Join the protests: Auckland Solidarity Protest for expelled anti-war Victoria Uni students Wednesday, May 27, 2009 12:00pm - 1:00pm Assemble in main quad, Auckland University
Wellington 12 -1pm on Friday, May 29, at Kelburn Parade (by Victoria University)
Students Alastair Reith, Joel Cosgrove and Ian Anderson have been expelled from Victoria University for burning the New Zealand flag. They did this in protest against New Zealand imperialism and New Zealand’s involvement in such imperialist ventures as Iraq, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, the occupation of Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The students are not allowed to reenrol until next trimester, and are banned from sitting their exams. As a result they will fail all their courses, and as they are not being issued a refund they are essentially receiving a fine of several thousand dollars each.
The University is claiming that they were expelled for “health and safety” reasons. However this is clearly not the case. The flag was burned outside, in the rain, on the soaking wet smoker’s smokers’ deck outside the Mount Street Bar, and despite the false claims of the University the students had a bottle of water with them with which to put the fire out, and extinguished it themselves with water taken from inside the bar.
And if this was really about “health and safety”, why is Ian Anderson being expelled for filming the event? He had no direct role in burning the flag, and his only involvement was recording on camera what took place. Another student and Workers Party member, Marika Pratley, has been issued an official warning for simply being present on the deck while the flag was burned!
You don’t have to agree one hundred percent with the expelled student’s students’ politics, or with the act of burning the flag. But whatever way you look at it, this is an outrageous abuse of power by the University which sets a worrying precedent. This is an issue of freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the right to engage in political activity without fear of reprisal. If you support basic civil liberties and democratic rights, you should do everything you can to oppose the University’s decision and support Alastair, Joel and Ian being reinstated.
This coming Friday (the 29th), midday on Kelburn Parade, there is a protest being held against the expulsion of the students. If you think this is an over the top punitive action and support the right of student’s students’ to protest and take part in political activism in a free, open and democratic environment, you should come along and make your voice heard. Don’t let the University silence free speech!