Media Release: Peace actions continue amid concern about police tactics
October 11, 2017 3:15pm
Peaceful protests against the weapons industry continued today with a walking tour and picnic. The walking tour showed Wellingtonians the arms dealers on their doorstep.
Protesters visited six local weapons companies today, including Broadspectrum, who operate illegal Australian offshore detention camps for refugees, and Rolls Royce, whose engines power 25% of military aircraft in the world.
“People are not aware that arms companies are quietly carrying out their business in Wellington. We wanted to let people know what’s really going on in their city,” said Peace Action Wellington spokesperson Gayaal Iddamalgoda.
“Broadspectrum took over from security group G4S on Manus Island in February 2014, and has been in charge of the Nauru detention centre since 2013. They are complicit in the abuse of vulnerable asylum seekers – and they do business in the Hutt Valley. How comfortable are we with these companies in our city?”
The events followed on from yesterday’s successful blockade of the first day of the Weapons Expo, which saw a variety of tactics employed to prevent arms dealers from accessing the conference. Nine people were charged with minor offences and will appear in court on Friday.
The blockade was marred by a shocking level of police violence, with people reporting being kicked, punched, strangled, pushed into the road and groped.
“Many people reported having been groped by police officers and many injuries were reported. This is absolutely disgusting. Not only did the police facilitate arms dealers in conducting their deeply unethical business, but they resorted to grotesque tactics in order to do so,” said Iddamalgoda.
“We’re concerned that this represents a police culture where sexual assault is not only acceptable but deployed as a tactic against protesters. We’ll be making a complaint.
“In addition, we’re concerned that police unnecessarily disrupted the public yesterday by shutting down roads so that arms dealers could access the Weapons Expo. The police prioritised rich war profiteers over the public as a whole, and the roadblocks unfairly impacted many ordinary people.”
Peace actions will continue tonight, with a dance party held outside the Westpac Stadium from 5pm, featuring local electronic artists Disasteradio and Alexa Casino.
“This is a protest against war-profiteering and the arms trade, to let the arms dealers know we’re still here. While the arms dealers will be inside the Westpac Stadium having cocktails and an awards ceremony, we’ll be outside making some noise for peace.”
Media Release: Amazing day of peace action disrupts Weapons Expo
October 10, 2017, 5:30pm
“It has been an amazing day of peace action in Wellington where hundreds of people successfully blockaded the entrance to the Westpac Stadium. Weapons Expo delegates were prevented from getting inside for most of the day,” said Jessie Dennis from Peace Action Wellington.
15 people were arrested for minor offences in upholding the non-violent blockade, with six having been released without charge as of 5:30pm.
“The arrests are outrageous. These people are human rights defenders, and we should thank them for their work in making the world a safer and more peaceful place. We expect all of these charges will be dropped, but we will be supporting them through any court process whatever the outcome,” said Dennis.
“We are thrilled with the courage and solidarity shown by all the people who joined us today. Our action has been effective because it has directly impacted on the only thing that matters to weapons dealers: making money.
“The heavy-handed and violent actions of the police in protecting and attempting to escort delegates inside was shameful. A number of peaceful blockaders were pushed over, pushed into the road and kicked. Some injuries were sustained.
“It is the weapons dealers who are responsible for crimes against humanity, and should be held accountable for their role in making war and creating human misery. They shouldn’t be receiving protection from the police.”
Resistance against the Weapons Expo continues tonight, with a peace vigil being held by the Quakers from 5pm tonight at the railway station. Further creative peace actions will also follow tomorrow.
Media Release: Activists successfully blockade Weapons Expo
October 10, 2017, 11am
Peace activists have gathered at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington to blockade the annual NZDIA Weapons Expo.
Around 200 people were onsite to protest the event before 7am this morning. The car ramp to the vehicle entrance was blocked off, with banners attached to people who had climbed lampposts. Police were advised that any attempt to remove the banners would result in the climbers falling.
Protesters have blocked off all entrances to the venue.The majority of delegates have been unable to access the venue as of 11 am.
