CANBERRA — Protesters blockaded entrances to the Aidex '91 arms bazaar here on November 24. Car bodies and other materials were used to barricade the two main gates to the National Exhibition Centre (Natex), locking out army vehicles intended for the exhibition.
The previous day, about 1000 people turned out for the first major demonstration of the week of protest against Aidex. The giant arms exhibition is due to run from November 26-28.
For the past week, opponents of the arms bazaar have been picketing the Natex centre. The ACT Labour Council has banned work on the exhibition, and the electricians' (ETU) and Telecom (ATEA) unions have refused to work on the site.
The picket has been broken several times in the very cold early hours of the morning by trucks with heavy police escorts. Trucks convoys have been assembling about two km away for tightly organised operations to move equipment into the centre. There have been several arrests.
Scabs employed by the exhibition have attempted to make trouble with the picketers, engaging in drunken abuse. Some claim to be Vietnam veterans and say they haven't worked since the previous Aidex, in 1989.
Police have indicated their attitude to the protesters' camps with petty harassment such as tipping over water supplies. It seems the arms merchants may have been trying out some of their toys, as protesters' communications equipment and mobile phones have been jammed by illegal electronic interference.
Meanwhile, in Hobart on November 20, anti-Aidex protesters pulled a cart through the city centre in a street theatre protest against the arms bazaar.
The Aidex protests are to be followed by a conference titled World Without Weapons, in Adelaide, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on November 30. Speakers will include Dr Keith Suter of the Sydney University Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Andrew Hewett of Community Aid Abroad, Janet Hunt of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid and Senator Sid Spindler of the Australian Democrats.
The conference will be held at the SA Institute of Teachers, 164 Greenhill Rd Parkside. For further information, phone Philip White on (08) 278 8882 or (08) 278 7898.