The Best of 2017

2017 the year in which we got the Wellington Mayor to deny the Weapons Expo a venue, went to court far too many times and won nearly all the cases, sparked controversy on Anzac Day, organised a massive two days resistance against the Weapons Expo and stood in solidarity with refugees on Manus among other things. Here are the highlights.

February: We went to court and all 15 people charged with obstruction, trespass or disorderly behaviour from the 2015 Weapons Expo protest were dismissed or found not guilty due to lack of evidence. We also handed in a petition to parliament to Stop the Weapons Expo! and jointly held a Vigil for Reza Berati with Doing Our Bit outside the Australian High Commission.

March: We won our case against the police to retrieve some costs of the trial after successfully defending charges in February. Then we traveled up to Taranaki with Oil Free Wellington to attend The People’s Climate Rally, a protest in response to the Petroleum Conference. (It’s back in Wellington on March 26 this year so we will be joining Oil Free Wellington again for the Rally for Climate Justice.)

April: We were lucky enough to co-host Rafeef Ziadah’s show ‘We Teach Life’ with Poetry in Motion. Then 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. And then on Anzac day at the public wreath laying ceremony in Wellington we laid a wreath for those killed allegedly by the NZ SAS in Operation Burnham in Afghanistan and to commemorate all civilian lives lost during war. Thanks to one upset young man the wreath laying sparked numerous comments, opinions pieces and polls about whether it’s appropriate to protest on Anzac day despite it being done so since the Vietnam War. We are still waiting for that independent inquiry!

May: Gee whiz some good citizens put Palestinian flags up around Wellington on Nakba day. 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.

June: We helped unwelcome the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson to Wellington with a Donald Trump effigy at 350 Aotearoa’s Unwelcoming Party at Parliament. Then back to court we went for another charge of trespass from a protest at the Ministry of Defence in April 2016 against increased military spending and the controversial US ship visit. After the judge heard the police prosecution’s case they decided there was no case to answer.

July: We launched our campaign of resistance to the Weapons Expo, at the Westpac Stadium on 10-11th October with a sculpture of an unexploded ordnance like Wellington was under attack. It aimed to make people stop and question how comfortable they really are with the presence of weapons of war in their city. Oh and we built a dedicated website on the arms trade in NZ. www.stopthearmstrade.nz

August: We spoke at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki day commemoration about the role the arms trade plays in driving war. Oops somebody threw blood on the Australian High Commission. This was after another refugee died whilst being held in detention by the Australian government on Manus Island. Some posters found themselves at Wilson’s car parks later in the month highlighting the fact Wilson’s held the security contract on Manus. And then we were back in court again. This time one activist had their charge dropped whilst the other was found guilty in a h*ckin heavy handed judgement.

September: We cranked up the campaign against the Weapons Expo and after meeting Mayor Justin Lester secured his guarantee that the Weapons Expo would not be held in WCC controlled venues whilst he is mayor. We had a public meeting and the po-po turned up. We held workshops, produced memes, videos, props, banners and merchandise galore! We met with the Westpac Stadium CEO who said he respected our right to protest but that the Weapons Expo would still be held there.

October: Then the Weapons Expo came to town and we shut it down again and prevented hundreds of arms dealing delegates from getting in for hours with the help of many groups and people from all over Aotearoa. The blockade was a success despite violent policing, arrests and a vast venue with many possible entrances. There was also a walking touring of local arms companies, a peace picnic and dance party over the two days of resistance.

November: We started a petition asking the government to urgently welcome 700+ refugees in danger on Manus Island. Then we had a vigil at parliament, dropped a banner, filled 700 cups of water, had an emergency demo outside the Australian High Commission where we locked on to the gates, drove a lifeboat around Wellington and along with others around the country occupied our local Labour office to keep highlighting the crisis situation for refugees on Manus.

December: We wrapped up the year by dropping off the rat chewed Trump effigy outside the Israeli embassy to protest the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, held a  bbq blockade outside the Australian High Commission for refugees on Manus and celebrated Lorde hearing the call to boycott Israel and cancelling her concert in Tel Aviv.

Thanks to all who supported us in 2017. Join us in 2018 for more direct action!

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Occupying Labour offices for Refugees on Manus Island

Today activists occupied Labour offices in Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin to demand that the government take immediate action to help the refugees on Manus Island.

Below is the letter we handed in.

To Jacinda Ardern,

700 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island need our help. This is a humanitarian crisis in our backyard. Keeping the offer of taking 150 people from Manus and Nauru on the table with Australia is not enough. Offering up to $3 million in aid to PNG, Nauru and aid agencies does not resolve the underlying problem. The human face of this situation should not be ignored. We can and should help all of these people immediately.