“We’re here to stay. We think it’s totally unethical that New Zealand plays host to a Weapons Expo, and we’re not leaving until the weapons dealers do,” said Peace Action Wellington spokesperson Jessie Dennis.
“The Weapons Expo is a trade fair for some of the biggest arms companies in the world. The delegates attending would have us believe that the products on sale and the deals being done at the Expo are somehow benign. But make no mistake, these are weapons and military hardware that play their part in the global war machine.”
Six protesters have been violently arrested so far.
“We’re unsurprised that the Wellington police are once more protecting the interests of businesses, even deeply unethical businesses, at the expense of the right of ordinary people to protest peacefully,” said Dennis.
“We’re concerned to hear not only of violent arrests but of sexual harassment of protesters by police.”
The blockade received the support of Green MPs Chloe Swarbrick and Thomas Nash, who recently won Nobel peace prize for his work with The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. “We in this country have a strong kaupapa for peace,” said Thomas.
“We’re standing strong,” said Jessie Dennis. “Groups from all over New Zealand have come together for this blockade, from Auckland Peace Action, Peace Action Hamilton, People Against Prisons Aotearoa, Palestine Solidarity Network, Whanganui Positive Activists, It’s Our Future Manawatu, Oil Free Wellington, Unions Wellington, Pacific Panthers, Quakers and Catholic Workers.”
Media Release: Peace Activists assembling for blockade
October 10, 2017, 6:30am
Peace activists from all over the country will be gathering at 90 Waterloo Quay this morning in preparation for a non-violent blockade of the Weapons Expo.
“We will be moving into positions closer to the entrance of the Westpac Stadium shortly after assembling,” said Jessie Dennis, member of Peace Action Wellington.
“We encourage people in Wellington to get down to the Westpac Stadium now for a day of awesome peace action. There will be plenty of food, music and activities to keep us sustained through the day.
“The Weapons Expo is a trade fair for major weapons companies including Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Thales and Northrup Grumman. These companies are coming here today to cash in on war and disaster. We intend to stop them using tactics of non-violent direct action.
“We are thrilled to have the support and solidarity of groups across the country who have travelled down to join us in resisting this arms fair, these include Auckland Peace Action, Peace Action Hamilton, People Against Prisons Aotearoa, Palestine Solidarity Network, Whanganui Positive Activists, It’s Our Future Manawatu, Oil Free Wellington, Unions Wellington, Pacific Panthers, Quakers, Catholic Workers and many other individual social justice activists.
“We want the security provided by dignified employment, proper housing, healthcare and education and a tolerant, free and just society. These weapons companies and military supporters promote a vision of fear and insecurity in order to sell weapons and encourage conflict. This is totally unacceptable, and we aren’t going to sit by while death and destruction are on sale.”
Media Release: Activists gather to shut down Weapons Expo
Date: October 9, 2017
Peace activists have announced their plans to blockade the annual NZDIA Weapons Expo tomorrow (10th October 2017). Groups from all over the country are gathering to shut down the Expo, held this year at the Wellington Westpac Stadium.
“The Weapons Expo is a trade fair for major weapons companies, including Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Thales and Northrup Grumman. These companies are coming here to cash in on war and disaster. We will disrupt their business using tactics of non-violent direct action,” said Peace Action Wellington spokesperson Jessie Dennis.
“We witness the strife of war from our screens, we know it’s bad, but it’s important to act and to target the drivers of war, those who make billions of dollars from killing people. Tomorrow is our opportunity to shut down their business, to mess with their profit and to ultimately make the world a better and safer place.
“We invite people in Wellington to come to the Westpac Stadium tomorrow and join us in taking a stand against war.
“It’s time the government recognised that the money spent on ‘defence’ could be better spent on reducing the disgraceful levels of child poverty in this country, or on addressing the housing crisis.”
