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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 17. 19th July 1972


When the first two demonstrators arrived at Easdale Street last Friday night there were only a half dozen police loitering with intent at the top of the road. "No entry" they said, as the last lingering party guest, Victoria's Professor Norrish, [unclear: yed] his way happily down Bolton Street. The taking of the Bastille had been well and truly celebrated, and now the French ambassadors house where that great revolutionary event had been commemmorated was to be protected by the guardians of all dead revolutions, the New Zealand police force.

Up Bolton Street they trooped, some in buses, some in marching girl formation, to form a solid phlanx at the top of one of the smaller select streets in Wellington, where six or more garages are always open to shelter cop cars but always closed to drenched and starving protestors. 150 of the capital's finest to defend the freedom to test atomic bombs, to protect fine homes and French wine, and to stand between the last French aristocrat in Wellington and the rabble.

Slowly demonstrators arrived at one stage almost out-numbering the assembled constabulary. From the abyss into which Bolton Street descends, the Terrace canyon, startled pedestrians could hear the roars of anger and amazement as the brave police arrested their first bad, brutal schoolboy. Face to face stood demonstrators and cops, the odd demonstrators who walked slowly along the serried ranks smoking having his cigarette confiscated by the law why was Easdale Street blockaded? Every demonstrator asked this question once, to be given by every single cop the standard Eichmann answer: "I have my orders". If they had been frying French Polynesians in gas ovens at 12a Easdale Street, the police would still have protected the ambassador. That's what duty, discipline and responsibility mean.

Photo of atomic bomb

The night grew blacker, the cops more sombre, the demonstrators more angry. People sat in the road to prove that they too could block public roads without legal authority. They were kicked out of the way. They sat down in front of the police buses bringing reinforcements to the embattled defenders of Laura Norder, They too were kicked out of the way. Various people who tried to photograph what was happeining, including an Evening Post cameraman, were warned against the dangers of trespass and accurate reporting. Police numbers disappeared from uniforms with the same rapidity champagne disappeared at the midday diplomatic reception. Police refused to identify themselves. An old story. After Auckland's Agnew demonstration. People came up to me, worried liberals who had spent a night at the cinema, to ask why the police were being baited. I told them that if the police wanted to stand in for the French ambassador, they deserved the same treatment. Poor police. Even when guarding Nicolay they were only allowed to eat in the kitchen with the servants (fire imported from Normandy) But that didn't stop them being treated exactly the same as the Ambassador - or for that matter the French Premier - by the enemies of French policy. A police-mans lot is not a happy one. But the choice is in his hands - he can always resign.

At 10.45pm someone said Roger Cruickshank had heart a cop say everyone would leave 12a Easdale Street at 11.00. At 11.15 the rumour was confirmed that only the ambassador and his wife were home. People started ignoring the cops and talking about writing Salient articles about the demo. Someone else said two windows in Marshalls house had been broken when Thort editor Peter Rumble, shouting 'Marshall is responsible for it all' had led a hundred or so people down to the PM's modest dwelling. I kept saying, Surely they haven't brought out 150 cops if they don't intend to arrest us all. This of course assumed cops were rational and was therefore a miscalculation.

Another anonymous cop was quoted as saying that a very silent order to disperse in half an hour or be arrested had been issued. One or two people who had been planning to leave stayed on. A girl said, "Isn't this a parody of the Russian Revolution", What she meant was the French revolution. Tim Shad bolt, who at one stage was to have calmed passions and spread love by a public speech appeared for two minutes in a battered Ford Prefect, and then silently drove away. Peace and flowers, Tim, peace and flowers.

Slowly the cops grew calmer, and the demonstration relaxed. People began to talk about ordinary things, like Alister Taylor and bookshops. People who had been outside Easdale Street started complaining of frostbite. It looked as if the last arrest had been made, but it hadn't, because only five arrests had been made at 12, and eight were reported in Saturday's Evening Post. But someone invited me to a take-a-cuppa down the road and listen to LP's so I left, though the demonstration persisted until four o'clock. That's what happens when the fundamental right to demonstrate is denied.