These refugees and asylum seekers need urgent help. They have been left without food, water, medicine or power. They have the right to be evacuated and resettled somewhere where seeking asylum is acknowledged and they will be welcomed into the community. The refugees want a long-term solution, they do not want to move to another prison – they want freedom. We demand that the New Zealand government do what the Australian Government will not. We should show manaakitanga, take a strong stand for justice and welcome all 700 to Aotearoa New Zealand immediately.

The Australian government and its inhumane and illegal border policies have created this situation that now exists. As a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, the Australian Government should be responsible for these refugees, regardless of how they entered Australian territory to seek asylum. By taking these people to off-shore detention centres and indefinitely detaining them, Australia is in breach of international law and has created this present humanitarian crisis.

You have said in relation to people smugglers that, “Anyone who tries to put at risk vulnerable peoples’ lives should come under the full force of the law.” It is time to apply this standard to the Australian government whose off-shore detention centres have been described as amounting to torture. We demand that the New Zealand government condemn Australia’s inhumane and illegal border policies and urge them to immediately close all off-shore detention facilities and end the policy of stopping and detaining asylum seekers.

This is our chance to challenge Australia rather than buy into and support their ‘Pacific Solution’. Describing these people as ‘boat people’ and empathising with Australia’s ‘problem’ dehumanises refugees and people seeking asylum and only increases distrust and xenophobia towards them. Our silence makes us complicit in Australia’s abuse of human rights until we speak up against them and challenge the negative rhetoric and policies.

The New Zealand government needs to do more than offer to take 150 refugees from Manus or Nauru off Australia’s hands. This is a toxic deal left over from the National government that had Australia offering to detain people wanting to come to NZ in return. All the people illegally detained by Australia deserve justice. We have the chance to be on the right side of history.

The NZ government must condemn Australia’s illegal and inhumane policies that lead to this crisis. Rather than acquiesing to Australia’s power dynamics, we should be part of creating a fair and due process of people seeking asylum in the Pacific.

We need to act now. The NZ government needs to transport these people immediately to safety. Just like in 1973 and 1995, it’s time to take action – send a frigate and actually evacuate the men now.

-Peace Action Wellington

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Activists lock down Australian High Commission for Manus

Today, Monday 13th November, Peace Action Wellington have locked down the Australian High Commission. Peace activists have locked themselves to the gates of the High Commission preventing anyone from leaving, to draw attention to the situation of the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island. Refugees have been indefinitely detained by the Australian government in illegal camps and are now being forcibly moved into even more precarious situation.

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On the 31st of October, the Manus detention centre was closed, leaving the people there with no food, water, power or medical care for the past two weeks. The people in the detention centre are now threatened with being forcibly moved by the PNG army and police to incomplete accommodation in a nearby town. The refugees want a long-term solution, they do not want to move to another prison – they want freedom.

“What Australia is doing is inhumane and that is why we are here locking down the Australian High Commission. The people on Manus need our help, they have committed no crime and shouldn’t be locked up for exercising their right to seek asylum,” said Emma Cullen, spokesperson for Peace Action Wellington.

This situation is unacceptable for both local people and the refugees. Local people on Manus Island were never consulted about the offshore detention centres and although the Papua New Guinean government has received huge payments from Australia, little of this has trickled through to local villagers. This has caused local unrest, as the lives of Manus Islanders have been disrupted by the centres.

“This is a humanitarian crisis of Australia’s making. Everyone has the right to seek asylum and the Australian government is not above the law. We are here today to stand in solidarity with the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus and to tell the Australian government that their actions are unacceptable,” said Emma. These refugees and asylum seekers have the right to be evacuated and resettled somewhere where seeking asylum is acknowledged and they will be welcomed into the community.

The Australian government, as a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, is responsible for these refugees, regardless of how they entered Australian territory to seek asylum. Instead, the government brought them to Manus Island as part of their ‘Pacific Solution’ policy of preventing any people fleeing war or persecution from reaching safety in Australia if they seek asylum by boat. The Papua New Guinean Supreme Court ruled the detention centre illegal in 2016 because it breached the asylum seekers’ fundamental human rights, which is why it is now being closed.

“It is time for the New Zealand government to do more than offer to take 150 refugees from Manus or Nauru. Here in Aotearoa we have the capacity to help these men and we should be talking with the PNG government directly to solve this humanitarian crisis. Peace Action Wellington condemns Australia’s inhumane border policies that led to this situation, and the government must follow suit,” said Emma.

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Emergency demo for Manus refugees

Emergency demonstration for refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island. TOMORROW, Monday 13th November, anytime between 4-6pm, Australian High Commission, 72-76 Hobson Street. Invite your friends to the facebook event.

Australia has been refusing to accept refugees fleeing for safety by boat – they housed them in illegal detention centres on Manus and Nauru. Now they’ve closed the Manus centre and left the people there with no food, water, power and medical care.

