EarthCare, Not Warfare – Australians disrupt Land Forces 2022 arms expo

Police move in to arrest Ash and Claudia, who had occupied a small robot tank being towed into the exhibition centre – photo by WagePeace

by Jack Cohen-Joppa, from reports by WagePeace

A broad spectrum of Australian activists returned to Meanjin (Brisbane) during the first week of October for a Festival of Resistance and nonviolent actions to disrupt Land Forces 2022, the largest weapons expo in the Southern Hemisphere at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (BCC). As they had last year, organizers welcomed many diverse constituencies – radical youth, Quaker grannies, Aboriginal leaders, refugees, climate activists, veterans, a clown army, musicians and more – into the action planning.

It was a festival of ideas, story telling and culture with the voices of First Nations and West Papuan people central. The stated goal was to “disrupt, interrupt, and obfuscate [the arms dealers’] efforts to generate conflict as the by-product of profit”, the organizers invited all who shared that goal to participate and plan Festival events according to just two rules:

1. Do no harm to other living beings.

2. Respect everyone else at the festival, including (or especially) when you don’t understand what they are doing and/or why they are doing it.

“We call this radical respect. Radical respect is a core working principle of Disrupt Land Forces, together with active solidarity, creative disruption, community care and revolutionary love.”

A nearby Aboriginal community center served as the base for festival organizing, prop and banner making and community meals for about 100 people actively engaged in the disruptions. After last year’s protest success, a much larger police and private security force was also present.

Even before the Festival of Resistance began, two young women, Claudia and Ash, climbed onto a small robotic combat tank being towed into the convention center on September 29, forcing it to stop while they live-streamed the action on Facebook.

“We’re standing in solidarity with the First Nations people of this land and for those in the Northern Territory who are currently calling for a cease-fire to disarm the police in their communities. First Nations people were the first to experience militarized violence on this continent and they’re still the most victimized by it today here and all across the globe,” said one of the women.

The other concluded, “War is pollution of our minds, our relationships and the earth. The military machine is burning our home directly with these weapons and through the vast consumption of fossil fuels. The military oppresses culture, takes land that is not for the taking, by force, by fear, leaving all the people to pick up their lives in rubble.”

They refused to leave and held a banner declaring “War Crimes Start Here” before they were carried off and arrested.

Claudia pled guilty and was given a four month good behavior bond. Ash refused to enter a plea and was given a later court date.

Eat the Rich protest – photo by WagePeace

The Festival opened the next night around an international solidarity fire, sharing stories of resistance to militarization. Over the weekend, a variety of educational and hands-on workshops included training for “Mobile Unwelcoming Teams” (MUTs) and “Space Invaders” to go out in small groups and explicitly unwelcome the “harms dealers” (easily identified by their lanyards and business or military attire) as they dined and walked about Brisbane’s West End. Tactics focused on making the conference an unpleasant scene with an unpleasant sensibility for those attending: noise, disruption, unwelcoming demeanor. One person was arrested harassing weapons merchants. On Monday, a festive crew held their forks high for an Eat the Rich protest outside a hotel hosting expo delegates.

Outside the BCC, barriers were being erected to funnel delegates into the center and away from a plaza where the daily protests would be centered. Before the expo opened on Tuesday morning, October 4, the walls of the Centre were marked with water-soluble anti-war graffiti. Clowns, vikings and more in colorful costume caused chaos as they danced among the cars backed up to enter the parking garages. Police shoved some demonstrators off the road rather than make arrests.

One man was arrested while marking the walls with a washable “blood”, and another for willful damage and obstructing police after pasting a picture of the horrors of war on a lamp post with the substance. City Councillor Jonathan Sriranganathan, monitoring the protest in his district, was arrested for trespass when a Convention Centre worker came out and started installing a fence around where he was standing by the building. The charge was later dismissed when prosecutors recognized that one cannot trespass on a public footpath.

Skanky Tanky – photo by WagePeace

Over the weekend, activists had transformed an old car into “Skanky Tanky, the militarized love machine,” in hot pink and armored with a pink fake gun turret and large shields declaring “Disarm the Police”, “Stop the War Machine” and “Earth Care not Warfare”. Placed on a trailer and covered in tarps, it was stopped by police who then unveiled it just outside the centre. The road was blocked for an hour while Bassi Brown was extracted from Skanky Tanky and arrested.

No Matter Who Fights – Boeing Always Wins – photo by WagePeace

Throughout the next two days, the pro-planet, anti-militarist activists called out, disrupted, blocked and booed the “harms dealers” from all angles. Among the many protests, a tour of local weapons merchants visited some of Brisbane’s worst warmongers: NIOA, Thales, Elbit Systems and Boeing. At the last stop, Boeing’s Insitu Pacific drone facility, two brave grandmothers climbed atop the entrance awning and occupied the space, hanging banners demanding justice and an end to exported, automated killing.


On Wednesday, delegates were greeted by eight activists lined up behind a low fence along the sidewalk entrance, their bared breasts and backs bearing the slogans “Boobs Not Bombs”, “Nudes Not Nukes” and “Fuck War”, with middle fingers and raised fists in the air.

photo by WagePeace

On Thursday afternoon, the last day of the expo, the arms dealers were escorted out by the ferocious noise protest of the clown army, who then swarmed into the lanes of the parking garage exit ramp. A tall ladder was set up to block both lanes, and Margie Pestorius climbed up and sat on top, holding a “War Crimes Start Here” banner. Two other activists held the ladder as the clown army moved on to further disruptions. One ladder-holder left when a police sweep was finally organized to clear the exit ramp, while Pestorius and the other holder, Dave Sprigg, were arrested for failure to comply with police.

Across the week 11 arrests were made, all for minor offenses such as public nuisance, failure to comply with a police direction, and obstruction of traffic. Six have already been to court, mostly receiving good behavior bonds of various lengths with two people receiving fines of $500 AUD and $750 AUD respectively. Of the five with outstanding court matters at least two are expected to contest one or more charges by pleading not guilty.

Messages from allies inside the convention hall confirmed attendance was down while security costs were way up and the harms dealers were feeling “intimidated.” VIPs were reportedly deterred from attending, and at least two high-level presentations were cancelled. Some vendors and groups participated only one day, with some stalls not staffed. Some delegates chose not to attend, especially on the last day.