At 8am this morning a group of around 150 people began blockading and protesting the annual New Zealand Defence Industry Association conference. The action is set to go on for as long as possible throughout the day. The action was organised by anti-war group Peace Action Wellington. Many Wellingtonians were there as were groups from across the left such as union activists, LGBT rights campaigners, anti-war activists, pro-Palestine activists, and more. Several activists travelled down from across the country to be part of the protest.
The conference was being held at the Wellington City Council run TSB Bank arena. It is an outrage that our mayor Celia Wade-Brown deigns to celebrate Wellington as Peace Capital whilst welcoming arms dealers from around the world. Wellington City Council applauds itself for taking an anti-nuclear weapons stance. Yet it sees no conflict of interest in hosting a conference sponsored by Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest nuclear weapons manufacturers. The conference involves over 200 weapons manufacturers and allows them to better coordinate their profiteering.
Whenever there is war and conflict these are the companies that profit.
The action was managed by council contracted security staff and a large number of police. Around 30 people linked arms and blockaded the two entrances to the TSB arena. The blockades faced a row of more than twenty police. As arms dealers approached protesters provided information on the harmful effects of their trade.
As the protest continued many arms dealers loitered around the edges of the area whilst the conference began inside. The police regularly attempted to bundle dealers through the blockade with mixed success. One arms dealer persisted and was hauled over the security fence by his breeches in a very undignified manner. This is emblematic of the success of both the blockade and the protest. It was an immensely embarrassing event for the arms dealers and for the Wellington City Council.
We congratulate Peace Action Wellington for organising such an effective action. The group Food Not Bombs provided much appreciated food, drink and first aid at the rear of the protest.
At around eleven a.m. the police began arresting protesters one by one and hauling them into paddy wagons. It is not known yet what charges, if any, these protesters face. The function of the police was made explicitly clear this morning, as one chant put it “Army of the rich, Enemy of the poor”.
The police were there in numbers to ensure the world’s most disgusting corporations are able to scheme in “peace” on how to make more money from more war.
Today’s actions stood against war profiteering while the mayor, the council and the police served the interests of business and war.