Weapons Expo 2017: War starts here, but peace starts with us

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.

Expelliarmus banner

Expelliarmus  – aka the disarming charm from Harry Potter!

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: peacewellington@riseup.net

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’.

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Peace protester being arrested

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.

Activists outside Rolls Royce

Activists outside Rolls Royce

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.

beehive
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 peacewellington@riseup.net 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.

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Media Release: Peace actions continue amid concern about police tactics

October 11, 2017 3:15pm

Peaceful protests against the weapons industry continued today with a walking tour and picnic. The walking tour showed Wellingtonians the arms dealers on their doorstep.

Protesters visited six local weapons companies today, including Broadspectrum, who operate illegal Australian offshore detention camps for refugees, and Rolls Royce, whose engines power 25% of military aircraft in the world.

“People are not aware that arms companies are quietly carrying out their business in Wellington. We wanted to let people know what’s really going on in their city,” said Peace Action Wellington spokesperson Gayaal Iddamalgoda.

“Broadspectrum took over from security group G4S on Manus Island in February 2014, and has been in charge of the Nauru detention centre since 2013. They are complicit in the abuse of vulnerable asylum seekers – and they do business in the Hutt Valley. How comfortable are we with these companies in our city?”

Activists outside Rolls Royce

Activists outside Rolls Royce

The events followed on from yesterday’s successful blockade of the first day of the Weapons Expo, which saw a variety of tactics employed to prevent arms dealers from accessing the conference. Nine people were charged with minor offences and will appear in court on Friday.

The blockade was marred by a shocking level of police violence, with people reporting being kicked, punched, strangled, pushed into the road and groped.

“Many people reported having been groped by police officers and many injuries were reported. This is absolutely disgusting. Not only did the police facilitate arms dealers in conducting their deeply unethical business, but they resorted to grotesque tactics in order to do so,” said Iddamalgoda.

“We’re concerned that this represents a police culture where sexual assault is not only acceptable but deployed as a tactic against protesters. We’ll be making a complaint.

“In addition, we’re concerned that police unnecessarily disrupted the public yesterday by shutting down roads so that arms dealers could access the Weapons Expo. The police prioritised rich war profiteers over the public as a whole, and the roadblocks unfairly impacted many ordinary people.”

Peace actions will continue tonight, with a dance party held outside the Westpac Stadium from 5pm, featuring local electronic artists Disasteradio and Alexa Casino.

“This is a protest against war-profiteering and the arms trade, to let the arms dealers know we’re still here. While the arms dealers will be inside the Westpac Stadium having cocktails and an awards ceremony, we’ll be outside making some noise for peace.”

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Media Release: Amazing day of peace action disrupts Weapons Expo

October 10, 2017, 5:30pm

Expelliarmus banner at the 2017 Weapons Expo

“It has been an amazing day of peace action in Wellington where hundreds of people successfully blockaded the entrance to the Westpac Stadium. Weapons Expo delegates were prevented from getting inside for most of the day,” said Jessie Dennis from Peace Action Wellington.

15 people were arrested for minor offences in upholding the non-violent blockade, with six having been released without charge as of 5:30pm.

Police try to force their way through a line of activists

“The arrests are outrageous. These people are human rights defenders, and we should thank them for their work in making the world a safer and more peaceful place. We expect all of these charges will be dropped, but we will be supporting them through any court process whatever the outcome,” said Dennis.

“We are thrilled with the courage and solidarity shown by all the people who joined us today. Our action has been effective because it has directly impacted on the only thing that matters to weapons dealers: making money.

Climber attaches herself to a banner after scaling a lamp post

“The heavy-handed and violent actions of the police in protecting and attempting to escort delegates inside was shameful. A number of peaceful blockaders were pushed over, pushed into the road and kicked. Some injuries were sustained.

“It is the weapons dealers who are responsible for crimes against humanity, and should be held accountable for their role in making war and creating human misery. They shouldn’t be receiving protection from the police.”

