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Weapons Conference, Tank Blockaded: 20 Arrested

Weapons Conference, Tank Blockaded: 20 Arrested


More than 70 people took part in an action organised against the Weapons Defence Industry Association conference held at Te Papa on Tuesday. The action, which was organised by Peace Action Wellington, involved a large sit-in/blockade in front of Te Papa which lasted for about two and a half hours, and also a blockade in front of an armoured vehicle. Twenty people in all were arrested, from charges ranging from obstruction, trespass and assault of police officers.

The action began in Civic Square where the Aoteaora Revolutionary Clown Army (ARCA) and others gathered. They made their way along the waterfront and in to the Te Papa forecourt. The march bypassed the fencing designed to pen them in and went around the side. Police scrambled to intercept them and, in response, the march broke into a quick run towards the front entrance. Many protesters were tackled to the ground but enough got through to start the sit-in and, after a few scuffles, everyone was able to make it to the front. Chants of "No arms at our place", "Arms trade, Death trade!" and "War mongers, Out! Out! Out!" went up as protesters linked arms and blocked the front entrance.

The blockade was maintained for about two and a half hours. The clowns made persistent fun of both the conference attendees and the police (as well as the mayor!) by lining up with them, marching around behind them, as well as riding bikes and throwing water balloons. A certain "pro-capitalist" contingent holding placards such as "Fuck the 3rd world" and "Capitalism is wonderful" were attacked and dealt to in appropriate clown fashion. Hundreds of leaflets were also handed out to a receptive public.

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As protesters were considering leaving after about two and a half hours, one protester was quite randomly grabbed from behind, arrested for trespass and dragged away to an awaiting paddy wagon. Protesters went head to head with the police and another was arrested for trespass, which resulted in the arrest of a third who was dragged into the scuffle. Another protester was badly injured, and later had to be treated for concussion, after police punched and knocked her to the concrete. A tense confrontation followed with the police before the clown army decided to break off and march away, keeping the focus on the conference.

Immediately after, the army attempted to get an armoured vehicle out from Te Papa and onto the road, to which protesters responded by laying down in front and linking up. The tank came to a halt, backed up and was locked in behind a gate and a police line. Police were far more brutal this time as protesters were picked off one by one. A police contingent marched to and fro from the paddy wagon to the blockade as they ripped individual protesters away, some receiving quite painful treatment, and were arrested. The original 17 people dwindled down to a hardy three, who refused to leave and were picked off finally, after about 30 minutes since the blockade began.

In all twenty were arrested, most discharged later with breach of the peace, but seven have had charges held against them including trespass, assault and obstruction.

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