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.
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.
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 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. ”