Peace groups remembered civilians at Anzac day events

Peace Action Wellington and friends joined Anzac day events in Wellington to remember civilian casualties of war. We called for an end to war, and honoured all civilians casualties with a respectful presence at the dawn service at Pukeahu and at the Wellington Citizens’ Wreath-laying Service at the Cenotaph.

“We laid a wreath for civilian casualties of war because all loss of life in war is abhorrent.” said spokesperson, Alex Davies. Peace Action Wellington laid a wreath alongside other peace groups who laid wreaths for conscientious objectors, the Afghan people killed in Operation Burnham, and the people killed by ANZAC soldiers in the Surafend Massacre in Palestine, 1918.

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“In the past four years we have seen an increasing obsession with Anzac day. This came to a head around the First World War centenary. Anzacs continue to be heavily romanticised as heroes and the protagonists of the historical New Zealand war narrative. However, selective commemoration can alter our view of history, and whose lives we deem to be important. On this day of remembrance it’s important we remember all aspects of war, including the civilian casualties and those that opposed it.”, said spokesperson, Alex Davies.

“We cannot separate commemorations of the past from the contemporary wars we participate in. Anzac day is a day to remember and reflect, we should be able to think critically and question how as a country we can be actively working towards peace.”, said Davies.

The government has finally begun an inquiry into the SAS lead Operation Burnham in Afghanistan and commemorations of the New Zealand Land Wars, both of which have only happened because citizens have stood up and requested it. Peace Action Wellington hopes that this reflection means we can move forward and actively work towards full demilitarisation.

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“When we laid our wreath we also remembered the more than 100,000 civilians that have died in Syria. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern misspoke when she said that New Zealand ‘accepted’ the bombing of Syria by the US, UK and France. Many New Zealanders would prefer that our country took a stand for peace and led the way on international demilitarisation and non-violent diplomacy.”, Davies said.

During her first foreign policy speech in February this year Ardern said that New Zealand, “Must recommit ourselves to the cause of non-proliferation and disarmament, and to the norms and rules which support those endeavours.” Actions speak louder than words, however. Peace Action Wellington calls on our government to end all New Zealand support and involvement in foreign conflicts including Afghanistan.

“When we say ‘Never again’, we should mean it.”, said Davies.

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How can we support peace in Syria?

There has been a lot of debate on the civil war in Syria.
Here is a statement on Peace Action Wellington’s position:

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Be actively pro-civilian
Recognise the right to self-determination – the war began as an uprising to overthrow Assad’s oppressive regime.
Support refugees in your communities! 5.5 million people have fled to find safety from the war in Syria and 6.3 million people are internally displaced.
Civilians account for 85% of people killed by explosive weapons in Syria.

Stay anti-Assad
The civil war began in 2011 as a popular uprising to overthrow the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. He has done some h*ckin bad stuff and if you can’t find it, you can’t internet.

Oppose external/Western military intervention
The US, UK, France, Russia, Israel, Iran and Turkey have all been involved in the war in Syria – this has not helped to stabilise the situation for the Syrian people.
If other countries want to effect positive change they should focus on international demilitarisation and non-violent diplomacy.

It is important to acknowledge there is a diversity of opinions on the war both from within Syria as well as from the outside. There is also a h*ckload of misinformation out there which our media is doing little to dispel. Hold tight to your principles. #Peace

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Rally for Climate Justice!

On 26-28 March 2018 the oil and gas industry held its annual business conference. Where government ministers are lobbied, businesses network and oil and gas exploration permits are announced – even though we can’t use the oil we already know about. The main rally took place on Tuesday 27th March.

We joined Oil Free Wellington and a broad range of groups who’ve came from all over Aotearoa to protest the expansion of oil and gas in Aotearoa: Climate Justice Taranaki, Te Ara Whatu, Pacific Panthers, 350 Aotearoa, Auckland Peace Action, People Against Prisons Aotearoa, Oil Free Otago, Berrigan House, Coal Action Network Aotearoa, It’s Our Future Manawatu, Unite Union, Our Climate Declaration, Frack Free, Oil Free Otautahi, and Unions Wellington.

The Rally for Climate Justice called for the following:

1: To the government: Commit to no new permits, and stop all drilling and prospecting for oil and gas as part of a just transition for workers and communities.

2: To the oil and gas industries: Stop drilling and prospecting; clean up the damage you have caused and make amends to the communities you’ve harmed.

3: To the people: Join with us to stand up for climate justice – demand that global solutions to climate change centre on and support those who bear the brunt of it.

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Reza Barati remembered in Wellington

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A bench in Wellington’s Katherine Mansfield Park (next to the Australian High Commission) was today dedicated to Reza Barati, an Iranian-Kurdish refugee murdered on Manus Island in 2014. Australia’s racist border policy is responsible for his death. We demand justice for Reza, and for all the refugees and asylum seekers still in Australian offshore detention.

 

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The Best of 2017

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!

