A key event for the international arms trade is taking place in London this week: the DSEi arms fair which hosts 1500 arms companies and 30,000 arms buyers and sellers. The UK government’s invite list is a roll call of authoritarian regimes and human rights abusers. But the fair has been challenged by daily direct action disrupting and blockading its business. A few highlights below…
Sunday: Hundreds of people ‘Occupy the arms fair’, blocking both entrances. Occupy camp is set up.
Following a musical protest at the ExCel on the Saturday, hundreds of people disrupted the set-up on Sunday as arms dealers arrived and equipment was delivered on the eve of the drones conference on the Monday. Protesters stopped vehicle access to the Eastern entrance. Blockades also obstructed access at the Western entrance. An exorcism was performed by priests and activists from Christianity Uncut.
‘Occupy vs. the Arms Fair‘, was called by Occupy London as part of Stop the Arms Fair’s week of action. It is supported by Campaign Against Arms Trade and solidarity protesters from Algeria, Bahrain, Brazil and Turkey.
Eighteen people were arrested for obstruction of the highway, after refusing to leave the road to allow vehicles access to the arms fair. The Occupy camp established on the day has continued as a visible challenge to the arms fair at its Eastern entrance throughout the week.
Monday: World’s largest arms company blockaded for four hours and direct action at the ExCel centre. Silent vigil attracts hundreds of people. Welsh protest challenges drones link.
In Central London campaigners superglued themselves to the entrances of the offices of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms company, which is exhibiting at DSEi. They prevented access for several hours. Police arrested five people who were not released until the following morning.
At the ExCel centre, tens of campaigners gathered to challenge the drones conference taking place that day. In Wales, over a hundred people gathered at Aberporth to challenge drones too. Activists stopped an armoured vehicle from entering the ExCel complex by sitting in the road.
Hundreds gathered at the arms fair on Monday night for a silent vigil – a powerful moment on the eve of the official opening of the fair.
Tuesday: Christian activists prevent main visitor entrance opening for over an hour. Cheeky ‘meet and greet’ actions send arms dealers in all sorts of directions (apart from towards the fair). The opening night reception at the Cutty Sark was blockaded.
On the day 30,000 arms dealers arrived in London for the official opening of the arms fair, campaigners were there to meet them at London City Airport: to help them find their way (the long way round!) and point them out to fellow passengers. See the video of this action here.
The main entrance for visitors to the fair was obstructed for over forty minutes by Christian activists who superglued themselves together, causing a huge backlog of arms dealers arriving to Custom House station. Five people were arrested.
Meanwhile protesters in Bath and elsewhere have challenged the arms fair exhibitors on their doorstep.
Campaigners discovered the location of a dinner for the opening night of the arms fair, where senior civil servants from the governments’ arms sales unit, UKTI DSO, were in attendance: at the Cutty Sark. Activists were there first and blocked all four entrances. Arms dealers eventually had to enter via a fire exit and were ‘escorted’ to their cars with protesters pointing out their profession at the end of the night.
Wednesday – Rooftop action lasts for 40 minutes. Protesters hold wreath-laying ceremony at the site of the arms fair. Noise demo invades BAE Systems’ offices.
An activist climbed on the roof of the ExCel at Prince Regent station, while others challenged the arms dealers below.
See the livestream here. A journalist had his press credentials removed for using the hashtag ‘#stopdsei’ and filming the protest. The NUJ have condemned the decision.
Campaign Against Arms Trade has commented: “It’s no surprise that the DSEi are willing to block journalists who report critically on the arms fair. Democracy is not on the agenda at an event which invites military delegations from authoritarian regimes to buy more weapons. The arms fair has been challenged daily by people willing to take direct action to intervene in its business – no wonder it’s not keen that the scale of opposition to its business is reported.”
Activists from the Black Katz Collective occupied the foyer of BAE Systems for a noise demo, before moving on to other sites as well.
A wreath-laying ceremony remembering the victims of the arms trade was attended by local primary school children.
There’s still more to come!
MPs are set to debate the government department which co-organises the arms fair on Thursday this week, so campaigners will be at Parliament for a visual action before the debate begins.
A critical mass cycle ride to the arms dealers’ Thursday evening dinner is also planned.
There’s a box of fancy dress fun at the info point at Garden Cafe and the Occupy camp keeps up a 24-hour presence at the fair.
Can’t make it to London?
Keep an eye on Twitter for updates on direct action and more as we hear it: @wwwcaatorguk and @stopthearmsfair #stopdsei #occupydsei #beatdsei
See photos of many of the week’s actions here.