The people in the detention centre are now being threatened with being forcibly moved by the PNG army and police to incomplete accommodation in a nearby town. Locals of the small town have not been consulted about the move of around 700 people into their community and are understandably unhappy about it. The refugees want a long-term solution, they do not want to move to another prison – they want freedom.

These refugees and asylum seekers need urgent help. They have the right to be evacuated and resettled somewhere where seeking asylum is acknowledged and they will be welcomed into the community.

Here in Aotearoa we open our arms to them, say #RefugeesWelcome and demand that our government urgently #BringThemHere.

You can also sign the petition to #BringThemHere.

Solidarity actions in Aotearoa so far:

12th November: 700 cups of water in Civic Square for c. 700 refugees & asylum seekers on Manus Island whose water, power & medical care has been cut off. We urgently need to #EvacuateNow and #BringThemHere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11th November: Banner drop at Wellington stadium before All Whites v Peru match means that around 30,000 people walking to the football see the call to #EvacuateNow.

11th November: Auckland Peace Action, Pacific Panthers and friends showing solidarity with action on Queen Street.

6th November: Auckland Peace Action delivered a warning to both Malcolm Turnbull and to Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton at the Australian Consulate in Auckland.

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2nd November: Vigil at NZ Parliament calling for refugees and asylum seekers on Manus to be urgently brought here.

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Bring Them Here – Vigil for Manus Island Refugees

On 31st October 2017, the detention centre on Manus Island in which the Australian Government has been holding more than 700 refugees was closed, leaving those living there in a desperate situation.

In response to this crisis, Peace Action Wellington (PAW) have started a petition to the new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Minister for Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway, demanding that the government act urgently and bring the refugees on Manus to safety in New Zealand.

PAW will also be holding a vigil outside Parliament tomorrow (Thursday 2nd November, 5pm – 6:30) in solidarity with those trapped on Manus. A refugee from Sudan, who is currently held on Manus Island, today sent this message to the New Zealand Government via Twitter: “We’re merely refugees who unfortunately ended up in those merciless offshore detentions, we experienced torture for more than 4 years and still undergoing it, please in the name of humanity we ask you emergency help.”

Peace Action Wellington spokesperson Emma Cullen commented, “We believe New Zealand has a responsibility to act to ensure the safety of these people who have been illegally detained and now are being abandoned by Australia. Australia has washed their hands of these refugees. New Zealand should stand up for what’s right and bring them here.”

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Although the detention centre has been a nightmarish experience for all held there, closing it leaves these people extremely vulnerable and without any support in a hostile environment where local people have threatened violence against them.

This situation is unacceptable for both local people and the refugees. Local people on Manus Island were never consulted about the offshore detention centres and although the Papua New Guinean government has received huge payments from Australia, little of this has trickled through to local villagers. This has caused local unrest, as the lives of Manus Islanders have been disrupted by the centres. The Papua New Guinean Supreme Court ruled the detention centre illegal in 2016 because it breached the asylum seekers’ fundamental human rights, which is why it is now being closed.

“It is very clear that Australia has violated the human rights of these people by abandoning them in this way, just as they refused to accept their humanitarian responsibilities to those who tried to reach Australia on the Tampa. On that occasion New Zealand stood up for what is right and we should do so again.” said Emma.

“The situation on Manus Island is a humanitarian emergency, and our members have shown support for Peace Action Wellington’s call for New Zealand to offer help. ActionStation members are asking the Prime Minister to raise it urgently with her Australian counterpart and hope that she offers New Zealand’s help in taking in the refugees. We urge the Prime Minister to make a public statement to show the international community is watching and ready to help.” said Marianne Elliott of ActionStation.

The Australian government, as a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, is responsible for these refugees, regardless of how they entered Australian territory to seek asylum. Instead, the government brought them to Manus Island as part of their ‘Pacific Solution’ policy of preventing any people fleeing war or persecution from reaching safety in Australia if they seek asylum by boat.

On 31st October, water, electricity and sewage systems were shut off to the detention centre. Detainees were given the choice to either be moved to Nauru (another offshore detention centre), or to remain in a nearby town where they will be extremely unsafe.

“We demand that the New Zealand government do what the Australian Government will not. We should show manaakitanga, take a strong stand for justice and welcome these desperate people to Aotearoa New Zealand immediately,” said Emma.

Petition: https://our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/bring-them-here-nz-should-urgently-welcome-700-refugees-in-danger-on-manus-island

Vigil details: https://www.facebook.com/events/125259294818106/

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700 refugees on Manus need us to #BringThemHere

Around 700 refugees are in an urgent situation on Manus Island. The detention centre in which the Australian Government has held them for months or years is set to be closed on 31st October. Although the detention centre has been a nightmarish experience for all held there, closing the centre leaves these people extremely vulnerable and without any support, in a hostile environment where local people have threatened violence against them.

