Weapons expo disrupted by rainbow coalition

June 3, 2021
Uncle Kevin Buzzacott of the Arabunna Nation. Photo: Disrupt Land Force/Facebook

Standing up against the war profiteers at the Land Forces exhibition in Brisbane from June 1-3 was a rainbow coalition of First Nations peoples, peace, climate and human rights defenders.

The Disrupt Land Forces festival involved a week long “festival of resistance” including an Indigenous sacred fire gathering, workshops, forums, music, dance and street theatre.

It included a welcome gathering around the sacred fire in Musgrave Park, workshops and educational activities, a rally on the opening day of the exhibition, a concert in Jagera Hall which featured Jumping Fences, Phil Monsour and a West Papuan group based in Cairns.

Far from “defending people”, the arms industry is a conglomeration of corporations that profiteer from imperialist slaughter and domination. It creates the means for the global 1% to maintain their exploitative rule.

Even before the exhibition began, activists twice blockaded armed vehicles from being “bumped in” to the convention centre. They also organised a tour of weapons manufacturers in Brisbane, including civil disobedience actions on May 31.

First Nations elders Kevin Buzzacott and Coco Wharton attempted to enter the exhibition but were denied entry. Wharton was arrested after refusing to end his sit-in demanding entry.

Former federal defence minister turned arms industry lobbyist Christopher Pyne turned up at the Land Forces arms exhibition June 1 — underscoring the horrific character of the whole affair. Protest organiser Margaret Pestorius was arrested for standing in front of Pyne’s car as he tried to enter. Six others were also arrested that day.

Among the disruptions, fake blood was poured on the steps of the Convention Centre, entrances were blocked and a “noise disruption”, with loud trumpets and banging on pots and pans, around the site ran throughout.

Activists spoke about how militarised Syria, Palestine and West Papua were affected by the arms industry.

“The people of Brisbane have shown today that we don’t want this arms fair to be held in our city,” said Disrupt Land Forces spokesperson Andy Paine.

“While everyday people in war zones around the world suffer the loss and trauma of war these companies sit in their boardrooms watching the profits rise.

“It’s hard to imagine a more unethical business model, and we will not allow their dirty deals to take place in our city of Brisbane.”

Solidarity with Palestine and West Papua were strong elements of the protest with a vigil for Palestine organised on June 1.

On the second day of the convention, dozens of protesters entered through a side door. Several managed to protest on a tank with signs including “$30 billion per year for arms dealers” and “It’s CRapitalism, #NotDefence”. One person locked on to the tank. Police arrested 25 people.

Activist legal support organisation Action Ready released a preliminary statement about the police’s excessive use of force including the “use of a neck compression hold that carries with it extreme risk to health and safety” and the use of “handcuffs on compliant protesters”.

Solidarity actions were also organised in Cairns and Melbourne.

The Land Forces exhibition was supported by the state Labor government.

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