NOT PJ: Freedom Becomes Patchy
Last night, observes Bernard Darnton, MPs hung round after dark to gang up on freedom.
The fashion police have been given sweeping new powers in Wanganui. Police now have the power to remove the clothes of anyone who’s wearing something Chester Borrows doesn’t approve of.
The Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Act, which passed last night, prohibits gang insignia (in Wanganui District). The stated intent of the Act is “to prohibit the display of gang insignia in specified places in the district.” At least that’s clear.
Clarity is this law’s only virtue. The reason that this law even came before central government is that when Wanganui District Council tried to pass exactly the same thing as a bylaw they discovered that they weren’t allowed to because it breached the Bill of Rights Act.
Freedom of expression and freedom of association mean nothing to politicians, who simply want to be seen to “do something.” The law passed with partial support from Act. Putative defender of freedom, Rodney Hide, voted for this law. If anyone’s aware of the injustice of being investigated by the Police for wearing a coloured jacket with a logo on it, it should be Rodney Hi-de-hi.
We expect this sort of thing from drunk gay-basher David “We’ve got too hung up on people’s rights” Garrett but John Boscawen, who should know better, added Act’s third vote – a shame when during the Electoral Finance Act campaign he pretended to believe in freedom of expression. Would all those who voted for Act, claiming that getting into government would fix everything, please finally realise that you’re trying to pick up a turd by the clean end.
Backers of the law claim that it’s necessary to crack down on gang members and that they need to be cracked down on because they’re always breaking stuff and hurting people. If that was true you wouldn’t need a law against leather jackets, you could just arrest all these gangsters under the Prohibition of Breaking Stuff (and Hurting People) Act.
If the law is a success, i.e. if people’s rights to dress themselves are successfully trampled, Christchurch looks set to follow suit. When the Bill was introduced in 2007, then-mayor Garry Moore said, “I would do everything in my power to rip every gang patch off in the city. If the civil libertarians want to stand around selling drugs and killing our kids, then I’m in a different camp.”
Council of Civil Liberties chairman Tony Ellis said, “People have freedom of expression and freedom of movement, and those are quite fundamental human rights.” He didn’t mention whether or not he wanted to stand around selling drugs and killing our kids.
Garry Moore’s solution to his perceived gang problem was to treat everyone like criminals. Literally. The Department of Corrections bans the wearing of gang colours in prison. Prisoners aren’t allowed to wear anything that’s predominantly red (Mongrel Mob) or black (Black Power). Moore is no longer mayor so we’ll never know if he could have succeeded in banning Cantabrians from wearing red and black.
The supposed crime committed by gang insignia wearers is “looking scary.” How can looking scary be made illegal in any sensible way? Skinheads look scary. Do we ban them from shaving, as the Taliban might, or do we look to the French Revolution and ban them from having heads?
Legalise drugs and you’d destroy most gangs’ revenue bases. Combine that with the cost of re-stitching all those Mongrel Mob jackets when W(h)anganui gets its ‘H’ back and you’d cripple the gangs in no time. Prosecute and lock up anyone who commits violent or property crime, regardless of what they’re wearing.
Is there anyone prepared to support One Law for All?
* * Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ column appears every Thursday here at NOT PC * *