Resistance against the Weapons Expo continues tonight, with a peace vigil being held by the Quakers from 5pm tonight at the railway station. Further creative peace actions will also follow tomorrow.

ENDS

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Media Release: Activists successfully blockade Weapons Expo

October 10, 2017, 11am

Peace activists have gathered at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington to blockade the annual NZDIA Weapons Expo.

Activists blockade one of the entrances to Westpac Stadium

Around 200 people were onsite to protest the event before 7am this morning. The car ramp to the vehicle entrance was blocked off, with banners attached to people who had climbed lampposts. Police were advised that any attempt to remove the banners would result in the climbers falling.

One of two climbers who scaled lampposts to blockade the Weapons Expo

Protesters have blocked off all entrances to the venue.The majority of delegates have been unable to access the venue as of 11 am.

“We’re here to stay. We think it’s totally unethical that New Zealand plays host to a Weapons Expo, and we’re not leaving until the weapons dealers do,” said Peace Action Wellington spokesperson Jessie Dennis.

“The Weapons Expo is a trade fair for some of the biggest arms companies in the world. The delegates attending would have us believe that the products on sale and the deals being done at the Expo are somehow benign. But make no mistake, these are weapons and military hardware that play their part in the global war machine.”

Six protesters have been violently arrested so far.

Police violently try and force a line of activists to move

“We’re unsurprised that the Wellington police are once more protecting the interests of businesses, even deeply unethical businesses, at the expense of the right of ordinary people to protest peacefully,” said Dennis.

“We’re concerned to hear not only of violent arrests but of sexual harassment of protesters by police.”

The blockade received the support of Green MPs Chloe Swarbrick and Thomas Nash, who recently won Nobel peace prize for his work with The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. “We in this country have a strong kaupapa for peace,” said Thomas.

“We’re standing strong,” said Jessie Dennis. “Groups from all over New Zealand have come together for this blockade, from Auckland Peace Action, Peace Action Hamilton, People Against Prisons Aotearoa, Palestine Solidarity Network, Whanganui Positive Activists, It’s Our Future Manawatu, Oil Free Wellington, Unions Wellington, Pacific Panthers, Quakers and Catholic Workers.”

ENDS

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Broadspectrum: Profiting off the illegal detention of refugees

Last week another refugee was found dead on Manus Island, where Australia runs one of their illegal offshore detention centres. The man was a Sri Lankan Tamil and had been formally recognised as a refugee as have about 85% of people held there. Staff on the island said he had been acutely mentally ill for months.

Australia is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, meaning that they should give safe asylum to people seeking refuge. Australia continually denies this right in their offshore detention centres on Manus, Nauru and Christmas Island. At least eight other refugees have died in Australia’s offshore detention centres.

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In April 2016, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea (PNG) decided that Australia’s operations on Manus was illegal and unconstitutional in regards to the right to personal liberty under PNG law. In 2017 the Australian government was sued by refugees and asylum seekers because they were being illegally detained in dangerous conditions on Manus Island. The Australian government settled the case and thus avoided close scrutiny and taking any liability by agreeing to a $70m compensation pay out, the largest human rights class action settlement in Australian history.

The costs of this settlement are to be shared with the operators of the Manus Island detention centre, G4S and Broadspectrum. It is also possible that some of the settlement could be paid by Wilson Security, who are subcontracted by Broadspectrum to manage security in the detention centre. Wilson was sued by Broadspectrum and brought into the class action as a secondary defendant. The breakdown of the settlement between the Australian government and companies has not been made public.

border security stretch

What is known however is that these companies have profited from the illegal detention, suffering and death of refugees and asylum seekers. Broadspectrum is one of the companies who has profited heavily from Australia’s brutal policies, so much so that is has become the most profitable part of the group’s operations.

Broadspectrum (formerly known as Transfield Services) was originally an Australian company but was bought by Ferrovial, a Spanish multinational, in June 2016. Broadspectrum operates across a wide range of industries, including property and facilities management (e.g. offshore detention camps), defence, transport (including road, rail and public transport), utilities (including water, power, and telecommunications), and mining and chemical processing and hydrocarbons.

