We celebrated another win in court today after the judge ruled that big holes in the police prosecution’s case meant there was no need to hear the defence.
Winning in court.
The hearing for a trespass charge was heard at Wellington District Court today despite evidence showing the police’s case had no foundation. Peace Action Wellington member Laura Drew was arrested when leaving the Ministry of Defence in April 2016 after a protest against increased military spending and the controversial US ship visit. Video evidence clearly showed that Drew was leaving the venue within the time frame set out by police officers at the moment she was violently arrested. But police refused to drop the case and pursued it for over a year.
The Ministry of Defence protest.
This follows a pattern of Wellington police unnecessarily arresting and pursuing conviction of peace activists with flimsy evidence. In February 2017 the police and Crown’s case against 15 activists arrested at the 2015 Wellington Weapons Expo crumbled as it was proven repeatedly that there was no evidence of any crime. The police were eventually ordered to pay court costs to the activists.
Emma Cullen, who was also arrested in 2015 and witnessed Drew’s arrest in 2016 said today “It was a pretty foolish, embarrassing and wasteful exercise for the police to prosecute us for our 2015 Weapons Expo protest. This is becoming quite a trend – the cops are extremely aggressive with us when we exercise our right to speak out against war, threatening us and arresting us for no reason. They then unnecessarily pursue legal action, which drags on for months, only to eventually take us to court with no evidence at all.”
Latest court fashions.
Cullen continued, “It’s a total waste of taxpayers’ money to take innocent activists to court – I’m pretty sure people would be horrified to know that their taxes are being used to stop people protesting. It’s either complete incompetence on the part of the police – or else it’s a targeted attempt to discourage us and other activists from protesting. We were recently at a protest against US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit and saw a really high level of police surveillance which suggests that the police are deliberately targeting anyone who speaks out.”
Drew is not deterred by the continuing police harassment, “We refuse to be put off by police harassment and surveillance – we’re continuing to organise against the Weapons Expo which is coming back to Wellington in October this year, as well as against local arms dealers like MAS Zengrange in Lower Hutt. War starts here and we need to stop it here. ”
Freedom To Protest
Action alert: On Tuesday, the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson is landing in Wellington to meet with the Government. 350 Aotearoa have organised an Unwelcoming Party for him at 12:30 pm at Parliament.
Sign up here for updates – http://bit.ly/2rrNrB4
We need to provide the opposite of the warm welcome Wellington normally gives: we need to let Tillerson and The Trump administration know they are not welcome, and call on our government to distance ourselves from climate denial and warmongering.
This visit comes at a time when Donald Trump has announced that he will pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. 2016 was the hottest year ever, and a huge wakeup call. But 2017 is a fire alarm. Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement is a crime against our global future. Now is the time for New Zealand to step up and show leadership on climate change by strengthening our own commitment to the Paris Agreement, not engaging with those who threaten the future of our planet.
Hundreds of us will join together to protest outside Parliament on Tuesday. We don’t know yet what time Tillerson is to be arriving in Wellington, and even on the day it could well change. If you have any tips, let us know!
Rex Tillerson is no warm-hearted man. Before he took the role of Secretary of State to do Trump’s bidding, he was the CEO of ExxonMobil — the company that despite knowing the truth about climate change since the 1960s waged a war of misinformation and denial that robbed humanity of a generation’s worth of time to reverse climate change.
Some good citizens put Palestinian flags up around Wellington on Nakba day. They were spotted at the Waterfront, Glover Park, Midland Park, Israeli Embassy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Parliament and Civic Square.
May 15, 2017 marked the 69th anniversary of the 1948 Nakba, the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland. We put together a zine about Al Nakba that provides some historical background and present context which you can check out here.
The Nakba never ended and this year marks 50 years of Israeli military occupation for the Palestinian people. At present there are hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for 40 days to demand basic human rights in Israeli prisons. http://bit.ly/BDS4DignityStrike #DignityStrike #DignityStrike40
In particular, the Palestinian BDS National Committee calls for immediate international action towards implementing a comprehensive military embargo on Israel, similar to that imposed against apartheid South Africa in the past. As long as military ties continue, the international community is effectively sending Israel a clear message of approval to continue its severe violations of international law, including its violations of basic prisoners’ rights.
From Aotearoa to Palestine we support the #DignityStrike and Palestinian right to return! #Nakba69 #FreePalestine
As in previous years, Peace Action Wellington again attended the citizens wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph. This year a wreath was laid for those killed allegedly by the NZ SAS in Operation Burnham in Afghanistan and to commemorate all civilian lives lost during war.
Our presence at the ceremony was not a protest against the event itself. Rather, we were participating in the ceremony, and encouraging others to remember that it’s not just soldiers who die in conflict.
We feel it was entirely respectful of the proceedings, and the responses we received from those at the ceremony were largely – though not exclusively – positive. We’d like to thank the organisers of the event for allowing us to participate.
