News from Peace Action Wellington
Another charge was dropped on the fourth day of the Crown’s case against 15 peace activists who protested against the 2015 Wellington Weapons Expo. Selina Van Doorn’s charge was dismissed after the Judge was shown video evidence which showed that police had violently arrested her for no reason.
The Crown have now completed their witnesses and lawyers for the remaining represented defendants have applied for their cases to be dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Van Doorn had been charged with obstructing police but the video demonstrated her asking police officers why another protester had been arrested and then moving away when requested. She was then grabbed by two police officers, pushed to the ground and arrested. Van Doorn today said “This whole process has really made me lose trust in the police. They tried to paint us as a violent mob but we were there protesting for peace and the only ones being violent at the protest were the cops.”
Four defendants now remain. The lawyers for the remaining three represented defendants are confident that the Crown has not presented sufficient evidence to prove any of the charges and at the end of proceedings today filed applications for the charges to be dismissed. One defendant is still representing himself and may present further evidence.
Laura Drew of Peace Action Wellington, whose charges still stand, said today “The Crown’s case has fallen out from under their feet. They’ve got no evidence and it’s really demonstrating that these arrests and the court process has been used as a punishment against us for protesting the business of war.”
News from Peace Action Wellington – February 16
The judge has dismissed another charge in the case against peace activists who were arrested protesting against the Weapons Expo in Wellington in 2015. After reviewing the evidence provided by the Crown Prosecution and hearing from a police witness, the judge found there was no case to answer. This follows the dropping of charges against 9 people yesterday after evidence revealed the protest was on public land and arrests for trespass were unlawful.
With 10 out of the 16 charges dropped after three days of evidence in the Wellington District Court, the Crown’s case is falling apart. “After fifteen months, thousands of dollars and a week in court I don’t think the cops ever intended to find us guilty. In fact they were using this court case as the punishment,” stated Jerome O’Connor, whose charge of obstruction was dropped today.
The trial continues tomorrow (Thursday) with the remaining five defendants facing charges of obstruction, trespass and disorderly behavior from the protest against the Weapons Conference at the TSB arena in November 2015. This afternoon while court case was underway a public petition with 4,000 signatures against the Weapons Expo handed in by Peace Action Wellington was tabled in parliament.
This is part of an ongoing week of resistance by Peace Action Wellington, to the arms trade during the week of court. The next public action will be at 8am on Friday where Peace Action Wellington will be supporting the Double the Refugee Quota campaign at the Australian High Commission for a Vigil for Reza Barati. Reza Barati was a refugee killed on Manus Island three years ago where he was detained by the Australian Government.
Peace Action Wellington recognises the direct connection between the arms trade and the plight of refugees, including those from Syria and the Middle East. “While we were protesting, Aleppo was burning”, said Adrian Leason, one of the arrestees who had his charges dropped on Tuesday and was one of the ‘Waihopai 3’.
News from Peace Action Wellington – February 14
Nine peace activists are this morning walking free from Wellington District Court after the Crown Prosecution were forced to drop their charges.
Lawyers for the activists ripped apart the testimony of the first witness during cross examination before lunch on Monday, shaking the foundation of the Crown’s case. The trial will continue for the remaining six defendants who stood up against the Wellington Weapons Expo in 2015.
The campaign against the arms trade will continue with a public petition hand in today at 6pm to Parliament with 4,000 signatures against the Weapons Expo.
The first day of the predicted week long trial saw the stand taken by Brian McGuinness, property owner at the TSB Arena where the Weapons Expo was held in 2015. McGuinness eventually admitted that there was a public easement around the TSB Arena after initially claiming that the area on which the protest was held was private. McGuinness also admitted that the police may not have been properly granted the authority to trespass protesters, shattering the Prosecution’s case against most of those charged with trespass.
Two other peaceful protesters who had been charged with obstruction have also had their charges dropped.
“This really shows that the police interfered with our right to freedom of speech in November 2015. We were arrested on public land while exercising our lawful right to protest. I’m glad to have been let off these charges today, but I’m going to keep coming to court to support everyone else who stood up against the arms trade. We all know who the real criminals are – it’s not the peace activists, it’s the arms dealers profiting from death and destruction” said Emma Cullen who had her trespass charge dropped today.
Laura Drew, whose charges still stand, is confident; “I’m proud to have stood up against people directly profiting from war. We were standing in solidarity with refugees and people in war-torn areas around the world whose lives are directly effected by the dirty deals made at the Weapons Expo.”
Drew continues, “Thousand of people of across Aotearoa signed a petition opposing the Weapons Expo which we’re going to hand in to Parliament tomorrow, demanding that the government stop supporting weapons dealers. A strong stand for peace means actively opposing war.”
News from Peace Action Wellington – February 12
Sixteen people who protested for peace at the 2015 New Zealand Defence Industry Association Weapons Conference will next week appear in the Wellington District Court. The protesters, who took part in a non-violent blockade outside the Wellington conference, have pleaded not guilty.
A week of ongoing resistance to the arms trade will be held during the week of court; including an anti-Weapons Conference petition hand in to Parliament and a vigil for asylum seekers held in Australian offshore detention.
In November 2015, 27 people were arrested over two days for protesting against the NZDIA’s annual Weapons Conference at which global arms dealers such as Lockheed Martin, Babcock and Thales as well as local arms manufacturers such as MAS Zengrange exhibit and network with other arms dealers and military purchasers. The peaceful blockade aimed to hinder the business of war.
“All of us are firmly of the view that the crimes going on at the weapons conference were the ones inside the where the companies were busy making deals to sell more weapons. The people blockading took non-violent direct action to stop the proliferation of death and destruction. We on the other hand were exercising our right to freedom of protest. It’s a travesty that we were arrested – protests happen every week, yet in this instance the police have pursued proceedings against peace activists in a trial set down for a week” said Peace Action Wellington member and arrestee Laura Drew.
The charges for the 16 remaining arrestees are for obstruction and trespass and all have entered a plea of not guilty. Lawyers Michael Bott, Chris Tennet & Daniel Vincent are representing the 16 in court, with others choosing to defend themselves, in a process which is due to run for a week between the 13-17th February. “We’d like to thank the peace and justice community for their support in funding our defense,” continued Drew.
— Peace Action WGTN (@PeaceActionWGTN) February 12, 2017
Peace Action Wellington and the arrestees are still committed to anti-war and arms trade activism and have therefore planned a Week of Ongoing Resistance. There will be an anti arms trade demonstration outside Wellington District Court on the first day of proceedings and Tuesday 14th will see a petition with 4,000 signatures opposing the NZDIA Weapons Conference presented to Parliament. On Friday Peace Action will partner with the Double the Quota campaign to hold a vigil outside the Australian High Commission on the anniversary of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati’s death on Manus Island.
“We recognise that the issues of war and refugees are inextricably linked and stand in solidarity with those fleeing war to seek safer and better lives,” Drew continues “We’re determined to keep up the struggle against the arms industry. Last year’s blockade of the Weapons Conference in Auckland was extremely successful with many arms dealers locked out – we’re going to continue our campaign and stop the Weapons Conference and the wars it feeds once and for all.”