Stop the Weapons Expo 2017 Campaign Launch

Today we launched a campaign of resistance to the upcoming Weapons Expo, coming up at the Westpac Stadium on 10-11th October. The campaign has begun with a striking art piece that questions, “how close does war have to get before it makes you uncomfortable?”

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Placed outside Parliament and on Civic Square, a sculpture of an unexploded ordnance gave the impression that 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.

The Weapons Expo is an annual event held by the New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA), the national arms trade lobbying organisation. NZDIA companies make and sell weapons for use in wars globally. Furthermore, the Weapons Expo’s primary sponsor is Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms manufacturer, who also build nuclear weapons. Local arms companies such as Lower Hutt’s MAS Zengrange will also be in attendance, aiming to build the market for their mortar firing systems.

In the 2016/17 budget the New Zealand government pledged $20 billion of taxpayer’s money to military spending. Undoubtedly, arms dealing attendees of the Weapons Expo will be looking forward to grabbing some of these contracts. 2017 marks 20 years of the Weapons Expo directly profiting from war.

Guns were also placed on statues around town to grab the public’s attention.

This year, we were outraged to hear that the Weapons Expo will take place in Te Whanganui-a-Tara in a council-owned venue, the Westpac Stadium, on 10-11 October. Peace Action Wellington and the Wellington community pledge to continue opposing the Weapons Expo and arms trade, especially at a time when the rising threat of war makes ending the arms trade particularly urgent.

“War starts here in Wellington when we allow arms to be traded and dirty deals to be made. We need to stop it here, ” said PAW spokesperson Alex Davis.

“A new sculpture commemorating British and Kiwi deaths in conflict will be unveiled by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tomorrow at Pukeahu. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for the British and New Zealand governments to commit to removing themselves from the wars they’re involved in and ending the arms trade in their various countries? Until we commit to ending wars everywhere, we can’t really say we’re commemorating all those lost to war – we’re just repeating the mistakes of the past.”

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The Weapons Expo has been opposed by the people of Aotearoa for over 10 years. In 2016, Auckland Peace Action’s blockade locked weapons traders out of the expo, halting the business of war. 4000 New Zealanders signed a petition against the Expo.

Peace Action Wellington invite groups and individuals who oppose the arms trade to join us to shut down the Weapons Expo once and for all. Sign the petition opposing the Weapons Expo or get in touch if you want to join the resistance.

To find out more about the arms trade, or how to get involved in the resistance to this years expo visit www.stopthearmstrade.nz.

A mysterious ordnance struck Wellington. Is there a connection to the upcoming NZDIA Weapons Expo? Laura Biding reports for What The H*ck News.

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Freedom To Protest

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

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How Climate Change Fuels War

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It is no coincidence that Rex Tillerson is both the ex-CEO of Exxon Mobil and the Secretary of State to the most militarised country in the world. It’s also no coincidence that Tillerson is here in Aotearoa after the US have requested NZ increase our military capacity in Afghanistan.

The links between oil and war are numerous – what is less well understood is how climate change contributes to war.

Did you know that the US army is the largest consumer of oil in the world? This makes the US Army one of the biggest polluters on the earth. As well as fuelling war, the greed for petroleum also produces war – think Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan. Britain’s largest ever arms deal is paid in oil. The ‘Al-Yamamah’ arms deal, ongoing since 1985, is between the UK and the autocratic regime of Saudi Arabia.

Climate Change and Disaster Capitalism

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to peace and security in the world – it contributed to instability that led to the formation of Boko Haram in Nigeria, the drought which precipitated the civil war in Syria and is creating climate refugees in many of our Pacific neighbours. These links are why so many see the climate justice movement as a peace movement.

Weapons companies seek to profit from the instability climate change causes – through disaster relief, the ‘processing’ and detention of asylum seekers, and security in conflict zones. The climate movement undermines the motives and causes for this kind of disaster profiteering by advocating for a move away from an oil-based economy.

Weapons Expo

The Weapons Expo is an annual meeting of over 500 delegates from the world’s largest weapons and arms manufacturers, as well as NZ military and government representatives. It’s hosted by the New Zealand Defence Industry Association, an arms industry lobby group.

Many of the companies that attend produce weapons that contribute to humanitarian crises and human rights abuses. Lockheed Martin, the primary event sponsor has ongoing links with the human right abuses Saudi Arabia is perpetrating in Yemen.

This year, October 10-11, the war profiteers are again returning to our city. The 20th Weapons Expo will be held at the Westpac Stadium, a venue co-owned by Wellington Council and Greater Wellington Regional Councils and maintained by us, the ratepayers.

Non-violent direct action at the TSB Arena in 2015 resulted in extensive disruption to both the venue and the forum. In 2016, hundreds of protesters blockaded the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland and hindered the business of war by preventing delegates from attending.

Join us in October when we shut them down again

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Unwelcome the US Secretary of State

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.

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Palestinian Flags in Wellington on Nakba Day

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

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Anzac Day and the casualties of war

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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.

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Hit and Run

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.

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