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August 4, 2008 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Students try to throw money around, Condoleezza Rice unharmed

Despite failing to obtain the approval of his executive, VUWSA President Joel Cosgrove offered a $10,000 reward for the successful citizen’s arrest of American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her recent visit to New Zealand.

A $5,000 reward for Rice’s arrest was originally offered by Auckland University’s Student Association (AUSA) on July 24, ahead of her arrival the next day. Describing Rice as a war criminal for her role in the 2003 American invasion and occupation of Iraq, AUSA President David Do told media: “It’s hard enough living as a student in Auckland these days without having a war criminal coming to town, so we thought we’d give our students a chance to make a dent in their student loans and work for global justice at the same time.”

The announcement received international coverage but AUSA were forced to withdraw it within a day, following pressure from police. Auckland police district commander Brett England had warned that anyone attempting to carry out the arrest would face “very serious consequences.”

However, hours after AUSA’s withdrawal, and following consultation with VUWSA Campaigns Officer Sonny Thomas, Cosgrove distributed a press release announcing that it would uphold the reward and doubled the amount on offer. This decision was made without consultation with other members of the exec.

“AUSA withdrew their reward at around 6 p.m. [on July 25]… [Thomas] called me after 9 p.m. and suggested we should take up where AUSA left off,” Cosgrove told Salient. “The Dominion Post was going to print the next day’s issue within the next few hours and [with Rice arriving the next day], there wasn’t enough time to call all the exec and release the press release in time.”

“We had to make a decision then and there.”

Cosgrove admitted that a number of executive members were unhappy about his decision. However, he added: “[The reward] was following through motions that had been passed at the [Student Representative Council]. And I sent around a text saying, ‘I’ve done this.’”

Among the executive members unsupportive of Cosgrove’s reward offer was Administration Vice-President Alexander Neilson. “We [were] encouraging someone to do something stupid [where] the likelihood of someone being seriously hurt was very high.”

While Neilson said he had found a “loophole” regarding the legality of a citizen’s arrest of Rice, which would have enabled the executive to not follow through with the payment of the reward, he pointed out: “We are going through a re-budget where everyone is being asked to tighten their belts and we’re offering [$10,000].”

The matter was raised at the executive’s meeting last Wednesday, with Clubs Officer Katie de Roo and Queer Rights Officer Rachael Wright both voicing their dissatisfaction with Cosgrove.

Rice, when questioned about the cash incentives offered by both AUSA and VUWSA during her visit, replied: “Protest is a part of democratic society, and student protests are particularly a long-honored tradition in democratic society,”

“And I can only say that the United States has done everything that it can to end this war on terror, to live up to our international and our national laws and obligations.”


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Comments (3)

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  1. nihiliam says:

    go joel!!!!

  2. JJoel says:

    Nah fuck joel

  3. bisky risness says:

    publicity grab,
    come up with your own ideas joel cosgrove

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