NORML told to keep off the Grass
by Ben Thompson
The three members of NORML who were arrested last week have been issued trespass notices barring them from the Union Lawn area.
NORML President Abe Gray says that the trespass notice comes as he tries to start mediation with University leaders.
Gray says that not being able to attend the 4:20 protests does not mean that they will end, as they are bigger than him. "It's just continued bullying and harassment and intimidation by the Police," Gray says. "They're sending all these undercover [officers] onto our campus, trespassing us, making us think we can get arrested at any moment if we have anything to do with trying to legalise cannabis. They want us to be afraid so we stop doing it."
"A lot of students might not agree with our protest tactics, but when they see stuff like this happen they empathise with us, when they didn't before," he says. "They don't want the University to be run like a police state - it doesn't make them feel comfortable."
Inspector David Campbell says that he directed that the notices be issued and indicated that more would follow.
Campbell and the University have, however, given conflicting statements about the University's involvement in the affair. Otago University's Student Services Director David Richardson said that the notices were issued with "no directive from the University."
"The Police don't need University permission to issue trespass notices from Uni land," Richardson added.
Critic then asked Inspector Campbell if the Police needed permission from the University to issue a trespass notice for part of their property. "Yeah...because we've been working with the University to try and deal with the illegal smoking of pot on campus. We've been working with the University and they have given us authority to act as their agent with regard to trespassing people from the Union Lawn," he replied.
The copy of the trespass notice that Gray supplied to Critic shows that Sergeant Chris McLellan issued the notice, authorised by the "occupier", which is shown to be the University of Otago.
"Someone's not being one hundred percent open and honest," OUSA President Simon Wilson says.
"They're fee-paying students and they have the right to be on campus. I know trespass notices have been issued in the past for sexual harassment, for example," Wilson says. "It's different if it affects other people, but I don't think the 4:20s do."
Wilson says that OUSA has sought legal advice. The first step is supplying the police with a list of written concerns.
Richardson declined to comment on the three trespass notices issued, saying it was a police matter as they had issued the notices.
Campbell says that more trespass notices are likely. "If the NORML supporters continue to congregate on the lawn for the 4:20 club and offences against the [Misuse of Drugs] Act are being committed, then there will be more trespass notices and it will be both students and non-students [that could receive them]," he says, hinting that students may be trespassed even if they are not caught in possession. "It won't be necessarily if they're smoking weed. If we believe they are committing offences or causing a problem then we will deal with it."