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Occupying Labour offices for Refugees on Manus Island

Today activists occupied Labour offices in Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin to demand that the government take immediate action to help the refugees on Manus Island.

Below is the letter we handed in.

To Jacinda Ardern,

700 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island need our help. This is a humanitarian crisis in our backyard. Keeping the offer of taking 150 people from Manus and Nauru on the table with Australia is not enough. Offering up to $3 million in aid to PNG, Nauru and aid agencies does not resolve the underlying problem. The human face of this situation should not be ignored. We can and should help all of these people immediately.

These refugees and asylum seekers need urgent help. They have been left without food, water, medicine or power. They have the right to be evacuated and resettled somewhere where seeking asylum is acknowledged and they will be welcomed into the community. The refugees want a long-term solution, they do not want to move to another prison – they want freedom. We demand that the New Zealand government do what the Australian Government will not. We should show manaakitanga, take a strong stand for justice and welcome all 700 to Aotearoa New Zealand immediately.

The Australian government and its inhumane and illegal border policies have created this situation that now exists. As a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, the Australian Government should be responsible for these refugees, regardless of how they entered Australian territory to seek asylum. By taking these people to off-shore detention centres and indefinitely detaining them, Australia is in breach of international law and has created this present humanitarian crisis.

You have said in relation to people smugglers that, “Anyone who tries to put at risk vulnerable peoples’ lives should come under the full force of the law.” It is time to apply this standard to the Australian government whose off-shore detention centres have been described as amounting to torture. We demand that the New Zealand government condemn Australia’s inhumane and illegal border policies and urge them to immediately close all off-shore detention facilities and end the policy of stopping and detaining asylum seekers.

This is our chance to challenge Australia rather than buy into and support their ‘Pacific Solution’. Describing these people as ‘boat people’ and empathising with Australia’s ‘problem’ dehumanises refugees and people seeking asylum and only increases distrust and xenophobia towards them. Our silence makes us complicit in Australia’s abuse of human rights until we speak up against them and challenge the negative rhetoric and policies.

The New Zealand government needs to do more than offer to take 150 refugees from Manus or Nauru off Australia’s hands. This is a toxic deal left over from the National government that had Australia offering to detain people wanting to come to NZ in return. All the people illegally detained by Australia deserve justice. We have the chance to be on the right side of history.

The NZ government must condemn Australia’s illegal and inhumane policies that lead to this crisis. Rather than acquiesing to Australia’s power dynamics, we should be part of creating a fair and due process of people seeking asylum in the Pacific.

We need to act now. The NZ government needs to transport these people immediately to safety. Just like in 1973 and 1995, it’s time to take action – send a frigate and actually evacuate the men now.

-Peace Action Wellington

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Activists lock down Australian High Commission for Manus

Today, Monday 13th November, Peace Action Wellington have locked down the Australian High Commission. Peace activists have locked themselves to the gates of the High Commission preventing anyone from leaving, to draw attention to the situation of the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island. Refugees have been indefinitely detained by the Australian government in illegal camps and are now being forcibly moved into even more precarious situation.

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On the 31st of October, the Manus detention centre was closed, leaving the people there with no food, water, power or medical care for the past two weeks. The people in the detention centre are now threatened with being forcibly moved by the PNG army and police to incomplete accommodation in a nearby town. The refugees want a long-term solution, they do not want to move to another prison – they want freedom.

“What Australia is doing is inhumane and that is why we are here locking down the Australian High Commission. The people on Manus need our help, they have committed no crime and shouldn’t be locked up for exercising their right to seek asylum,” said Emma Cullen, spokesperson for Peace Action Wellington.

This situation is unacceptable for both local people and the refugees. Local people on Manus Island were never consulted about the offshore detention centres and although the Papua New Guinean government has received huge payments from Australia, little of this has trickled through to local villagers. This has caused local unrest, as the lives of Manus Islanders have been disrupted by the centres.

“This is a humanitarian crisis of Australia’s making. Everyone has the right to seek asylum and the Australian government is not above the law. We are here today to stand in solidarity with the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus and to tell the Australian government that their actions are unacceptable,” said Emma. These refugees and asylum seekers have the right to be evacuated and resettled somewhere where seeking asylum is acknowledged and they will be welcomed into the community.

The Australian government, as a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, is responsible for these refugees, regardless of how they entered Australian territory to seek asylum. Instead, the government brought them to Manus Island as part of their ‘Pacific Solution’ policy of preventing any people fleeing war or persecution from reaching safety in Australia if they seek asylum by boat. The Papua New Guinean Supreme Court ruled the detention centre illegal in 2016 because it breached the asylum seekers’ fundamental human rights, which is why it is now being closed.

“It is time for the New Zealand government to do more than offer to take 150 refugees from Manus or Nauru. Here in Aotearoa we have the capacity to help these men and we should be talking with the PNG government directly to solve this humanitarian crisis. Peace Action Wellington condemns Australia’s inhumane border policies that led to this situation, and the government must follow suit,” said Emma.

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