2017 the year in which we got the Wellington Mayor to deny the Weapons Expo a venue, went to court far too many times and won nearly all the cases, sparked controversy on Anzac Day, organised a massive two days resistance against the Weapons Expo and stood in solidarity with refugees on Manus among other things. Here are the highlights.
February: We went to court and all 15 people charged with obstruction, trespass or disorderly behaviour from the 2015 Weapons Expo protest were dismissed or found not guilty due to lack of evidence. We also handed in a petition to parliament to Stop the Weapons Expo! and jointly held a Vigil for Reza Berati with Doing Our Bit outside the Australian High Commission.
March: We won our case against the police to retrieve some costs of the trial after successfully defending charges in February. Then we traveled up to Taranaki with Oil Free Wellington to attend The People’s Climate Rally, a protest in response to the Petroleum Conference. (It’s back in Wellington on March 26 this year so we will be joining Oil Free Wellington again for the Rally for Climate Justice.)
April: We were lucky enough to co-host Rafeef Ziadah’s show ‘We Teach Life’ with Poetry in Motion. Then we caught PM Bill English and Chief of Defence Tim Keating sweeping some classified documents pertaining to the deadly NZ SAS raid on a village in Afghanistan under the rug. And then on Anzac day at the public wreath laying ceremony in Wellington we laid a wreath for those killed allegedly by the NZ SAS in Operation Burnham in Afghanistan and to commemorate all civilian lives lost during war. Thanks to one upset young man the wreath laying sparked numerous comments, opinions pieces and polls about whether it’s appropriate to protest on Anzac day despite it being done so since the Vietnam War. We are still waiting for that independent inquiry!
May: Gee whiz some good citizens put Palestinian flags up around Wellington on Nakba day. 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.
June: We helped unwelcome the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson to Wellington with a Donald Trump effigy at 350 Aotearoa’s Unwelcoming Party at Parliament. Then back to court we went for another charge of trespass from a protest at the Ministry of Defence in April 2016 against increased military spending and the controversial US ship visit. After the judge heard the police prosecution’s case they decided there was no case to answer.
July: We launched our campaign of resistance to the Weapons Expo, at the Westpac Stadium on 10-11th October with a sculpture of an unexploded ordnance like 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. Oh and we built a dedicated website on the arms trade in NZ. www.stopthearmstrade.nz
August: We spoke at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki day commemoration about the role the arms trade plays in driving war. Oops somebody threw blood on the Australian High Commission. This was after another refugee died whilst being held in detention by the Australian government on Manus Island. Some posters found themselves at Wilson’s car parks later in the month highlighting the fact Wilson’s held the security contract on Manus. And then we were back in court again. This time one activist had their charge dropped whilst the other was found guilty in a h*ckin heavy handed judgement.
September: We cranked up the campaign against the Weapons Expo and after meeting Mayor Justin Lester secured his guarantee that the Weapons Expo would not be held in WCC controlled venues whilst he is mayor. We had a public meeting and the po-po turned up. We held workshops, produced memes, videos, props, banners and merchandise galore! We met with the Westpac Stadium CEO who said he respected our right to protest but that the Weapons Expo would still be held there.
October: Then the Weapons Expo came to town and we shut it down again and prevented hundreds of arms dealing delegates from getting in for hours with the help of many groups and people from all over Aotearoa. The blockade was a success despite violent policing, arrests and a vast venue with many possible entrances. There was also a walking touring of local arms companies, a peace picnic and dance party over the two days of resistance.
November: We started a petition asking the government to urgently welcome 700+ refugees in danger on Manus Island. Then we had a vigil at parliament, dropped a banner, filled 700 cups of water, had an emergency demo outside the Australian High Commission where we locked on to the gates, drove a lifeboat around Wellington and along with others around the country occupied our local Labour office to keep highlighting the crisis situation for refugees on Manus.
December: We wrapped up the year by dropping off the rat chewed Trump effigy outside the Israeli embassy to protest the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, held a bbq blockade outside the Australian High Commission for refugees on Manus and celebrated Lorde hearing the call to boycott Israel and cancelling her concert in Tel Aviv.
Thanks to all who supported us in 2017. Join us in 2018 for more direct action!