Waihopai spy base protesters talk Pacific, ‘Five Eyes’ and democracy

Protesters with one marcher wearing an oversized mask in the likeness of Prime Minister John Key at the weekend. Image: Marlborough Express

Report from Pacific Media Watch

By Jennifer Eder in Blenheim

An annual New Zealand protest has drawn a colourful crowd to the South Island province of Marlborough to protest against mass surveillance.

About 60 people from across New Zealand gathered in Marlborough on Saturday to take a peaceful stand against Waihopai Station, southwest of Blenheim.

The day began with a march through the centre of Blenheim, with one marcher dressed as Uncle Sam and another wearing an oversized mask in the likeness of Prime Minister John Key.

Green Party co-leader and intelligence spokesperson Metiria Turei spoke at the march about the Government Security Communications Bureau.

“The GCSB has acted illegally. Our spy agencies are being used for political purposes like helping ministers get international jobs, New Zealanders in the Pacific are being spied on and the SIS lacks a proper compliance system,” Turei said.

“We cannot let their arrogance erode our civil liberties away.”

The protest moved to the Waihopai spy base about 1.30pm where six police officers took shifts standing in the 30 degree Celsius heat between the protesters and the spy base.

Anti-Bases Campaign spokesman Murray Horton said the spy base was controlled by the United States, adding even New Zealand’s prime minister knew little about its operations.

The collection of private information was anti-democratic and destructive, he said.

Aros Diodi travelled from Coromandel to help raise awareness at the protest.

“People need to know. It’s like a big secret,” she said.

There were about seven people from Marlborough at the protest.

“Marlborough does not get in behind this the way it should,” Horton said.

One man jumped the fence to give police a close-up view of his placard, but there were no arrests.

“We will keep coming here as long as that [spy base] is still there. So book the overtime, boys,” Horton said to police at the protest’s conclusion.

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