At mid-day today Wellington political activists and Workers Party members Heleyni Pratley and Joel Cosgrove were arrested when they attempted to deliver a petition to the administration of Victoria University. The petition, signed by 50 academics, union officials and educationalists, called for the lifting of a two-year trespass order the university administration had imposed on them for being involved in a protest against fee increases several weeks ago.
Rather than allow them to present the petition, the university authorities placed the administration building under lockdown, put security personnel out front and called the police, who arrived in force with long batons and arrested Pratley and Cosgrove.
The two activists have been released on bail but the conditions include not only not stepping foot on Victoria University property but also not associating with each other, despite the fact that they are in a relationship and have been for four years.
“Will the police be raiding us in the middle of the night to see if we are still sleeping together?” asked Pratley. “The behaviour of vice-chancellor Pat Walsh and chancellor Tim Beaglehole call into question how fit they are to run a university. I’ve already had men sent by them try to force their way into my home and then announce I was trespassed from the university because I succeeded in keeping them out,” says Pratley. “Walsh and Beaglehole seem to think they’re running a personal feudal fiefdom rather than a public institution which is supposed to champion critical thinking and freedom of expression.”
“We’ll be stepping up the campaign against the completely over-the-top actions of the administration at Victoria; we’re calling on students, trade unionists, civil libertarians and all supporters of free speech and freedom of association to join us in demanding the charges be dropped and the trespass order be revoked,” Cosgrove concluded.