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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 11. 22 July 1970

Growing Viciousness in Public Demonstrations

page 14

Growing Viciousness in Public Demonstrations

The Johnsonville Times-Herald, a weekly Wellington suburban giveaway newspaper, published the following article in its issue of 23 June. The headline given to the article was that given in this reprint. The article was written by, the Times-Herald said, "Our Political Correspondent". Now read on . . . The stage has long since passed where demonstrations in Auckland's Queen Street or Wellington's Parliament Grounds might have awakened public sympathy.

Today's demonstrating groups have, with few exceptions, emerged as rabble-rousers who seem more, intent on creating a disturbance than in attracting support for whatever bandwagon they have hopped upon.

Photo of a woman with a cross and flower

Issues of the day have merely become a vehicle for organised trouble-making, and an observer could be forgiven for believing that the protesters' objective is more specifically intended to alienate public opinion.

With each fresh demonstration the participants are becoming less reasonable and more antagonistic in their manner.

Obscenities are becoming the catch-cry; paint-hurling and vandalism are regarded by some mental quirk as typifying a strange brand of democracy; scuffles and fisticuffs are growing commonplace.

Worst of all, however, is the mounting danger of some form of counter-reaction developing.

Recent disturbances outside Parliament and in Willis Street on the eve of the All Blacks departure graphically illustrate the ugly nature of some demonstrating elements.

Regardless of their political colour, the nation's leaders are beginning to voice some justifiable concern at die disgusting and near-vicious trends which are developing in public demonstrations.

By all accounts, some of the placards were ill-concealed attempts at filth. Offensive language was commonplace, and, coming from the depths of the crowd, created no danger of reprisal.

The same bulk of numbers similarly concealed the individuals who spattered the steps of Parliament with paint bombs and flour bombs.

With barricades having been erected it can hardly be claimed by those who usually allege "police brutality" that the Police scrambled over the bars to initiate the scuffle which transpired. In fact, the Police showed commendable restraint.

The same could be said of the Willis Street disturbances where the protesters in many cases tried to push Police restraint to the limit.

There is no gainsaying that both incidents were not organised, but it is stretching the imagination to accept that the hapless group of unskilled workers and university students who were arrested were behind the affair.

It is easy to blame communist influences and the Progressive Youth Movement as instigating some of the most offensive demonstrations which have occurred with growing frequency over the past couple of years. It is equally easy to make the retort about "looking for Reds under the bed".

But it is a fact that communist involvement exists and that the Communist Party—if not the actual inspiration behind the demonstrations—has an intimate fore-knowledge and has used its power to stir the pot.

Advance notice of the repulsive disturbances which occurred at the Prime Minister's pre-election meetings last year was given faultlessly by the Communist Party's weekly paper, the People's Voice, and the same paper was quick to incite support for these demonstrations.

Idle curiosity is that which prompts most of the activity in the Salient Office. Idly curious, we telephoned the offices of the Johnsonville Times-Herald to enquire about the newspaper's 'Political Correspondent'.

Hello, I'm a member of the staff of Salient, the Victoria University Student Newspaper. You published in your 23 June issue an article headed 'Growing viciousness in Public Demonstrations' which was by-lined 'By Our Political Correspondent'.

That's right.

Can you tell me who your political correspondent is?

No, I certainly will not tell you who it is.

Is he a member of your staff?

Yes, he most certainly is a member of the staff.

I see.

You're taking this down, are you?

Yes, I'm most certainly taking this down.

I'm not going to allow this newspaper to be dragged into any political sculduggery you may care to drag up.

You're probably being unnecessarily defensive.

Don't be so bloody silly, don't be so bloody silly. Is there anything else?

No—I think that will be enough, thanks.