Flag burning treasonable? Nope – it’s unsafe

Victoria University in Wellington has done the right thing, but for the wrong reasons, by banning three students (temporarily, alas) for burning a New Zealand flag on campus.

The students burnt the flag outside a campus bar on May 6 as part of an Anzac Day anti-war protest.

But they have not been punished for behaving disgracefully, or for insulting our flag, or for treason.

Nope. The buggers have been done for breaching safety rules.

The university has disenrolled flag burners Joel Cosgrove and Alistair Reith, and Ian Anderson, who filmed the protest, until the end of the first trimester on June 7 on the grounds they breached health and safety standards.

It also issued a written warning to Marika Pratley, who was there at the time, and banned all four from the Mount Street bar.

“These students have shown a disregard for the safety of others and of university property,” dean of humanities and social sciences Professor Deborah Willis said.

The students had set the New Zealand flag alight using an accelerant without warning anyone around them or having any means to put out the fire.

Whether the flag-burning endangered anyone is questionable. It happened outside in the rain, for starters, and anyone who doesn’t have the wits to get out of the way of a burning flag should not be at university.

Prof Willis accordingly is seriously testing Alf’s credulity when she warbles about the university’s statutory duty to provide a safe environment for all its students and employees.

Are the university authorities trying to tell us burning the flag on Anzac Day is okay so long as you warn everybody first and have the fire brigade on hand to douse the flames?

4 Responses to Flag burning treasonable? Nope – it’s unsafe

  1. Alastair Reith says:

    We burned the flag the other week, not on ANZAC Day. Good to see our ‘elected representatives’ are so in favour of freedom of speech and expression, and such staunch defenders of democracy. As long as you don’t do something they disagree with…

    However I do agree that it’s ridiculous the University are trying to claim their disenrolling us because of “health and safety” issues. In reality, it’s part of an effort by the University to repress and discourage dissent and radical political activism on campus.

    And as for the treason charge, I’m quite open about the fact that I want to destroy the New Zealand state, the New Zealand ruling class, and the current form of New Zealand society. I want it to be replaced with a society in which the working class has democratic power over every aspect of life, a society based on freedom, equality and material abundance for all – socialism.

    Oh, and a society where students wouldn’t get expelled from University for expressing alternative political views! So much for this being a ‘free’ country…

  2. Alf Grumble says:

    No, it didn’t happen on Anzac Day. But the Sunday Herald described Cosgrove as a student activist who burned a New Zealand flag to protest against Anzac Day. It said he had planned to burn a flag at a dawn ceremony on Anzac Day, but the protest fizzled after Cosgrove and his followers realised large numbers of police were attending. After the burning at the university, he said “The whole focus of Anzac Day never seems to come out in any positive action against war.”

  3. Alastair Reith says:

    Um I don’t recall the Herald as saying anything like that, I’d be pleased if you could link me to evidence that they did so, if it’s been posted online.

    As a close political associate of Joel’s, being a fellow member of the Workers Party, I can say with absolute confidence that your story there is garbage. We never planned on attending ANZAC Day for any reason, protest related or otherwise.

  4. Alf Grumble says:

    Alf has eaten garbage (according to Sue Kedgley) and drunk garbage (according to his GP). But write it? definitely not. Whether the Herald on Sunday was guilty of writing garbage is a different matter – its flag-burning article can be found at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10571420

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