Groups including Auckland Peace Action, Peace Action Hamilton, People Against Prisons Aotearoa, Palestine Solidarity Network, Whanganui Positive Activists, It’s Our Future Manawatu, Oil Free Wellington, Unions Wellington, Pacific Panthers, Quakers, Catholic Workers and many other individual social justice activists will join the blockade.
“A blockade of the Expo in Auckland was highly successful in disrupting the conference last year, and reflects a resurgence of the peace movement in Aotearoa during a period of global uncertainty” said Dennis.
“People ask us ‘how will we defend ourselves from North Korea without investing in defence?’ We’d argue that the race to militarise has got the world into this volatile situation – it’s unlikely that further militarisation will alleviate it.
“No one should profit from suffering and violence. War starts here – we can stop it here.”
Press release: New Zealanders prepare to blockade Weapons Expo next week
October 3, 2017
People from all over the country are preparing to head to Wellington for a non-violent blockade of the annual NZDIA Weapons Expo next week.
The Expo is being held this year at the Westpac Stadium. People interested in participating in blockading are invited to meet at 90 Waterloo Quay at 7:30 am before proceeding to the stadium.
“New Zealanders are travelling from far and wide to stop weapons dealers from peddling death in their capital city, ” said Peace Action Wellington spokesperson Jessie Dennis.
“The products on sale, the delegates attending, and the companies they represent are part of a killing machine that profits from death and the ruination of whole countries.
“War is a money-making industry and the deals made at these expos are deadly. In 2015, then-defence minister Gerry Brownlee claimed that there were nothing more deadly than socks and paper cups on display. Socks and cups aren’t killing people in Yemen, Syria, and Palestine but the weaponry sold at this expo is.
“We invite people from all walks of life to join us in resisting the militarisation of this country.”
Groups including Auckland Peace Action, Peace Action Hamilton, People Against Prisons Aotearoa, Palestine Solidarity Network, Whanganui Positive Activists, It’s Our Future Manawatu, Oil Free Wellington, Shakti Women’s Refuge, Unions Wellington, Pacific Panthers, Quakers, Catholic Workers and many other individual social justice activists will join the blockade.
“It’s time the government recognised that the money spent on ‘defence’ could be better spent on reducing the disgraceful levels of child poverty in this country, or on addressing the housing crisis,” said Dennis.
Press release: Peace protesters get the go-ahead from Westpac Stadium CEO
Tuesday 26th September 2017
Peace Action Wellington met with Wellington Regional Trust CEO, Shane Harmon, last week to discuss their protest outside the Weapons Expo at the Westpac Stadium on October 10 and 11.
“After our meeting with Mayor Justin Lester where he agreed to ban the Weapons Expo from council venues, he passed on our contacts to Shane Harmon at the Westpac Stadium. Although we were initially surprised to hear from Shane, we were pleased to be able to offer him a different perspective from the arms industry lobby group, the NZ Defence Industry Association,” said Peace Action spokesperson, Alex Davis.
Harmon said that he respects the right to protest the Weapons Expo on the walkway outside the main gates of the stadium.
“While we hope this means that there won’t be a repeat of the arbitrary arrests in 2015 and everyone’s right to protest will be respected, it is not enough. The Cake Tin is an iconic venue, more suited to family-friendly sporting events and concerts. It should not be tarnished by association with the business of war,” Davis said.
Although Mayor Justin Lester agreed to ban the Weapons Expo from council-controlled venues, his decision does not include the Westpac Stadium, which is owned and operated by the Wellington Regional Stadium Trust. The Trust is jointly settled by Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council. Peace Action believe that the Trust should remain accountable to ratepayers.
“The Weapons Expo’s main sponsor is Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms company and manufacturer of nuclear weapons. Their weapons rain down on the people of Yemen, Iraq and Syria, contributing to the global refugee crisis,” continued Davis.
Another Weapons Expo attendee will be arms dealer MAS Zengrange. Based in Lower Hutt, MAS Zengrange sell mortar firing devices to Saudi Arabia, who has in turn been conducting a bombing campaign against civilians in Yemen.
