Peace protest turns violent

Police and protesters pushed each other in an Auckland peace protest which attempted to block...
Police and protesters pushed each other in an Auckland peace protest which attempted to block delegates attending the New Zealand Defence Industry Association Forum. Photo: Twitter

A peace protest turned violent this morning as police and protesters clashed at the defence industry conference in central Auckland.

The protesters formed a human blockade at the annual New Zealand Defence Industry Association Forum in an attempt to stop hundreds of delegates attending.

NZHerald Focus camera operator Tamara James said the vibe is "pretty intense".

Emotions escalated when the protestors climbed on top of a big blue fence that protected the venue and pulled it down.

"The police are all making a big wall I saw some people fall on the ground and get dragged around.

"[The protesters] were pushing the police to get into the area, there was lots of pushing."

Ms James said the protesters have now sat in front of the police and are chanting. She was not sure if people have been hurt but she did see someone holding their face.

Police can be seen shoving protesters backwards.

The world's largest nuclear arms manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, is the main sponsor of the forum, which will be attended by arms dealers from all over the world.

Protest organisers Auckland Peace Action organised the blockade to stop the opening of the forum at 8am. More than 500 people have said they will join the protest.

Protesters will be addressed by former Auckland mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr Helen Caldicott, Auckland councillor Cathy Casey and Patrick Hinchcliff, the grandson of the AUT University founder.

"The arms trade simply has no place in a civilised society," Auckland Peace Action spokeswoman Virginia Lambert said.

"We are taking non-violent direct action to stop this expo from happening."

The blockade is part of the Week of Peace, a series of peace actions to counter the forum and presence of navy warships in Auckland for the 75th Anniversary celebrations of the Royal New Zealand Navy on the Waitemata Harbour.

"We want to work for peace, not prepare and fund wars," Ms Lambert said.

The annual conference was held at the ANZ Viaduct Events Centre.

The anniversary celebrations were brought forward a day because of expected bad weather.

The New Zealand Defence Industry Association earlier said it is a "misunderstood" sector that generates $60 million for the economy.

NZDIA chair Bernie Diver said the forum will bring together 170 businesses from a sector that employs 2500 people and pays $125million in wages.

While some suppliers provided weaponry, he said the vast majority supplied New Zealand soldiers equipment to undertake maintenance, repairs, logistics, engineering and other civil services.

"Close to 1000 people are employed nationally in food and services alone, and a further 600 in repair and maintenance contracts," he said.

At last year's forum in Wellington around 75 protesters, one dressed as the grim reaper, chanted "blood on your hands" had attempted to stop delegates. Police arrested more than two dozen of the protesters after scuffles turned violent.

This year Auckland Peace Action has listed plans for non-violent protests on its Facebook page.

Despite the NZDIA being dubbed "merchants of death," Mr Diver said it was "a misguided label."

While most of the defence force's work was civil, such as emergency relief services after Monday's Kaikoura earthquake, Mr Diver said "when they are in harm's way we want (NZ soldiers) to be the best equipped they can".

The two-day event at Auckland's Viaduct Events Centre is also likely to draw more foreign dignitaries as it coincides with the Royal New Zealand Navy's 75th-anniversary celebrations.

Additional reporting from AAP

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