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When activism is vandalism

As canvassed by this column yesterday, Destiny Church members painted over a rainbow crossing in Gisborne with white paint last week – and it seems likely an identical action in Auckland was also the work of Brian Tamaki’s flock, or at least inspired by them.

The stated purpose of ‘rainbow crossings’ is to serve as a show of support and solidarity for the LGBTQIA+ community.

In case you haven’t been keeping up, the acronym ‘LGBTQIA+’ – which was once just ‘LG’, a grouping defined by same-sex attraction – stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual”, and has been growing like topsy in recent years, apparently due to [per Princeton University’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center] “the expanding and new understanding of different parts of the very diverse gender and sexual identities”. [As an aside, if you’re wondering what asexual people and gay men might have in common on the sexuality front, well, you’re not alone.]

The reason various councils have seen fit to express support for members of the LGBTQIA+ ‘community’ via rainbow crossings is that its members are generally believed to be subject to more discrimination than others in society – and are been said to be facing a rapidly rising wave of hate [which is terrible if true, although you’ll have to take both these anecdotal claims on trust, as this writer is unaware of any recent statistically evidence to support them].

Anyway, it appears the Gisborne rainbow crossing was painted over because Destiny Church’s demand a ‘drag queen storytime’ event being held at a local library be cancelled was ignored.

Without getting into the ins and outs, we can take as read that those Destiny folk have issues with some or all of the members of that burgeoning acronym, and they viewed painting over the crossing as a valid form of protest.

Here’s the thing, though: it wasn’t. It was vandalism, pure and simple, and the perpetrators now rightly face graffiti vandalism charges.

Those who painted over the rainbow crossing in central Auckland are also being sought by police for the same offence. Let’s hope they’re also found and charged.

You’ll no doubt also remember that in December last year, a dozen self-described protestors used paint and a power tool to damage a display showing the English translation of the Treaty of Waitangi in our national museum, Te Papa.

Without getting into all the ins and outs, the group behind this action, Te Waka Hourua, have described this action as a valid form of activist protest.

What it actually was, though, is vandalism, and those involved are now quite rightly facing charges of intentional damage.

Now, depending on how you feel about the issues these two groups of vandals/protestors were attempting to draw attention to, you may well believe the authorities should have charged one of the groups but not the other – even though, objectively, their basic behaviour was pretty much identically illegal.

Which is as good an example as any of why the application of laws based on political preferences – around what speech is and isn’t permitted, for example – is such a deeply flawed idea. Because it’s all fun and games until those who get to make such decisions don’t agree with your particular point of view.

As for the groups cited above, the most appropriate admonishment for both is the same as for a tantrum-throwing two-year-old: use your words.

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