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.

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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.

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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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Peace protesters get the go-ahead from Westpac Stadium CEO

Peace Action Wellington met with Wellington Regional Trust CEO, Shane Harmon, last week to discuss their protest outside the Weapons Expo at the Westpac Stadium on October 10 and 11.

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“After our meeting with Mayor Justin Lester where he agreed to ban the Weapons Expo from council venues, he passed on our contacts to Shane Harmon at the Westpac Stadium. Although we were initially surprised to hear from Shane, we were pleased to be able to offer him a different perspective from the arms industry lobby group, the NZ Defence Industry Association,” said Peace Action spokesperson, Alex Davis.

Harmon said that he respects the right to protest the Weapons Expo on the walkway outside the main gates of the stadium.

“While we hope this means that there won’t be a repeat of the arbitrary arrests in 2015 and everyone’s right to protest will be respected, it is not enough. The Cake Tin is an iconic venue, more suited to family-friendly sporting events and concerts. It should not be tarnished by association with the business of war,” Davis said.

Although Mayor Justin Lester agreed to ban the Weapons Expo from council-controlled venues, his decision does not include the Westpac Stadium, which is owned and operated by the Wellington Regional Stadium Trust. The Trust is jointly settled by Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council. Peace Action believe that the Trust should remain accountable to ratepayers.

“The Weapons Expo’s main sponsor is Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms company and manufacturer of nuclear weapons. Their weapons rain down on the people of Yemen, Iraq and Syria, contributing to the global refugee crisis,” continued Davis.

Another Weapons Expo attendee will be arms dealer MAS Zengrange. Based in Lower Hutt, MAS Zengrange sell mortar firing devices to Saudi Arabia, who has in turn been conducting a bombing campaign against civilians in Yemen.

Furthermore, attendee Pacific Aerospace, based in Hamilton, is currently under investigation for unlawful exports after their plane ended up in North Korea in a clear violation of UN sanctions.

Davis said, “War starts where weapons are made and sold. It’s not okay that they are manufactured here in Aotearoa, or that deals for death and destruction are made in our cities. People are coming from all around the country for the protest and we will be gathering together to show war profiteers that their destructive businesses are not welcome here.”

For more information visit our website: http://www.stopthearmstrade.nz

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