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Hundreds of activists disrupt New Zealand arms fair

Hundreds of activists are blockading a weapons conference in Wellington, New Zealand.

A line of protesters sit on the floor in front of a line of police

Peace Action Wellington activists blockade the venue hosting the weapons conference

Last night I joined activists from London Campaign Against Arms Trade, Stop the Arms Fair, London Palestine Action and War Resisters International at a demonstration outside the New Zealand High Commission in solidarity with the protests taking place in Wellington. Two grim reapers walked into the embassy to find out about the death conference, but were quickly escorted out. As we were standing outside New Zealand House in London, we started getting reports over Twitter of the protests happening in Wellington.

A grim reaper holds a 'Stop the Arms Fair' banner in front of New Zealand House

Stop the Arms Fair activists outside the New Zealand High Commission in London

Peace Action Wellington organised a creative blockade of the weapons conference and were joined by activists from across the country. It was really exciting to see the same messages on banners we used to disrupt the set-up of the DSEI arms fair in September, such as ‘Refugees welcome, not arms dealers’.

Arms dealers aren't welcome in Wellington or London

Arms dealers aren’t welcome in Wellington or London

The New Zealand Defence Industry Association annual conference brings together 200 weapons and war-related manufacturers for two days of networking. Sponsors include Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest weapons manufacturer and supplier to countries such as Saudi Arabia – whose appalling human rights record was recently defended by a Lockheed Martin executive.

Exhibiting at the conference alongside Lockheed Martin is MAS Zengrange, a New Zealand subsidiary of a UK company producing mortar firing systems that have been purchased by all Gulf Cooperation Countries, including Saudi Arabia.

But the conference isn’t able to go ahead unheeded. Despite several arrests at today’s blockade, activists are planning a ‘Block Party to Block the (cocktail) Party‘ to disrupt the arms fair’s awards ceremony.

Five business people in suits wait outside a conference venue

Delegates attending the New Zealand weapons conference are unable to get inside.

Ben Chandler from London Palestine Action who was at the London protest outside New Zealand House said:

Groups around the world supported our ‘Block the Factory‘ action last summer, when we shut an Israeli drone engine factory here in the UK. It’s great to see the same solidarity going back from London to activists in New Zealand who are blockading the arms fair in Wellington. Companies like Lockheed Martin, Thales, Elbit show their shameless faces all around the world. We have to show them and our governments that arms fairs aren’t welcome. Not in London, not in Wellington, not anywhere.

For updates on the protest in New Zealand, follow #StopWeaponsConf on Twitter, the event page on Facebook, and Peace Action Wellington on Facebook and Twitter.

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