New blood in spy base protest

Spy base vigil: Protesters gathered at the Waihopai Valley spy base on Saturday calling for the closure of the Government-run base
Spy base vigil: Protesters gathered at the Waihopai Valley spy base on Saturday calling for the closure of the Government-run base

They came, they chanted, they called for the end of the Waihopai spy base.

About 50 people converged on Market Place, Blenheim, on Saturday to protest against the Government spy base and its links to American military operations.

Among seasoned campaigners such as John Minto, Green MP Steffan Browning and Adrian Leason – who slashed one of the domes at the spy base – were first-timers who had been inspired by previous protests.

Golden Bay resident and US migrant Victoria Davis said she grew up as a "staunch American", but had lived in New Zealand for 25 years. She had not been to the protest before.

"I'm from the US and it's sad the country has engaged in wars which are causing widespread destruction."

Earlier in the morning she had been helping at a stall at the Railway Station market, telling people about the purpose of the spy base.

People did not realise the base was paid for by taxpayers, she said.

Christchurch man Ron Currie was also at the protest for the first time, but his wife Pam Hughes had been to one before.

Mr Currie said he was worried about New Zealand's involvement in the "Western war machine".

"You can't just stand by and let it happen. I don't want my grandchildren to be conscripted into a war."

He admired the courage of the Waihopai Three who broke into the spy base and slashed one of the inflatable domes.

Mr Currie had put the finishing touches on his sign in Market Place which read: "Waihopai, We Spy, Bombs Fly, People Die" when he spoke to the Express.

Ms Hughes said the couple came to the protest to voice their concerns.

"People not saying anything is like tacit approval and the reason why the US can be big bullies in the world."

The group gathered to hear speeches from Mr Minto, Mr Browning, Mr Leason and Murray Horton from the Anti-Bases Campaign, applauding any reference to the 2008 slashing of the inflatable dome that covered one satellite dish at the spy base.

Mr Horton called the actions of the Waihopai Three "heroic" and said the money spent on the base each year was "criminal".

He said the turnout for the protest was pleasing, considering previous years attracted between 20 and 30 people.

The theme of this year's protest was anti-war and highlighted the connection between the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and the United States military.

The group, comprising mostly older people and some children, then marched through Blenheim chanting slogans and singing a protest song to the tune of Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall before going to the spy base on Waihopai Valley Rd.

Mr Minto said it was important to return to the spy base every year because "this is us speaking truth to power".

As the debate over the base continued, more people understood what it was doing, the veteran campaigner said.

The protest met no opposition this year except for one man who drove past the protesters in Market Place and called them "weirdos", and two men who were waiting for the protest at the spy base.

The men had hoped to join other counter-protesters who appeared there during last year's protest, but the counter-protesters did not return this year.

The Marlborough Express