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US Diplomat Leaves 15 Minutes Into Her Victoria University Lecture After Peaceful Protests By Students And Activists

Students and activist groups today protested a planned lecture by the USA’s Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Dr. Bonnie Jenkins, at the Victoria University of Wellington (VUW). Dr. Jenkins is a senior official in charge of AUKUS implementation, a military alliance currently between Australia, UK and USA. A number of groups including Justice for Palestine, Student Justice for Palestine — Pōneke (SJP), Stop AUKUS and Peace Action Wellington rallied around 150 people, mostly students, outside the university venue in Pipitea to protest further collaborations with the USA. This action was particularly prescient in light of the ongoing US-funded genocide in Gaza.

Simultaneously, a peaceful protest was undertaken inside the lecture hall. An activist began the lecture by calling for “a moment of silence for all the Palestinians killed by the US-funded genocide in Gaza”. He then spoke up about the weapons that the US was sending to Gaza, before eventually being ejected from the lecture theatre. Shortly after, another activist stood up and said “Karetao o te Kāwana kakīwhero!” (“Puppets of this redneck government.") quoting the women's Super Rugby Aupiki team Hurricanes Poua’s revamped haka. “Mai te awa ki te moana (From the river to the sea), free free Palestine!”

Dr. Jenkins was ushered away for the second time, and subsequently a couple of activists took to speaking and playing an informative video about how AUKUS represents US imperialism. When organisers later came in to announce that Dr. Jenkins will not be continuing with her lecture, chants of “Free, free Palestine!” filled the room.

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“For five months, Aotearoa has been calling for our government to do more to stop the genocide in Gaza. And for years, we have been calling our governments to stand against Israel’s occupation of Palestine,” says Samira Zaiton, a Justice for Palestine organiser. “We are now at the juncture of tightening relations with settler colonies who will only destroy more lives, more homes and more lands and waters. We want no part in this. We want no part in AUKUS.”

Jenkins’ lecture was organised by Victoria University’s Centre for Strategic Studies, and claimed to address “security challenges in the 21st century”. Valerie Morse, an organiser with Peace Action Wellington, says: “Experts on foreign policy and regional diplomacy have done careful research on the disastrous consequences of involving ourselves with AUKUS. Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa is not a nuclear testing ground and sacrifice zone for US wars.”

Videos of the peaceful protest actions can be found in this Google drive.

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