The Times of Malta report on illegal billboards is the fact file you needed if you were still impressed by the government’s insistence they was enforcing the law when they removed #occupyjustice billboards criticising them.
Discriminate enforcement of the law is illegal. The law is not made of the chapter and verse that is thrown at you when bullies armed with guns and hired trucks come to smack you down. If it were, apartheid could be justified because the whites were scrupulous about legislating discrimination and separation.
When Rosa Parks sat on the wrong end of the bus she was breaking the law. When Emily Davison ran in front of horses, she was trespassing. When Vaclav Havel responded to Ludvik Vaculik he was breaking the law. When Gandhi burned his South African identity documents he was destroying public property.
These were all illegal acts. But they were obeying a higher law, a more fundamental one, one that is at the heart of our contract with the powerful to whom we lend authority so we can live in peace. The law that requires that no other law can breach our basic rights which no one can take away from us because they are innate whether we belong to a majority or a minority, or whether even the matter concerns an individual on their own.
It is our right to tell the government where to eff off. And if the powerful use laws to stop us doing that, they are the ones that are breaking the law.
#occupyjustice have explained they broke no laws anyway. They booked with a provider and paid him in full, taxes and all. They signed a contract that warranted compliance with the law.
But the government was offended by the message and moved to silence it and quash it. They looked up what pretext they could use and used it. Their intent was not enforcement of law. If it was it would have been blind to who would be affected and all the many hundreds of billboards out there with something or other out of order would have been removed just as swiftly.
When the government sends a tax inspector to check all shops on a high street are charging VAT, they are enforcing the law. When they send it to just one shop, repeatedly, because its owner supported some party or cause the government do not approve of, and ignore the illegalities committed by other shops, the government are not enforcing the law. They are breaking it.
Freedom is the certainty that one’s rights are respected by those one disagrees with. We lost that.