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May 11, 2009 | by  | in News |
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Ex-VUWSA President burns New Zealand flag

During last Wednesday’s VUWSA Student Representative Council (SRC) meeting, ex-VUWSA President Joel Cosgrove and two other Workers’ Party members burnt the New Zealand flag.

The SRC, which was called to discuss VUWSA’s non-action on laying a wreath at Wellington’s ANZAC day commemorations, failed to meet the required quorum of 50 students. President Freemantle was to put forward motions, which the chief executive of the RSA Stephen Clarke had endorsed. However, because of the lack of students, these motions could not be passed.

When Freemantle opened the floor for speakers, Cosgrove made a statement on behalf of the Workers’ Party: “The rhetoric of ANZAC day provides justification for today’s New Zealand imperialist adventures in Afghanistan and the Pacific.”

Pelted with boos and cries of “Shame, shame, shame!” from the audience, Cosgrove continued to speak, listing the conflicts that New Zealand has taken part in since World War I. “The New Zealand flag represents both British imperialism and New Zealand imperialism contained within one entity, and for that reason we are against it.”

Cosgrove, the President of VUWSA in 2008, former VUWSA exec member Marika Pratley and another Workers’ Party member, Alastair Reith, proceeded to exit the bar onto the deck where they doused the New Zealand flag with an accelerant and proceeded to ignite it. Bar staff moved quickly to stomp the conflagration out and eject Cosgrove from the premises.

Reith videoed the burning and it is now proudly posted on his Facebook, along with the note: “Me, Marika and Joel decided to warm our hands with the flag of NZ imperialism

… I think I burned my fingers…”

Freemantle was quick to extinguish the thought that the burning was endorsed by VUWSA by saying that flag burning was the one thing she did not want VUWSA to engage in on ANZAC day.

On Thursday night, the Workers’ Party sent out a press release stating: “Victoria University have placed a trespass notice on Joel Cosgrove (Workers Party member) for his burning of the New Zealand flag.”

Manager of the Student Union Complex Rainsforth Dix told Salient that this was untrue.

“The University has not issued Joel Cosgrove with a trespass notice for any part of the University,” she said, adding that the university is still considering the most appropriate action to take against Cosgrove.

In 2003, Paul Hopkinson, a Workers’ Party member, was convicted of destroying a New Zealand flag with intent to dishonor it. This conviction was later overturned under the context that Hopkinson was exercising free speech. He later burnt the flag again and was charged with disorderly conduct.

Last year NZPA reported that flag burner Valerie Morse had been fined $500 for offensive behavior when she disrupted the Wellington ANZAC day ceremonies in 2007.

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The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

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