Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Someone finally ‘went there’

Ever since the “Occupy” protestors took up camping on the edge of Auckland’s Aotea Square, rightwing folks have been waging a rhetorical war, aping the dismissive, condescending tone of the US rightwing and in so doing, ironically giving the protestors far more attention than anyone else is.

Today one of their own has apparently called for violent repression of the protest. That’s going too far.

George Wood, an ex-North Shore City Mayor and now Auckland Councillor, posted on his Facebook (you must be logged into Facebook to follow the link):
“Mayor Len Brown needs to give the Lord Mayor of Melbourne a call to get some ideas. Continuing to do nothing is not an option – it seems that our mayor and his advisers would just like to believe that this occupation in Auckland isn't happening.”
George also provided a link to an Australian news article about how Melbourne’s Lord Mayor said there will be a zero-tolerance policy to people camping in the city, as was seen in the extremely violent police removal of protestors last week. Is that really what George wants for Auckland?

Wood was part of the New Zealand Police until 1998, when he was elected Mayor of the former North Shore City. He was defeated for re-election as mayor in 2007, and in 2010 was elected a councillor on the new Auckland Council as part of the rightwing “Citizens & Ratepayers” party, associated with the conservative New Zealand National Party.

His Facebook postings about the protestors have become increasingly strident as the days have passed, and his commentors—to whom he seldom responds—have sometimes gone way too far, crossing the line from strident debate to nearly fomenting hatred. I couldn’t understand why some people did that or why George didn’t tell them to behave themselves.

Then there was today’s post, indicating that maybe George actually agrees with the more strident (or even unhinged) folks among his fellow Tories. While he’s been quite open about calling for the eviction of protestors, today is the first time he’s seemed to advocate police violence against them. He was wrong to do that, even if he didn’t mean to imply that (personally, I think he did).

George is also wrong about another thing: Doing nothing is always an option, no matter how much he and his fellow Tories hate it. The challenge of democracy isn’t deciding when to use violence to suppress dissent we don’t like, but rather to find ways to tolerate that dissent as we work toward a peaceful resolution of conflict.

This is Auckland, not Melbourne or Chicago or New York; we don’t need to resort to violent repression here—we can be better than that. If George Wood doesn’t believe that, if he thinks violence is the only option, then he should resign from the council and seek work in some repressive regime overseas.

I didn’t vote for George Wood. After his increasingly strident rhetoric, now clearly condoning violence against peaceful protestors, I’m really glad that I didn’t.

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