sell them to "Ferret" among others. Crown Prosecutor Bill Williamson questioned him at some length as to who published "Ferret" — wasn't it Resistance bookshop he asked. Mr Evans, in his decision in the Wilkes case, saw fit to give a literary critique of it, describing articles on the Pagliara case and the Labour Government as "vituperative". (Neither had anything to do with the case at hand or the general context).
Reference was made to an article by Wilkes on the US military in Christchurch as being reasonable in tone. But it was an article entitled "The Mad Bombers Handbook" which worried them most — Mr Evans said only the most naive would take it seriously but he was worried about the introduction which said "We do believe in violence against property eg military installations". Chief Inspector Burrows constantly cited it as a prime reason for the security measures he took, particularly in the Wilkes case.
The results of the State's measures were pitiful — Murphy's chloropicrin, a "home-made" bomb (ie srnokebomb) found at Harewood on the Saturday night and the laughable array of deadly weapons produced at the Weedons case (reported in Salient 16). Some property was damaged, a few policemen were slightly injured by crackers and stones, an equal number of policemen got dysentery from their weekend at Weedons. The State reaction was massive and ominous — Labour Government, Labour City Council, police. RNZAF, technology, 1880's laws. 1972 regulations, 1973 by-laws, roadblocks (to keep access clear according to the "Catch 22" reasoning), disciplined police violence euphemistically called "crowd control", large scale arrests, the use of the Crown Law Office and Crown Prosecutor in every piddling charge. All of these were used and more. The conclusion can only be drawn that New Zealand's military alliance with US imperialism must be protected at all costs and militant mass demonstrations crushed. The State has signalled that the game is over.
On Monday September 10, the English Department will answer any and all enquiries about its policies, intentions, motives, ideals, disappointments, frustrations, problems and anxieties. Professor McKenzie and Ian Jamieson will represent the department. Ateo taking part will be Gordon Campbell and John Allum. You are Invited. Union Hall, September 10 between 12.30 and 2.30pm.