All loss of life in war is abhorrent. Selective commemoration can alter our view of history, and whose lives we deem to be important. We note that there is currently no public holiday to commemorate those who were killed during the New Zealand Land Wars.
Anzac day was originally a day of remembrance by and for veterans of the First World War, to remember their comrades who were killed and the senselessness of war. Given the anti-war stance implicit in its roots, it seems entirely appropriate to commemorate war dead more broadly and to say ‘never again’ – especially given that NZ is still involved in foreign conflicts today including Afghanistan.
Peace Action Wellington call for an end to NZ’s involvement in foreign wars and for Bill English to immediately instate a full independent inquiry into the raid on two villages in Operation Burnham.
Did the NZ Defence Force commit war crimes in Afghanistan?
There is now considerable evidence that in 2010 in Afghanistan several New Zealand Defence Force actions, including the treatment of prisoners and an SAS raid in Naik and Khak Khuday Dad, broke international law.
These allegations have been detailed in the book Hit and Run, published in March 2017. The government and the NZ Defence Force have tried to avoid the issues with obfuscation and distraction.
We call for an independent inquiry into the civilian deaths, destruction of property and treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Bill English has refused to hold an independent inquiry. We reject his reasons on the grounds that:
- The government should take every step to establish the truth
- The Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Tim Keating is not independent from the NZ Defence Force
- The NZDF have a history of covering up allegations of wrongdoing
- The previous inquiry by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was not independent as it was conducted by a party also heavily involved
- ‘Security’ is no excuse for the military and government to evade responsibility
To hold the armed forces accountable we need a full and independent inquiry into civilian deaths, lack of assistance to the wounded, destruction of property and transfer of prisoners to prisons where torture was known to be used. All of this happened in our name, in an operation led by New Zealanders, by people whose salaries are paid for by the New Zealand public.
New Zealanders were told that their military was in Afghanistan to bring peace and reconstruction and that they treated the locals with empathy and respect. The current evidence brings their role and actions there into question.
Even in war there are rules – New Zealand has signed and is committed to international agreements including the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. The SAS have a duty to follow these rules and if not, we should hold them accountable. Hit and Run whistleblowers include Minister of Defence at the time, Wayne Mapp and SAS members who have spoken out against their own conduct in Afghanistan.
We have the right to know whether innocent people in Afghanistan were killed and injured by NZDF soldiers or those under their command. If we know what has happened, then we can put things right.
Actions you can take
- Pressure the government to hold an independent inquiry eg. Write to your local MP
- Talk, shout and scream about it – the government want people to forget or get tired of hearing about this
- Street art – make some paste-ups or a stencil
- Read Hit and Run
- Take action – start or join a protest, a rally or a direct action – demand justice
- Use the #HitandRunNZ hashtag on social media
- Sign the petition tinyurl.com/hitandrunnz
We want justice for the people of Afghanistan who have been killed, injured or affected by actions taken in our name.
We will not stand by as the government refuses to take responsibility.
We Teach Life – a poetry evening with Rafeef Ziadah
Last Saturday we were lucky enough to co-host Rafeef Ziadah’s show in Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington with Poetry in Motion.
150 people were treated to a powerful night of music, poetry and spoken word at Old St Paul’s in Thorndon. The night began with spoken word from Aotearoa artists Te Kahu Rolleston, Rangimārie Sophie Jolley, Winara Levi and Mohamed Hassan. Then Phil Monsour kept the energy high playing his own music before accompanying Rafeef’s performance of her political & emotionally charged spoken word. The themes of colonisation, borders, roots and resistance weaved in and out all the performances and we left inspired to take action for Palestine and decolonisation around the world.
Paiaka: Relate, Resist and Organise!
The following day a bunch of us headed off to the Innermost Gardens to participate in an afternoon of workshops. It was great to be able to do some self reflection on our activism, think about how we function as a group, how we work with others including tangata whenua and meet some new people.
Paiaka is a new community project which aims to connect local communities to the whenua, connect communities to each other, lay a whariki (mat) for learning about politics and resistance and engage discussion and develop tools to create a just world
Hit and Run
Then on Tuesday we caught PM Bill English and Chief of Defence Tim Keating sweeping some classified documents pertaining to the deadly NZ SAS raid on a village in Afghanistan under the rug. We are not going to stop talking about this and will be releasing a video soon.
Add your voice to the call for an independent inquiry now! https://our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/launch-an-independent-inquiry-into-the-nz-sas-s-involvement-in-civilian-casualties-in-afghanistan
Now the cops owe us money!
You might have caught the news a while back that we won our case against police for costs (well they said they would give it to us but it hasn’t arrived yet!). We have been awarded a small amount of money back. You can read all the details here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/327380/protesters-win-case-against-police
Some of this money has been used to reimburse further costs to activists from the court proceedings. We have decided to spend any leftover money on future campaigns against the Weapons Expo. It seems likely that it’s coming back to Wellington this year so we have been working on the campaign already.
In February handing in a petition at parliament calling for an end to the Weapons Expo.
Thanks once more for your support and solidarity, it means a lot.