Furthermore, attendee Pacific Aerospace, based in Hamilton, is currently under investigation for unlawful exports after their plane ended up in North Korea in a clear violation of UN sanctions.
Davis said, “War starts where weapons are made and sold. It’s not okay that they are manufactured here in Aotearoa, or that deals for death and destruction are made in our cities. People are coming from all around the country for the protest and we will be gathering together to show war profiteers that their destructive businesses are not welcome here.”
For more information visit our website: www.stopthearmstrade.nz
Press release: A Call To Arms – film/video
Monday 18 September 2017
Today Peace Action Wellington (PAW) is releasing a short film in response to the arms industry’s attack on our campaign against war profiteering in Aotearoa.
On October 10, the annual New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA) Weapons Expo begins. Global and local arms companies will vie to land contracts with the Defence Force.
Last week the weapons industry mouthpiece, DefSec Media, issued a press release responding to Wellington Mayor Justin Lester banning the NZDIA Weapons Expo from council-owned and -controlled venues, after PAW brought the issue to his attention.
“These arms companies complain that our blockades damage their business. But the arms trade is far from an innocuous line of business,” said PAW spokesperson Alex Davis.
“Like tobacco companies and child labour, these companies profit from the suffering of other people. The fostering of local employment and enterprise should not eclipse their ethical culpability.”
“The Expo’s principal sponsor is Lockheed Martin, who make nuclear weapons, which violates the spirit of Aotearoa’s proud non-nuclear stance. Notwithstanding their nuclear portfolio, they remain the largest weapons manufacturer in the world, making weapons that rain down hell on Yemen, Iraq and Syria.”
Lockheed is only one of the many large weapons companies that will attend the Expo. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) compiles a list every year of the world’s top 100 arms dealers. Aside from Lockheed (#1 global arms dealer), weapons companies Northrop Grumman (#5), General Dynamics (#6), Thales (#10), Saab (#31), Serco (#39), ThyssenKrupp (#59), and Cubic Defence (#90) will all be in attendance.
“The local companies we obstruct when we blockade the annual Expo include Lower Hutt company MAS Zengrange, who manufacture parts for mortar firing systems and sell them to Saudi Arabia, who have in turn been relentlessly bombing civilians in Yemen. Another company in attendance is Pacific Aerospace, who are being investigated for unlawful exports after their plane ended up in North Korea,” said Alex.
“Disturbingly, DefSec took language from the battlefield and applied it to our peace group and to our campaign opposing war profiteering.
“They labelled last year’s successful blockade and protest of the Expo in Auckland as a “blunt weapon,” and referred to companies who may have missed out on contracts and profits as “collateral damage.” This language is unpardonable and offensive given the real “collateral damage” – the innocent people who are being massacred in war.
“DefSec say they recognise our right to protest against the weapons industry. Will they then object if there is a militarised police presence at the blockade to assault and detain protesters? Or will there be a repetition of the mass arrests (and failed prosecutions) of demonstrators that took place during the 2015 blockade of the Expo at the TSB Arena?
“The arms trade as a whole needs to be tackled, and not just the worst excesses of it. It serves to aggravate global instability and misery and we should dismantle the industry wherever we find it. With this in mind, PAW and our supporters invite New Zealanders to stand up for peace and join us for the blockade of the Weapons Expo on 10th & 11th October.”
For more information visit our website: www.stopthearmstrade.nz
NZDIA Weapons Expo won’t be held in council venues
Mayor Justin Lester says NZDIA Weapons Expo won’t be held in council venues
Peace Action Wellington (PAW) met with Mayor Justin Lester on 6th September 2017 to discuss the New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA) Weapons Expo returning to Wellington. Justin Lester said whilst he is Mayor, the NZDIA Weapons Expo will not be held in council-controlled venues.
PAW welcomes the change in stance towards this arms-industry lobby group. Prior to the 2015 Weapons Expo, the group had asked the council take the ethical position and refuse to host the Weapons Expo at the council-owned TSB Arena. The Weapons Expo is a gathering of major arms manufacturers and war profiteers from across the globe. Many of these companies produce weapons for sale to political regimes that violate human rights.
