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Peace activists in court will defend the right to protest

Press Release – Peace Action Wellington
Peace Action Wellington will tomorrow defend the right to protest, as two activists appear in court charged with trespass following action at local weapons manufacturer MAS Zengrange in 2016.

MAS Zengrange is a British/New Zealand owned company that makes parts for mortar firing systems (1). In September 2016, a group of peace activists dressed as grim reapers threw a party in the company’s Lower Hutt office to protest against their complicity in human rights abuses overseas. Five people were arrested following the action, with two facing trial tomorrow.

PAW has successfully defended the right to protest twice in court this year. In February, 16 defendants on trial following the 2015 Weapons Expo protests had their charges dismissed by a judge, and in June the judge found there was no case to answer in relation to a further charge of trespass during a protest at the Ministry of Defence.

23 people were arrested at the Weapons Expo in 2015, with the police exhibiting heavy-handed and violent tactics in an apparent attempt to intimidate protesters while escorting arms dealers into the event. This latest prosecution follows an alarming trend of the police defending businesses – even deeply unethical businesses – while simultaneously harassing protesters.

“It’s pretty disgusting that the police choose to unquestioningly accept the version of events put forward by companies and their employees, over the activists who protest their complicity in war crimes.” said Laura Drew, who faces charges tomorrow. “The police have repeatedly shown that they believe themselves to be acting for big businesses against protesters, rather than acting as neutral officers of the law.”

“The police said to me that they were going forward with the prosecution because we have a ‘history of protesting’. That’s blatant criminalising of legal activities that don’t happen to suit them.

“MAS Zengrange claim their products do not cause casualties. But it seems unlikely the mortar systems are firing cupcakes at their targets. They’re likely to be used in lethal campaigns. Why would the police think it’s ethical to defend such a company?”

“The police have also persisted in conducting blatant surveillance during protests, as we saw during the 350 Aotearoa protest this year (4). This serves as an attempt to intimidate, and equate activism with criminal activity – giving people the feeling that they are doing something wrong just by attending a protest.

“We have won two of the three unnecessary cases the police have brought against us this year, and we’re hoping to make it a hat-trick.”

Laura Drew and Sean Blair will appear in Lower Hutt Court at 10 am on Thursday.

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1 comment:

  1. Venus, 23. August 2017, 15:25

    Police will always protect the Crown’s businesses.
    A lawful peaceful protest is lawful protest.
    It’s a shame there are no human rights lawyers in NZ to counter-sue in order to stop this ongoing behavior by the Police.

     

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