Charges dropped over protest clash at weapons expo

Charges have been dropped against nine activists who protested at a 2015 defence conference, Peace Action Wellington announced today.

Sixteen people have been on trial this week in the Wellington District Court, charged with obstruction and trespass during a protest against the New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA) annual forum in Wellington.

The protesters locked arms to blockade delegates from entering the gathering of 200 defence-related companies.

All 16 entered not guilty pleas. One person has accepted diversion and the trial will continue for the remaining six defendants.

Peace Action Wellington refers to the forum as a weapons conference, and says its protest "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," said Peace Action Wellington member and arrestee Laura Drew. "The people blockading took non-violent direct action to stop the proliferation of death and destruction"

NZDIA chairman Bernie Diver said at the time that the meeting was not just about weapons, and the defence industry was an important part of the economy. 

"NZ defence expenditure is approximately 2500 full time jobs, generating a conservative $125 million in wages and $60 million in profits," he said.

"Companies from apparel to food service, property and facilities management through to personal safety and protection equipment are represented."