Activists from Peace Action Wellington (PAW) today occupied the office of MAS Zengrange, a Lower Hutt company that makes mortar-firing systems and other war products. Five peace activists were arrested after they left the building.
Lisa Davis, a member of PAW, said, “We dressed up as the Grim Reaper during this action to highlight the fact that weapons companies celebrate war and death because it means more sales and profits. We are very concerned that MAS Zengrange has provided weapons components to Saudi Arabia, a country condemned for on-going civilian deaths in Yemen, as well as the US and UK, states that have been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths across the Middle East. We’re shocked that the five peace activists were arrested today while the arms dealers are able to continue business as usual.”
“Making money from human misery is unacceptable to people across New Zealand. We have seen that with the recent outrage over Kiwisaver investments. In Lower Hutt, where the company is based, people we spoke to were shocked to learn weapons components are being made here,” Lisa continued. “The arms dealers were very aggressive towards us, which I guess is in line with their attitude to profiting from death and destruction.”
PAW activists were on the property for less than five minutes in which time activists were physically assaulted by two members of staff from the arms company and another threatened to lock them in the building. After activists left the building and walked away they were pursued by one of the arms dealers in a car. All five were arrested and held in police cells for around an hour. Two peace activists now face court charges.
When interviewed at the 2015 Weapons Expo in Wellington, MAS Zengrange claimed that their products were “…not used in an aggressive sense at all”, a claim which is directly contradicted by the explicit images accompanying their products on their website of weapons in active military use. They also describe their products as providing “Ballistic Offensive Support”, “delivering accurate and responsive ballistic solutions for field Artillery and Offensive Support systems” and “providing rapid and accurate firing data for Field Artillery, heavy mortars and surface to surface rockets and missiles”.
Lisa Davis continued, “We believe that war starts wherever weapons components are produced, so we need to stop it here. Our action today was partly tongue in cheek, with Grim Reapers throwing a party in the MAS Zengrange office and giving awards to them for their part in deaths around the world. But it’s a really serious issue, MAS Zengrange is not welcome here and we’ll be back to show them that again. Our action today in Lower Hutt is part of a global month of actions against the arms trade, facilitated by Campaign Against the Arms Trade in the UK. People are coming together across the world, opposing their local arms company and standing up against war profiteers.”
Peace Action Wellington, alongside Auckland Peace Action (APA), will also be opposing the November 2016 Weapons Expo, an arms industry lobbying event held by the NZ Defence Industry Association (NZDIA) annually.