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

Editorial : The Battle For Easdale St

page 3

Editorial : The Battle For Easdale St.

Photo of police

150 police to defend an empty French ambassadors' residence — was this stupidity or provocation? The demonstration against the French Government outside the Ambassador's house was so badly organised that it only needed an authoritative assurance that all the official diplomatic parties had long since ended and their guests departed for any demonstration to have dispersed very quickly before the pubs closed. When, instead 150 police blocked the entrance to Easdale Street, physically separating demonstrators from the object of their demonstration, the protest inevitably became directed against the police and justifiably so. For police action was, simply a denial of the right to demonstrate. So determined in fact were the police that there should be no demonstration against French nuclear tests that for the main part of the evening they left the Prime Ministers house down the road totally unguarded, until a foray by demonstrators forced them to recognise their tactical error. What is the French Government to the police force that the prevention of protest directed against it becomes more important than stopping rocks being thrown at Jack Marshall's house? Not only was the police action directed to prevent any anti-French protest at no matter what cost, it was also almost certainly illegal. The blocking of a public street, and the refusal to allow even people who lived there to enter it, requires, according to one lawyer, a previous public, proclamation at the very least. Whatever the exact legal position, the refusal of the police officer in charge to tell an NZBC reporter of his legal authority for blocking the street shows that we are fast moving toward a total police state, where the police ignore all attempts to prove they are acting within the framework of the law. The eight arrests, two of schoolchildren, and the threatening of an Evening Post reporter with prosecution for trespass reflect an understandable but contemptible police determination to justify their large numbers by arbitrary arrests.

However many students think that the protest against French nuclear tests is a liberal preserve, the police certainly don't. They turned a protest that might have fizzled out at 9.30 into one that lasted until 4 in the morning. It was the first major demonstration against police suppression of the right to protest in Wellington. And the police deserved every long, weary minute of it.