We are so proud to have stood up for peace with people from all around Aotearoa earlier in October. Together we shut down the Weapons Expo and prevented hundreds of arms dealing delegates for getting in for hours. War starts here in Wellington, but peace starts with us. Check out our round-up of the protest below.
Day one: Blockade the Weapons Expo
In 2017 the Weapons Expo was held at the Westpac Stadium, a venue chosen specifically by the organisers and police because they thought that it was impenetrable and that their business could continue unhindered. They were wrong. Despite extreme police violence, on Tuesday 10th October, activists for peace from all over the Pacific and Aotearoa came together to prevent arms dealers from entering the building, blocking all entrances.
The main entrance ramp was blocked by a banner secured to its balustrades which was literally holding up two climbers – meaning that police and security could not tamper with it without endangering the climbers, who were suspended on two lampposts on Waterloo Quay. The climbers remained in place for over 8 hours, meaning that arms dealers and military types had to try to enter the stadium via side gates along extremely busy thoroughfare, Waterloo Quay. Protesters blocked every single gate with their bodies and banners, ensuring that the Weapons Expo was disrupted for many hours.
Police supported the arms dealers by blocking Waterloo Quay many times over the day to allow them to drive in on chartered buses, some of which had been circling for hours. As buses approached, protesters blocked them with their bodies, lying in ‘starfish formation’ on the road. Wellington police once more protected the interests of businesses, even deeply unethical businesses, at the expense of the right of ordinary people to protest peacefully. Over the course of the day, police officers kicked, punched, threw to the ground, strangled and sexually assaulted people taking action for peace. A police complaint will be lodged and if you have testimony or video/photos that show police violence please send it to us: email@example.com
15 people were violently arrested, with six being released because the police could not leave the Westpac Stadium with the vehicle they were being held in. Nine others however were taken to the police station and charged with minor charges of ‘obstructing a public way’ and ‘disorderly behaviour’.
The blockade ran for nearly 10 hours, with delayed bus loads of arms dealers and war profiteers arriving until after 4pm. A final dance party on the concourse outside the Westpac Stadium was a fitting way to celebrate an excellent day of action disrupting the business of war.
Day two: #WarStartsHere Wellington Arms Industry Tour
On October 11th, around 30 people went on a walking tour to visit arms companies and manufacturers in central Wellington and the Hutt – proving the point that war starts right here in our cities. We started at Callaghan Innovations on Featherston Street, a government body that funds research and development for arms companies like Cubic Defence. Cubic provide military equipment to the Israeli and US militaries. By funding these companies, our government provides explicit support for the arms trade.
Also on Featherston Street, we visited Palantir, a surveillance company owned by US billionaire Peter Thiel, started with funding from the CIA. Palantir expanded the global surveillance capability of state surveillance in the US and other Five Eyes countries. As a Five Eyes surveillance network country, one of the real risks Aotearoa faces is through providing surveillance for the USA and their endless wars. In NZ Palantir has contracts with the GCSB, NZSIS, NZDF and DPMC security.
Next was Rolls Royce in an innocuous looking building on Boulcott Street – they don’t just make fancy cars. Rolls Royce is actually the 17th largest arms manufacturer and their engines power 25% of military aircraft in the world. They are involved in nuclear ballistic missile development and have military customers in Israel, Indonesia, Turkey, US, UK, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, UAE, Brunei, Malaysia, South Korea, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
The tour jumped in cars and headed out to Lower Hutt, stopping at Broadspectrum on Jarden Mile on the way. Broadspectrum have profited massively from operating Australia’s illegal refugee detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. Two police vans also joined the tour with us at Broadspectrum – they must have been interested in learning more about the arms trade!
Finally (with a continuing police escort), we visited MAS Zengrange on Downer Street in Lower Hutt. They design, develop and manufacture fire control and remote initiation systems for use with artillery, rockets and mortars. MAS Zengrange have admitted that they sell their products to Saudi Arabia who are responsible for human right abuses, including bombing civilians, in Yemen.
We finished off at the Beehive where decisions about our involvement in foreign wars are made. NZ has been involved in war in Afghanistan for 16 years this month.
For more information about the arms trade all over Aotearoa, visit stopthearmstrade.nz and check out the company directory. This is a work in progress, so if you visit a local arms company that isn’t on the list, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add the information.
This is the third year in a row that the Weapons Expo has been severely disrupted and the arms trade has been shown to be unwelcome in our cities – together we will shut it down. We are so proud to have stood together for peace with people from all over Aotearoa and the Pacific – war starts at the Weapons Expo, but peace starts with us.