Furthermore, the NZDIA Weapons Expo is currently sponsored by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms company and manufacturer of nuclear weapons. The Weapons Expo is therefore in contradiction to Wellington’s declared position as a ‘nuclear free’ city.
Peace Action Wellington were therefore pleased to hear that council-controlled venues would not host arms dealers but would like to see this written into council policy. Peace Action spokesperson Ellie Clayton said, “After discussion with Justin, we are working with the council to try and develop this into an official venue policy so the policy will continue when Justin is no longer Mayor.”
Mayor Justin Lester said he would speak with Trust Chief Executive Officer Shane Harmon about the Weapons Expo. Earlier in the year, Peace Action Wellington tried to reach out to the Wellington Regional Trust but have not had a reply from the trustees. After mass arrests at the TSB Arena in 2015, Councillor Iona Pannett moved an amendment for a ethical venue policy preventing council venues being used by the arms industry, but this was defeated.
PAW is planning a protest at the Westpac Stadium in October. Clayton commented, “Peace Action Wellington maintain that companies profiting from the weapons trade is morally indefensible. Te Whanganui-a-Tara should not be tarnished with the business of war. We encourage the people of Wellington to stand up and show resistance to war profiteers by joining us at the protests on October 10-11.”
Activists question police bias as new trial begins
Wednesday 23 August 2017
Peace Action Wellington will once again defend the right to protest tomorrow, as two activists appear in court charged with trespass following an action at local weapons manufacturer MAS Zengrange in 2016.
MAS Zengrange is a British/New Zealand owned company that makes parts for mortar firing systems (1). In September 2016, a group of peace activists dressed as grim reapers threw a party in the company’s Lower Hutt office to protest their complicity in human rights abuses overseas. Five people were arrested following the action, with two facing trial tomorrow.
PAW has successfully defended the right to protest twice in court this year. In February, 16 defendants on trial following the 2015 Weapons Expo protests had their charges dismissed by a judge (2), and in June the judge found there was no case to answer in relation to a further charge of trespass during a protest at the Ministry of Defence (3).
23 people were arrested at the Weapons Expo in 2015, with the police exhibiting heavy-handed and violent tactics in an apparent attempt to intimidate protesters while escorting arms dealers into the event. This latest prosecution follows an alarming trend of the police defending businesses – even deeply unethical businesses – while simultaneously harassing protesters.
“It’s pretty disgusting that the police choose to unquestioningly accept the version of events put forward by companies and their employees, over the activists who protest their complicity in war crimes.” said Laura Drew, who faces charges tomorrow. “The police have repeatedly shown that they believe themselves to be acting for big businesses against protesters, rather than acting as neutral officers of the law.”
“The police said to me that they were going forward with the prosecution because we have a ‘history of protesting’. That’s blatant criminalising of legal activities that don’t happen to suit them.
“MAS Zengrange claim their products do not cause casualties. But it seems unlikely the mortar systems are firing cupcakes at their targets. They’re likely to be used in lethal campaigns. Why would the police think it’s ethical to defend such a company?”
“The police have also persisted in conducting blatant surveillance during protests, as we saw during the 350 Aotearoa protest this year (4). This serves as an attempt to intimidate, and equate activism with criminal activity – giving people the feeling that they are doing something wrong just by attending a protest.
“We have won two of the three unnecessary cases the police have brought against us this year, and we’re hoping to make it a hat-trick.”
Laura Drew and Sean Blair will appear in Lower Hutt Court at 10 am on Thursday 24th August.
Notes for editors:
1: MAS Zengrange specialise in ‘technology systems for remote initiation of explosives and explosive based tools’. They have supplied weapons parts to Saudi Arabia, the UK and US. Former general manager Greg Marsden has denied these products cause casualties, which is not backed up by images from the company’s website, showing soldiers firing massive weaponry. https://www.maszengrange.com/
2: In November 2015, 23 people were arrested at the Wellington TSB Arena while protesting the Weapons Expo. Charges ranged from trespass to obstructing police. 16 cases came to court in February 2017, with all being dismissed.
