One of the world’s largest arms fairs is taking place in London this September. Protests are planned and people are getting ready to shut it down before it even begins.
Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) takes place every two years at the ExCeL centre. It describes itself as:
The world leading event that connects governments, national armed forces, industry thought leaders and the global defence & security supply chain on an unrivalled scale.
Get the news that really mattersSign me up
Now, conscious rapper and poet Potent Whisper has released a video that exposes exactly why all of us need to shut down DSEI for good. The video, produced in collaboration with War on Want, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), can be seen here:
Rhyming Guide to the Arms Fair
From the anti-gentrification anthem Brixton First to his collection of spoken-word Rhyming Guides to…, Whisper is known for his ability and artistry in mixing politics with music and words. And his Rhyming Guide to the Arms Fair is no exception.
He begins the piece by setting out what happens at DSEI:
You likely won’t have heard of it or seen it on the news before
It’s where the biggest companies sell weapons that are used in war
To governments and armies from all around the world
They travel here to London where the fair is held
Repressive regimes, among the most violent
The UK government formally invites them
To wine them, dine them, tell them that they like them
Anything to sell them weapons, anything to bribe them
He also points out the sheer hypocrisy of the government’s support of the arms trade, highlighting that:
Black boys with knives are getting sent down for life
But bombs, tanks and warships, we can sell them openly
“They’ve murdered tens of thousands, and they’re using British weapons”
The piece also highlights the damage done by the UK arms trade. Whisper states:
Like Saudi Arabia who are known for breeding terror
The list of all their war crimes is too long to measure
They lead illegal wars, killing civilians in Yemen
They’ve murdered tens of thousands, and they’re using British weapons
DSEI 2019 is already surrounded in controversy. Because the government has invited a delegation from Saudi Arabia despite a Court of Appeal ruling that arms sales to the regime are “irrational and therefore unlawful”.
The UN has long described the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as the “worst in the world”. Its report in February highlighted that:
14.3 million people are classified as being in acute need, with around 3.2 million requiring treatment for acute malnutrition; that includes two million children under-five, and more than one million pregnant and lactating women.
The UK has played a central role in arming the Saudi regime. The government doesn’t give “exact figures”, but a House of Commons briefing paper states that:
the UK was the second largest exporter of arms transfers to Saudi Arabia (after the US) between 2010 and 2018, and larger than all other countries combined.
Between 2010 and 2018 Saudi Arabia was the largest importer of arms from the UK; the total volume of arms transfers was around 43% of the UK’s total arms export volume.
“Business is booming and BAE is getting rich”
As Whisper states:
People die in our names and politicians benefit
Business is booming and BAE is getting rich
Get a grip: if we supply terrorists, we’re terrorists!
And he asks:
We’re accessories to murder, just so companies can get rich
How can we defend this?
He then makes an appeal to all of us:
Britain doesn’t have to make a killing just to make a living
Come, we’ll shut the arms fair and dash them off the guest list!
See you on the streets!
Dabke-dancing, aerobics, an academic conference, a gig on a flatbed truck, abseilers dangling from a bridge, theatre, military veterans undertaking unofficial vehicle checks for banned weapons, Kurdish dancers, rebel clowns, religious gatherings, hip-hop artists, radical picnics, a critical mass of cyclists, Daleks, political choirs, and lots of people in arm-locks all blocked the entrances to the DSEI arms fair repeatedly over the course of a whole week.
As CAAT’s Andrew Smith previously told The Canary:
The arms being promoted by DSEI could be used in atrocities and war crimes for years to come. That is why people from across the UK will be coming together to send the message loudly and clearly that it’s long past time to stop the arms sales and shut down the arms fair.
Whisper’s video eloquently shows why this is the case. We can stop DSEI opening on 10 September by putting our bodies in the way and making sure the equipment needed to market this trade in death and destruction can’t get to the ExCeL centre in the first place.
See you on the streets!
Featured image via Potent Whisper
Since you're here...
We know you don’t need a lecture. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.