Alf has awoken the morning after celebrating St Patrick’s Day in appropriate style to find the world of civil rights turned upside down.
Under modern rules of protest, we can damage an American communications installation in the South Island on the grounds we firmly believe it is a spy station responsible for contributing to the deaths of innocent people around the world.
But we can’t blow a raspberry at the Mayor of North Shore in a shopping centre.
Not even if we are female, in our 70s, and should have earned the right – by virtue of greater maturity – to blow raspberries at a Mayor regarded by some as mad.
The Herald reports both stories today –
First up, there’s the stuff that happened at the spy base.
The facts are not disputed. The buggers admit doing what they did.
Actually, they take pride in it.
Three peace protesters have been found not guilty of an attack on a top-secret South Island spy base, despite freely admitting causing damage put at $1 million.
Otaki schoolteacher Adrian Leason, Auckland Catholic priest Peter Murnane and Hokianga farmer Sam Land were cleared by a Wellington District Court jury yesterday evening of burglary and wilful damage.
The charges stemmed from the April 2008 raid on the Government Communications Security Bureau facility at Waihopai, near Blenheim.
The jury took only two hours to reach its verdict after an eight-day trial.
As the Herald explains, prosecutors accused the three men of cutting their way through fences into the base, then using sickles to slash a plastic cover protecting a receiver dish.
Although the men admitted the attack, they said their actions were driven by a belief that the dish, for receiving and sending satellite communications, caused human suffering.
“That belief doesn’t have to be correct,” said Mr Leason’s lawyer, Michael Knowles.
This Leason bloke insists their actions in disabling the base, even if it was only for a short time, stopped the flow of information, which had ultimately helped to save lives in Iraq.
“We wanted … to challenge these warfaring behaviours and I think we have done this. We have shown New Zealanders there is a US spy base in our midst.”
Alf must admit he did not sit through the evidence and he has not read all the newspaper reports of the case.
But he was unaware anyone had established there is a US spy base in our midst.
That’s what the jury might think, of course, but on the strength of its verdict Alf questions the extent to which it represented the ordinary bloke like him and his mates in the Eketahuna Club.
Leason went on:
“The jury listened to our story and they listened to the evidence and they came to the decision that clearly, the laws that are there to protect people are more important than the laws that are there to protect plastic domes.
“The point that really has been made is that 12 jurors – 12 regular, ordinary Kiwis – have got very, very serious concerns about the activities of the base.
“Now if 12 ordinary Kiwis have very serious concerns about the base, maybe all Kiwis should have concerns about what this ultra-secret, unaccounted-for spy base is up to.”
Next, there’s the story of the woman who blew a raspberry at North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams.
She has been issued a trespass notice, banning her from the shopping centre where the incident occurred.
Shirley Squire described the mayor as a “cowardly careerist” before blowing him a raspberry after he finished singing with a troupe during Chinese New Year celebrations at the Northcote Shopping Centre.
Days later, Sunnynook community constable Penny Rusbatch presented Miss Squire with a trespass notice, prohibiting the 74-year-old from “Northcote Shopping Centre and surrounds”.
“This is beyond persecution,” she told The Aucklander. “It’s positively sadistic.”
Down here in Eketahuna, we don’t know much about who sides with whom in Auckland conniving and politicking.
But the Mayor obviously has mates and/or influence in the business community and his commercial cronies are prepared to protect him from little old ladies, because –
Constable Rusbatch said the notice was issued at Mainstreet Northcote chairman Martin Lawes’ request.
Mr Lawes did not return calls.
Miss Squire wants the trespass notice lifted [although Alf personally would not want to be seen shopping at a centre which prohibits the blowing of raspberries at deserving dignitaries] .
“I blew a raspberry, twice,” she says. “I waited until he was off the stage because I didn’t want to insult the Korean singers.”
While Mayor Williams did not impose the ban, he obviously agrees with it, which tells us he is no champion of people who want to exercise their basic democratic rights and accordingly he is unfit to be a Mayor of anything.
Mr Williams said Miss Squire’s misdemeanours in Northcote Shopping Centre went beyond what was acceptable.
“She was being offensive to many people who were there for the Chinese New Year,” he said. “There were consul-generals from various nations there. She was a real embarrassment.”
Mr Williams said he had nothing to do with the police complaint or trespass notice. “That was the Northcote Shopping Centre who took that action and I was only told about it afterwards.”
The mayor doesn’t believe trespass orders are too extreme for the circumstances. “The council has been trying to work with Shirley for years now. She rang my home and abused my kids and my wife.”
Miss Squire isn’t saying if she would temper her behaviour if the trespass orders were removed.
Alf doesn’t see why she should have to temper her behaviour, if this means she must not blow raspberries at mean-minded mayors.
His advice is to burn down the shopping centre (but without any people in it, including – alas – the mayor).
Then she must plead that she honestly and passionately believed this action would save lives in Iraq and other foreign places, and that lives are more important than property.
Probably she then should strive to have the resultant trial conducted in Wellington, where a jury of wimps can be counted on to aid and abet her.
It might help if she grows a scruffy beard and looks like a descendant of the Mad Rasputin.