3: In April 2016 an activist was arrested during a protest about military spending at the Ministry of Defence. The charge came to court in June 2017, where it was dismissed after evidence showed the activist leaving the building well inside the two-minute time-frame requested by the officers present. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1706/S00194/police-use-courts-to-harass-activists.htm
4: In June 2017, police were observed taking photos at a 350 Aotearoa climate change protest outside Parliament. This sparked concern about state surveillance undermining the lawful right to protest. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/93378987/Why-were-police-taking-photos-of-a-peaceful-lawful-protest-in-Wellington
War is coming to Wellington: No Weapons Expo campaign launch
Peace Action Wellington has launched a campaign of resistance to the upcoming Weapons Expo which will be held 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?”
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.
This year, Peace Action Wellington 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 Johnsontomorrow 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.”
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.
Police use Courts to harass activists
Wellington police have today confirmed that they will again pursue trespass charges against a peace activist. The hearing for a trespass charge will be heard at Wellington District Court despite evidence showing the police’s case has 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 shows that Drew was leaving the venue within the time frame set out by police officers at the moment she was violently arrested.
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.”
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
Drew is confident that the police’s case against her will fall apart again tomorrow in court. “Video shows that I did nothing wrong and the police know this. They emailed me today to say that they’re pursuing a conviction regardless. 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. “
Monday 24th April
Wreath laying for Afghan civilians killed in Operation Burnham
Peace Action Wellington and friends will be joining 2017 ANZAC events in Wellington to remember six civilians killed in Afghanistan in 2010, allegedly by the New Zealand SAS. Peace Action Wellington and friends will honour the civilians who were killed and call for an end to war with a solemn, respectful stand at the dawn service at Pukeahu and by laying a wreath at the Cenotaph at 9am.
The recent book ‘Hit and Run’ by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson contended that our military and SAS are responsible for the deaths of 6 civilians and injuries of many others in a 2010 raid on two villages in Afghanistan. These allegations must be investigated fully and independently to establish whether a war crime under international law has occurred.
Even in war there are rules. The New Zealand 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. The people of New Zealand have the right to know whether innocent people in Afghanistan were killed and injured by NZDF soldiers or those acting on their intelligence or under their command. If we know what has happened, then we can put things right.
Peace Action Wellington call for an end to NZ’s involvement in foreign wars and call for Bill English to immediately instate a full inquiry into the raid on two villages in Operation Burnham. We remember those civilians who were killed, stand in solidarity with the injured and the families of those killed in Afghanistan. We stand against war.
Tuesday 21st March
Peace activists returning to court to reclaim costs of collapsed Weapons Expo prosecution
Tuesday 21st March 2017,peace activists will be returning to court aiming to recover costs for the Crown’s recent failed prosecution against them. Fifteen peace activists who were arrested at the 2015 New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA) Weapons Expo had their charges dismissed or were found not guilty in February this year. During the trial which lasted a week, the Crown’s case crumbled and resulted in zero convictions. Eleven of the peaceful protesters, against whom no evidence was found, are seeking to reclaim costs associated with the failed charges brought against them.
An application has been submitted to Judge Ian Mills for costs to be returned to the peace activists who had been wrongly charged with trespass and obstruction. The application details the many missteps in the failed case against them. All of the activists steadfastly maintained their innocence. “Some of us were offered diversion,” says Emma Cullen of Peace Action Wellington, whose charges were dropped “But we chose to fight them instead because we knew we were innocent! This case hung over us for over a year and a half but completely collapsed in the courtroom.”
Many of the activists felt the Police continued the prosecution as a deterrent to peaceful protest, despite the low chances of conviction, the minor charges and the lack of public interest. “The process here has been really used as a punishment which is unacceptable and a huge waste of our time and taxpayer’s money. We have the right to protest and we’ll continue to take action against the annual Weapons Expo. We know the real criminals were the arms dealers inside that building, not those of us peacefully standing outside getting arrested” continued Cullen.
