The court case against fifteen peace activists arrested protesting the 2015 Weapons Conference finished today with the last activist with a trespass charge being found not guilty. Over the course of seven days in court fifteen charges of obstruction, trespass and disorderly behaviour were dismissed or found not guilty due to lack of evidence.
This has been fifteen months of stress, both emotional and financial having these charges hanging over us. Many of the people arrested at the protest were not able to fight the charges because of study, work, travel and other commitments and were forced to take diversion or plead guilty. Those of us who could, choose to fight these charges because we believed we were within or legal rights to protest and were arrested at random to shut down the protest.
At this point we are relieved that no one has been found guilty and the court has vindicated our freedom to protest but it also feels like we have already been punished by the police, who have used these arrests, charges and lengthy court case to deter people from protesting.
Throughout this court case they have accused us of being a violent mob and of assaulting people without any evidence or charges relating to these claims. If anything the police were the violent mob at the protest and have left many people traumatised by their aggressive arrests of peaceful protestors.
The police sought a pre-emptive trespass order days before the protest began which was found to be without legal merit on the first day of the trial because the protest took place on public land. Their priority from the start was not to uphold public order but instead assist business people who profit from war rather than respect peoples right to protest. The real criminals were the companies inside the building busy making deals in weapons.
Recently released figures by The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) show that the global arms trade is at it’s highest volume since the Cold War so challenging the arms trade is as important now more than ever, this court case though taxing will not deter us from continuing to take a stand against the arms trade here in Aotearoa.
Thanks to everyone who has supported us during the arrests and court process. Whether it was a message of support, your presence at court, food or financial help every bit of support we have received has helped us fight these charges and win! Thank you!