Broadspectrum (then Transfield) took over running Manus Island from security group G4S in February 2014, and has been in charge of the Nauru detention centre since 2013. The company was paid over 1.5 billion dollars over three years for running both centres made them responsible for support and “welfare services” on the islands of Nauru and Manus. This includes managing both facilities, catering, maintenance, recreation and educational activities. It subcontracts security services on both Manus and Nauru to Wilson Security.

Transfield changed its name to Broadspectrum after the company’s founding family withdrew its rights to use the Transfield name in 2015, over concerns about the company’s management of the offshore detention centres.

Amnesty International produced a detailed report titled Treasure I$land on the companies profiting off the militarisation of Australian borders and more recently issued a statement about Broadspectrum’s profits. It stated, “Financial reports released today show that between 1 January and 30 June 2017 Ferrovial reported revenues of €1.326 billion from Broadspectrum, its wholly-owned Australian subsidiary which operates Refugee Processing Centres (RPCs) on Nauru and Manus Island. Ferrovial also reported a 40.1% increase in revenues compared to the first half of 2016, largely due to Broadspectrum.”

Broadspectrum has responded to the criticism by downplaying and denying its complicity in the systematic abuse of refugees, stating in a press release that “Broadspectrum is being held responsible for a range of matters well outside its scope, since it does not manage the centres and has no power to decide on the status of the people concerned.”

Broadspectrum has also chosen to focus on the fact that the parent company Ferrovial has decided not to renew the contracts for operating on Manus and Nauru. This however does not wipe clean the profit made up until this point on the illegal detention of refugees.

Broadspectrum also operates in New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Chile, Brunei, New Caledonia, and The Philippines. This year Broadspectrum joined the New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA). According to its website Broadspectrum is one of Australia’s largest defence contractors, and currently employs more than 1,200 staff to service the defence industry there.

The NZDIA are having their annual conference in Wellington on the 10th and 11th of October. One could assume the newly minted member Broadspectrum will be there to start angling for NZ defence contracts. Peace Action Wellington have organised a community blockade of the Weapons Expo to show the defence industry they are not welcome here, that no one should profit from war. It is our chance to stand up for refugees and asylum seekers and show companies like Broadspectrum that we find them abhorrent.

refugees1

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New Zealanders Prepare to Blockade Wellington Weapons Expo

People from all over the country are preparing to head to Wellington for a non-violent blockade of the annual NZDIA Weapons Expo next week on the 10th of October.

The Expo is being held this year at the Westpac Stadium. People interested in participating in blockading are invited to meeton the 10th at 90 Waterloo Quay at 7:30 am before proceeding to the stadium.

“New Zealanders are travelling from far and wide to stop weapons dealers from peddling death in their capital city, ” said Peace Action Wellington spokesperson Jessie Dennis.

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“The products on sale, the delegates attending, and the companies they represent are part of a killing machine that profits from death and the ruination of whole countries.

“War is a money-making industry and the deals made at these expos are deadly. In 2015, then-defence minister Gerry Brownlee claimed that there were nothing more deadly than socks and paper cups on display. Socks and cups aren’t killing people in Yemen, Syria, and Palestine but the weaponry sold at this expo is.”

“We invite people from all walks of life to join us in resisting the militarisation of this country.”

Groups including Auckland Peace Action, Peace Action Hamilton, People Against Prisons Aotearoa, Palestine Solidarity Network, Whanganui Positive Activists, It’s Our Future Manawatu, Oil Free Wellington, Shakti Women’s Refuge, Unions Wellington, Pacific Panthers, Quakers, Catholic Workers and many other individual social justice activists will join the blockade.

“It’s time the government recognised that the money spent on ‘defence’ could be better spent on reducing the disgraceful levels of child poverty in this country, or on addressing the housing crisis,” said Dennis.

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NZ Psychology Society is concerned about the Weapons Expo

The New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPsS) is concerned that the Weapons Expo contradicts the message that Wellington is a place that promotes peaceful solutions to conflict.

Read their full message.

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