The activists have also filed a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Authority (IPCA) regarding police behaviour, arbitrary arrest and detention regarding this protest. The ruling of the IPCA awaits the outcome of these proceedings.
Thursday 16th February
Only 4 of 15 charges remain in Crown case against peace activists
Another charge was dropped on the fourth day of the Crown’s case against 15 peace activists who protested the 2015 Wellington Weapons Expo. Selina Van Doorn’s charge was dismissed after the Judge was shown video evidence which clearly showed that police had violently arrested her for no reason. The Crown have now completed their witnesses and lawyers for the remaining represented defendants have applied for their cases to be dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Van Doorn had been charged with obstructing police but the video demonstrated her asking police officers why another protester had been arrested and then moving away when requested. She was then grabbed by two police officers, pushed to the ground and arrested. Van Doorn today said “This whole process has really made me lose trust in the police. They tried to paint us as a violent mob but we were there protesting for peace and the only ones being violent at the protest were the cops.”
Four defendants now remain. The lawyers for the remaining three represented defendants are confident that the Crown has not presented sufficient evidence to prove any of the charges and at the end of proceedings today filed applications for the charges to be dismissed. One defendant is still representing himself and may present further evidence.
Laura Drew of Peace Action Wellington, whose charges still stand, said today “The Crown’s case has fallen out from under their feet. They’ve got no evidence and it’s really demonstrating that these arrests and the court process has been used as a punishment against us for protesting the business of war.”
Peace Action Wellington will be joining the Double the Refugee Quota campaign outside the Australian High Commission at 8am Friday morning, in solidarity with asylum seekers being held indefinitely in Australian offshore detention. Drew continued, “We’d like to send a message to Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull, who will be in New Zealand tomorrow, that his government’s treatment of asylum seekers is unacceptable. The arms trade, war and refugees are inextricably linked and we’ll continue standing against war and in solidarity with those fleeing it.”
15 February 2017
Charges dropped against another peace activist
The judge has dismissed yet another charge in the case against peace activists arrested protesting the Weapons Expo in 2015. After reviewing the evidence provided by the Crown Prosecution and hearing from a police witness the judge found there was no case to answer. This follows the dropping of charges against 9 people yesterday after evidence revealed the protest was on public land and arrests for trespass were unlawful.
With 10 out of the 16 charges dropped after three days of evidence the Crown’s case is falling apart. “After fifteen months, thousands of dollars and a week in court I don’t think the cops ever intended to find us guilty. In fact they were using this court case as the punishment,” stated Jerome O’Connor, whose charge of obstruction was dropped today.
The trial continues tomorrow (Thursday) with the remaining five defendants facing charges of obstruction, trespass and disorderly behavior from the protest against the Weapons Conference at the TSB arena in November 2015. This afternoon while court case was underway a public petition with 4,000 signatures against the Weapons Expo handed in by Peace Action Wellington was tabled in parliament.
This is part of an ongoing week of resistance by Peace Action Wellington, to the arms trade during the week of court. The next public action will be at 8am on Friday where Peace Action Wellington will be supporting the Double the Refugee Quota campaign at the Australian High Commission for a Vigil for Reza Barati. Reza Barati was a refugee killed on Manus Island three years ago where he was detained by the Australian Government.
Peace Action Wellington recognises the direct connection between the arms trade and the plight of refugees, including those from Syria and the Middle East. “While we were protesting, Aleppo was burning”, said Adrian Leason, one of the arrestees who had his charges dropped on Tuesday and was one of the ‘Waihopai 3’.
14th February 2017
Nine charges dropped in farcical case against peace activists: case continues
Nine peace activists are this morning walking free from Wellington District Court after the Crown Prosecution were forced to drop their charges. Lawyers for the activists ripped apart the testimony of the first witness during cross examination before lunch on Monday February 13, shaking the foundation of the Crown’s case. The trial will continue for the remaining six defendants who stood up against the Wellington Weapons Expo in 2015. The campaign against the arms trade will continue with a public petition hand in today at 6pm to Parliament with 4,000 signatures against the Weapons Expo.
