Court update!

Court has now finished and a decision is reserved for the end of October when we’ll be in Te Papaioea/Palmy with Peace Action Manawatū, protesting the next Weapons Expo.

Ka whawhai tonu mātou, ake ake ake!

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Solidarity crew with Adi and Gary

Peace activists, Adi Leason and Gary Chiles are charged with obstructing a public way. The charges were brought after a protest against the military weapons industry at the annual Weapons Expo, which was held at the Westpac Stadium in October 2017.

Adi today testified on why he was protesting the Weapons Expo, telling the story of Mamana Bibi. In 2012, she was gardening when a Lockheed Martin manufactured missile was dropped on her by a US drone. She was killed instantly, in front of her grandchildren (http://time.com/4422469/u-s-drone-strikes/). Lockheed Martin are the primary sponsor of the Weapons Expo and make gigantic profits from the arms trade.

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Mamana Bibi’s family

Here is an excerpt from the court transcript:

Q. What did you think about the expo? How did you feel about it?

A. I have deep and grave concerns about this event occurring, particularly the presence of organisations – corporations like Lockheed Martin. I had become quite incensed, I know that’s too strong a word.  No, no, I was deeply disturbed by a report I read, I think I was at home listening to the National Radio and on Radio New Zealand there was a report in 2012, it’s called “Will I Be Next?” and it was report by Amnesty International and it was delivered on National Radio and in that report, it talked about drone strikes in Pakistan.  And the interviewer on the radio went into some detail, read out aspects of the report.  I went and printed a copy of the report and it talked about drone assassinations of innocent civilians in one particular province, just one portion of one province in Pakistan over an 18 month period.  Between four and 600 civilians died.  Detailed stories like Mamama Bidi, a 68 year old woman hoeing ochre in her family garden with her grandchildren.  Her husband’s a school teacher like myself.  Her sons were also school teachers and she’s hoeing in her garden on a blue sky day.  A drone drops out of the sky and two Hellfire missiles hit her and completely dismember her body all over her vegetable garden.   Her grandchildren run to find Nanny and then a second drone sweeps down and strikes the children.  Over the same period, 18 labourers who’d been doing road working all day gather for tea in their tent and two drone strikes hit their tent, all 18 including teenage boys are all killed.  When rescuers come from the nearby village to provide assistance, an additional drone strikes the rescuers, the first responders.  This report went on and on and on and these are devices owned and run and purchased and manufactured by Lockheed Martin who was in attendance at the weapons conference.

Q. So your concerns about those kind of international actions, how does that affect your actions on a day-to-day basis, is this a one-off incident for you or has there been other situations where you have felt compelled to act?

A. Yeah, as an individual I have been moved, my conscience has been moved and moved me to act. Sometimes it’s been slow, I’ve had to gather courage because it’s uncomfortable to leave my classroom and leave my small farm and do things that are problematic and so sometimes there has been a delay as I’ve gathered courage to maybe disrupt the weapons industry, to disrupt the smooth running of these war machines.  Machines that cost the planet $1.7 trillion a year.  So the weapons industry, as represented at this gathering, down the road here, 1.7 trillion, that’s $1,700 billion every year spent on weapons, and that’s just the running of the war machines.  When a specific war comes up that’ll be an extra, like the Iraq war was an extra $3 trillion and Afghanistan, significant money as well, so these are horrendous atrocities, war crimes, crimes against humanity, just by the spending of the money apart from the destructive power of the munitions, it’s actually the loss to society.

Q. So what were you hoping to achieve by being at the stadium on the 10thof October last year?

A. I was wanting to disrupt the delegates from their activities, recognising that they are responsible for so many of our worries, they’re making, personally, individually, they’re making fantastic salaries. So they’re personally getting rich from their activities and planning, selling, buying, making enormous wealth for their companies.  And so as a Catholic, a Christian activist, as a humanitarian, I wanted to disrupt this because my conscience would not let me just stay home and sleep easily in my bed while there’s something happening in my town.  I can’t do much about Iraq right now or Syria or any of the other places, but when there’s something happening in my own backyard all my excuses don’t stack up, I have to get involved.

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