Australia has washed their hands of these refugees. New Zealand should stand up for what’s right and urgently bring them here.You can find more information and our petition about the situation here.

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What can you do?

We need to take urgent action right now, as these vulnerable people will be left without power, water, sewage or protection from tomorrow, 31st October 2017. Our new Government might just be open to taking action, so let’s

  1. Sign and share this petition demanding the NZ Government #BringThemHere.
  2. Tweet at our PM @jacindaardern or Immigration Minister @IainLG – here are a couple of suggested tweets:

    Hundreds of refugees on Manus in desperate situation as detention centre due to be closed. We need to bring them here @jacindaardern @IainLG

    Refugees on Manus Island in danger as detention centre shuts. We need to urgently #BringThemHere! #RefugeesWelcome @jacindaardern @IainLG

  3. Call or email your MP, Jacinda Ardern and Iain Lees-Galloway directly: jacinda.ardern@parliament.govt.nz / 04 817 9370 & iain.lees-galloway@parliament.govt.nz 04 817 6967
  4. Send a message of solidarity directly to refugees on Manus & let them know we stand with them and want them here. Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani is being held on Manus & is reporting the situation there – tweet at him @BehrouzBoochani or use #BringThemHere

This is urgent. Please take action now.

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Protest, police and our collective forgetfulness

Three weeks ago hundreds of people from all walks of life came together to blockade the Weapons Expo, euphemistically known as the New Zealand Defence Industry Association annual conference.

Despite violent police and a vast venue with many possible entrances, we were successful. Hundreds of conference delegates were blocked from entering the expo for the majority of the day, and the Weapons Expo didn’t go ahead as planned. It was an example of what can be achieved through people power.

The familiar backlash against protesters in comments sections all over social media and media outlets suggests that we have, as a nation, a very selective memory of how change has been created in this country, and of the moments in our history that we are most proud of. We also have a selective memory about the roles and the actions that the police have had in those moments.

The same platitudes get trotted out whenever a group of people engage in civil disobedience for a cause they care about: ‘The police are just doing their job’, ‘If you’re not going to move you deserve whatever you get’, ‘I respect your right to protest, but not to interfere with people’s lawful business’. And these are just some of the more polite comments.

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When it comes to police brutality, it seems that many of us are all too willing to accept that whatever the police are doing must be justified simply because of the authority that the police hold.

Peaceful protesters at the blockade were punched and kicked in the head, had their necks stood on, a wrist broken, fingers broken, and were picked up by the hair and thrown into oncoming traffic. Women were sexually assaulted. All of this was carried out by the police. People ended up in A&E and many were traumatised after being assaulted. Is this really the police just doing their job? And if this is the police’s job, is that something we should be comfortable with?

The police felt so strongly that their job was to protect this Weapons Expo going ahead unhindered that they repeatedly blocked one of Wellington’s busiest roads to allow buses of Weapons company delegates to travel in the wrong direction along the road to get through alternative entrances, and assaulted peaceful protesters to the point of needing hospital treatment.

As we saw at the blockade the police exist to reinforce the status quo and support those in positions of power, who are more often than not wealthy and white. This is not news for people of colour who are disportionately suspected, arrested and incarcerated, nor for women who have attempted reporting sexual assault and found a culture of endemic victim blaming and systematic scepticism by the police. As with every institution and more especially with one such as the police with a continually problematic history they should come under public scrutiny and their actions should not be accepted without question.

When we condemn protesters and tell them they deserve anything they get for stopping others going about their ‘lawful business’, we forget that even the most horrific of crimes were in many cases ‘lawful’ until people stood up, demanded better, and yes, got in the way. The slave trade was legal. Racial segregation was legal. Rape wasn’t always a crime. It is not much of a stretch to imagine that one day we might view war profiteers with similar moral condemnation.

When we look back on the important social milestones of our history, sanitising our victories does a disservice to us all. Women gaining the right to vote, our nuclear free stance, homosexual law reform, workers’ rights, our stance against apartheid in South Africa; all of these campaigns and victories have something in common: people put their bodies in the way and at risk, and people’s ‘lawful business’ was disrupted.

The rights that we all enjoy, even those telling protestors to get jobs and laughing at the injuries they sustained from police, were fought for and won by people willing to go against popular opinion, to be criticised, mocked and even assaulted by those who hold power.

If we could look back with a little more honesty at these past struggles, perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to condemn protesters as radical, or ‘too extreme’ when they do what people have always done, all over the world, to achieve change that does not favour those with money and power. And perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to deny the violence of the police that stand at the ready to protect the powerful, no matter how unconscionable their ‘lawful’ actions may be.

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