As it happened: Protesters clash at New Zealand defence forum

Protesters have clashed with event staff at New Zealand's annual defence industry conference in Wellington on Tuesday.

The protest, organised by lobby group Peace Action Wellington, aims to shut down the Defence Industry Forum which they claim makes "deadly deals about weapons and war".

4:10pm: Police say they're disappointed with the behaviour of protestors, who they believe have shown disregard for public safety.

Nine people have been arrested - eight for obstructing a public roadway and one for disorderly behaviour - outside the New Zealand Defence Industry Association conference at Wellington's Westpac Stadium on Tuesday.

Several were released on pre-charge warnings.

Police say they tried to respect the lawful right to protest, but several protestors behaved in a way that created safety issues, disrupted traffic and caused delays that inconvenienced the wider public.

"I would like to acknowledge the patience shown by our staff, who conducted themselves with professionalism and acted appropriately, based on the situation that was presented to them," says operations manager Neil Banks.

"We are aware of allegations in the media about police conduct and would remind anyone with concerns that there are several avenues available to them if they wish to make a complaint."

Police will attend further protest activity planned for this week.

2:10pm: Protestors say they're "holding tight" for their next move. 

2:00pm: Delegates attending the Defence Industry Forum are being shepherded in by police. Some protesters claim the representatives are "laughing at activists".

1:35pm: Protesters say the blockade is still underway, however they are hungry and are appealing for food.

1:15pm: Activists say five of the protesters arrested have been released with pre-charge warnings.

12:54pm: Protesters are attempting to scale the barricades surrounding Westpac Stadium.

12:30pm: Police are warning motorists to avoid Wellington's Waterloo Quay area due to protest action at Westpac Stadium.

Waterloo Quay is being blocked by the protest - in both directions at times, and police are asking motorists to take alternative routes if possible.

12:11pm: Many of the groups behind the protest now claim police have inflicted violence on those demonstrating - some even alleging sexual assault from officers.

Others still have lauded the police for their "protection" of those attending.

In one video from earlier in the day, a protester can be heard urging those standing with him to enjoy holding their families closely, as those suffering from the atrocities of war don't get the chance. Poignant.

12:03pm: People Against Prisons Aotearoa says the situation outside Westpac Stadium is now getting "very rough".

The group says police continue to employ different tactics in an effort to get Weapons Expo-goers into Westpac Stadium.

One protester claims police launched an attack on medics helping protesters they had earlier trampled. Judge that for yourself in the video below.

11:40am: Newly elected Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick has shown up to offer her support, saying disarmarment is a cause worthy of Peace Action's protest.

"In the same way that climate change is a really crucial thing that all of us should be expending our energy and taking action on, disarmament should be as well," she said.

"I'm really inspired by the work of [Nobel Peace Prize winner] Thomas [Nash].

"I'm only able to be here for an hour this morning, but thought that I'd just lend myself to supporting that mahi."

11:05am: Police say five people have now been arrested at the defence protests in Wellington.

"Police are continuing to respond to protest activity outside the New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA) conference at Westpac Stadium today," says Inspector Neil Banks.

"The role of Police is to ensure safety and uphold the law, while recognising the lawful right to protest.

"We will continue to respond appropriately to any issues regarding disorder or public safety that may arise. As at 10:45am five people have been arrested for obstructing a roadway."

10:45am: Protesters claim they have "shut down" the event.

10:30am: Protesters allege organisers from activist group People Against Prisons Aotearoa have been "assaulted by police officers, who have continued their practice from last year's weapons expo of targeting women’s breasts".

10:15am: Protesters say four people have been arrested so far.

9:50am: The NZ Defence Industry Association (NZDIA) says its forum isn't a "weapons expo".

"To call our industry forum an arms or weapons conference is simply untrue. We would never hold a weapons expo on our shores. That is not what our forum is. You will find more ammunition and guns on display at the annual field days than what you will see at our event," says NZDIA chairperson Scott Arrell.

"The forum is an opportunity for local and international businesses involved in supplying products and services to the Defence and National Security sectors to engage with the Ministry and New Zealand Defence Force.

"People at our forum are maintenance business owners, ICT specialists, caterers and companies that provide footwear to our Defence Force and St Johns Ambulance staff."

9:40am: Police and protesters are clashing in the streets as protesters attempt to break police lines.

9:20am: Police have already detained two people as protestors try to stop delegates arriving by bus.

Police battle to hold protesters back.
Police battle to hold protesters back. Photo credit: Newshub

9:10am: Dressed as clowns and waving banners, protesters screamed as they fought to disrupt and blockade this week's event.

"People have come from all over New Zealand today to shut down the weapons expo," says Jessie Dennis from Peace Action Wellington.

"We don't think that anyone should profit from war and there's representatives meeting here today from some of the biggest weapons manufacturers in the world. We think that profiting from war is immoral and so we're here to shut down the weapons expo."

Protesters have in recent years turned the forum into an annual rallying cry against war, violence and the weapons industry.

Two years ago, more than two dozen were arrested after 75 people, one dressed as the grim reaper and others holding masks of former prime minister John Key, locked arms to stop delegates entering the forum.

Ms Dennis called for more New Zealanders to join in the protests.

"It's important to act and to target the drivers of war, those who make billions of dollars from killing people," Ms Dennis told NZ Newswire.

"Tomorrow is our opportunity to shut down their business, to mess with their profit and to ultimately make the world a better and safer place."

NZN / Newshub.