The first day of the predicted week long trial saw the stand taken by Brian McGuinness, property owner at the TSB Arena where the Weapons Expo was held in 2015. McGuinness eventually admitted that there was a public easement around the TSB Arena after initially claiming that the area on which the protest was held was private. McGuinness also admitted that the police may not have been properly granted the authority to trespass protesters, shattering the Prosecution’s case against most of those charged with trespass.
Two other peaceful protesters who had been charged with obstruction have also had their charges dropped. “This really shows that the police interfered with our right to freedom of speech in November 2015. We were arrested on public land while exercising our lawful right to protest. I’m glad to have been let off these charges today, but I’m going to keep coming to court to support everyone else who stood up against the arms trade. We all know who the real criminals are – it’s not the peace activists, it’s the arms dealers profiting from death and destruction” said Emma Cullen who had her trespass charge dropped today.
Laura Drew, whose charges still stand, is confident; “I’m proud to have stood up against people directly profiting from war. We were standing in solidarity with refugees and people in war-torn areas around the world whose lives are directly effected by the dirty deals made at the Weapons Expo.”
Drew continues, “Thousand of people of across Aotearoa signed a petition opposing the Weapons Expo which we’re going to hand in to Parliament tomorrow, demanding that the government stop supporting weapons dealers. A strong stand for peace means actively opposing war.”
Media Release: 16 Wellington peace activists to appear in court
11th February 2017
Sixteen people who protested for peace at the 2015 New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA) Weapons Conference will next week appear in Wellington District Court. The protesters who took part in a non-violent blockade outside the conference have plead not guilty. A week of ongoing resistance to the arms trade will be held during the week of court; including an anti-Weapons Conference petition hand in to Parliament and a vigil for asylum seekers held in Australian
In November 2015, 27 people were arrested over two days for protesting the NZDIA’s annual Weapons Conference at which global arms dealers such as Lockheed Martin, Babcock and Thales as well as local arms manufacturers such as MAS Zengrange exhibit and network with other arms dealers and military purchasers. The peaceful blockade aimed to hinder the business of war.
“All of us are firmly of the view that the crimes going on at the weapons conference were the ones inside the where the companies were busy making deals to sell more weapons. The people blockading took non-violent direct action to stop the proliferation of death and destruction. We on the other hand were exercising our right to freedom of protest. It’s a travesty that we were arrested – protests happen every week, yet in this instance the police have pursued proceedings against peace activists in a trial set down for a week” said Peace Action Wellington member and arrestee Laura Drew.
The charges for the 16 remaining arrestees are for obstruction and trespass and all have entered a plea of not guilty. Lawyers Michael Bott, Chris Tennet & Daniel Vincent are representing the 16 in court, with others choosing to defend themselves, in a process which is due to run for a week between the 13-17th February. “We’d like to thank the peace and justice community for their support in funding our defense,” continued Drew.
Peace Action Wellington and the arrestees are still committed to anti-war and arms trade activism and have therefore planned a Week of Ongoing Resistance. There will be an anti arms trade demonstration outside Wellington District Court on the first day of proceedings and Tuesday 14th will see a petition with 4,000 signatures opposing the NZDIA Weapons Conference presented to Parliament. On Friday Peace Action will partner with the Double the Quota campaign to hold a vigil outside the Australian High Commission on the anniversary of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati’s death on Manus Island.
“We recognise that the issues of war and refugees are inextricably linked and stand in solidarity with those fleeing war to seek safer and better lives,” Drew continues “We’re determined to keep up the struggle against the arms industry. Last year’s blockade of the Weapons Conference in Auckland was extremely successful with many arms dealers locked out – we’re going to continue our campaign and stop the Weapons Conference and the wars it feeds once and for all.”