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Anti War Demo (Otautahi/Christchurch)
1 December 2001
On Saturday December the 1st, as part of the national day of action against the war in Afghanistan, over 100 protestors gathered at the US military base at Harewood, Otautahi/Christchurch. The protestors were there to demand the immediate withdrawal of the US and New Zealand military presence in Afghanistan as well as the demilitarisation of Harewood.
Harewood is a medium level multi-purpose military transport base that serves the massive US sky bases in Australia, specifically the key one of Pine Gap. Pine Gap has played a major role in every recent US military action and will most likely be providing targeting information for the current war in Afghanistan.
To start off proceedings there were short speeches by an Anti-Bases Campaign representative and a woman from the local Afghani community. The protestors then marched to the base, but were prevented from getting to their planned demonstration location in front of the base because of a police blockage of a public road. The police rather dubiously claimed that the public road was airport land and that if any of the protestors crossed the barricades they would be arrested for trespass. The decision was made to halt the march at the police line and people took the opportunity to decorate the base fence with brightly coloured pieces of wool and fabric as well as banners and paper cranes. The road was also covered in anti-racism, anti-war and social justice slogans by happy chalkers. While these protestors brighten up the rather drab surroundings, others enjoyed afternoon tea of coffee, tea and biscuits kindly provided by Food not Bombs. After about 20 minutes a small number of people decided to breech the police barricade.
However, they were pushed back and in the process an airport security office assaulted one person. Another of the line breakers asked repeatedly to be arrested for trespass but the police politely refused to oblige.
In the end the protestors marched back to their starting point and then went home, but not before a number of water bombs filled with red dye were thrown at the base buildings.
The protest was generally regarded as the most enjoyable and effective action taken by the anti-war 'movement' in Otautahi/Christchurch. It was organised by a coalition of groups including the Anarchist Round Table, Socialist Worker Organisation, Women in Black, Anti-Bases Campaign and Food not Bombs.