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Editorial: Simple lessons of the pink vests

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    Editorial: Simple lessons of the pink vests - 07-Jun-2008
    However unusual we might find it, Titewhai Harawira gets it - at least when it comes to graffiti, The Dominion Post writes.

    She told son Hone to pull his horns in and apologise after he described a judge who jails taggers as a "dickhead".

    The judge Mr Harawira lambasted, Tony Adeane, also gets it. He's called tagging culturally offensive, and made it clear that taggers should not believe jail is off the sentencing agenda.

    So does Wellington's Eastern Suburbs Community Constable Theo Gommans. He's forcing taggers to wear pink vests while they clean off their handiwork. Sadly, Wellington City Councillor Iona Pannett doesn't.

    She has likened the pink vest strategy to Nazi Germany's persecution of gay men, and says it will reinforce prejudice against gay and lesbian people. That is an argument that is both flawed and ill-judged.

    It is flawed because it relies on people always associating the colour pink with homosexuality, and not, for example, the breast cancer awareness programme. Ms Pannett also ignores the obvious difference between taggers and the victims of the Nazis. There is an easy way for taggers to avoid wearing a pink vest - stop tagging. In Nazi Germany there was no way for Jews to avoid a yellow star, or homosexuals a pink triangle, or Roma a brown triangle.

    And it is ill-judged because it trivialises the horrors of Nazi Germany.

    Likening the actions of those who make criminal offenders wear a pink vest, while they clean up their scribblings, to those of a regime that murdered millions because of what they were, diminishes the suffering of those millions and the evil of those who killed them.

    Ms Pannett expresses much concern for the feelings of those who might make an association between pink vests and homosexuality but does not appear to see that any could be offended by her implicit linking of Constable Gommans and Heinrich Himmler.

    She says another way must be found to deal with taggers. We would be interested to know what that way is. From the response to the vests it is clearly a deterrent that works. Constable Gommans says that tagging in the eastern suburbs has fallen 80 per cent since he started taking the vests on tour to schools - though the fall will have been helped along by a $100 dob-in-a-tagger offer.

    The reality is that most agree with Judge Adeane that the work of taggers is covert criminal behaviour, and accept his argument that "if it's art, why aren't the artists out doing it in broad daylight?" At least one tagger who appeared in court this week agrees, having told police he had left his mark in Hastings "to be a prick".

    Councils spend a fortune removing the work of the too many who, like dogs marking out territory, leave an offensive reminder of their passing. Wellington City Council spends $225,000 on an anti-tagging flying squad, Porirua City Council $200,000 on cleaning it up, and Hutt City Council another $130,000 - but all are dwarfed by Manukau, which spends $1.2 million a year dealing with 300,000 tags.

    If pink vests are what is needed to put the writing on the wall for writing on walls, then get out the sewing machines.
    Ref: - Dominion Post

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