It’s not gang insignia; it’s school pride
Having watched most of the University of Georgia’s victory over Arkansas over the weekend by a videogame-like score of 52-41, I coincidentally spotted a story entitled ‘Uni logo beats gang patch ban‘ in The New Zealand Herald. The story begins as follows:
A charge brought under Wanganui’s gang patch ban bylaw has been dropped after the man argued the bulldog on his beanie was a Georgia University logo and not a Mongrel Mob insignia.
In order to explain this rather odd state of affairs, some background is necessary. The New Zealand town of Wanganui has, depending on whom you ask, a gang problem of some level of severity. In 2007, 67% of locals voted in a referendum in favour of banning the display of gang insignia. Led by the crusading mayor of the town, Michael Laws, the Wanganui District Council eventually obtained the legal authority to do just this in the form of the Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Act 2009.
Under this Act, the Council is given the power to make bylaws that identify certain persons or groups as a gang for the purposes of the Act, and designate any public place to be specified place for the purposes of the Act. A provision in the Act itself states that ‘No person may display gang insignia at any time in a specified place in the district.’ Anyone who violates this prohibition without reasonable excuse commits an offence and may be fined up to $2000. Police officers are given the power to arrest violators without warrant and to seize the offending item; the insignia (and any clothing it is attached to) is forfeited upon conviction or guilty plea.
The Wanganui District Council passed the Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Bylaw 2009 on 31 August 2009 in a self-described ‘triumph for decency and democracy.’ The bylaw, which came into force on 1 September 2009, identifies three groups as gangs (in addition to the seven already specified in the Act), and identifies a series of ‘specified places’ where the display of gang insignia is prohibited by the Act.
Which brings me back to the University of Georgia Bulldogs. It turns out that the team mascot and team colours (red and black), are similar to those of the Mongrel Mob, one of the specified gangs under the Act. According to a local paper, the man in question, who is a member of the gang mentioned above, says that the beanie was a gift from his niece. Meanwhile, a police central district commander Superintendent expressed his disappointment that the Wanganui police had decided to withdraw the charge.
Anyone around Wanganui not wishing to be mistaken for a gang member violating the prohibition on display of gang insignia would presumably do well to keep their Georgia gear out of sight. I suppose the same advice might also apply for the Georgetown Hoyas, Washington’s Harry the Husky, and any other canine-related logos.
Image: wikimedia commons; by johntrainor; Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.