So many people have been acquitted of trying to stop the London arms fair, we almost lost count. No, seriously. It’s been that many.
Luckily for The Canary, court supporters from the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group and Green and Black Cross have been keeping track. A spokesperson told us that, out of the 49 cases taken to trial, ten people were acquitted and 27 had their cases dropped – mostly on the basis of the previous acquittals. 12 cases remain outstanding.
Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) takes place every two years in London. It is one of the world’s largest arms fairs. The last one took place in September 2017, and over 100 people were arrested trying to prevent it from happening.
The majority of cases have been for obstructing the public highway. Many protesters locked themselves together in the road to prevent the police removing them quickly. Others climbed on top of lorries. And a group of Quakers abseiled off a bridge to stop lorries getting to the site.
Protesters used various defences. Some argued that the road they were on was not a public highway. Others that their protest was reasonable due to their beliefs in what was happening at the arms fair, and that they were trying to prevent greater crimes taking place at the arms fair.
Among protests that the district judges deemed reasonable were people who had locked themselves together in the road, and abseiling Quakers. These are some of the protesters who were acquitted:
One of the defendants, Sarah Reader, told The Canary:
Three district judges acquitted activists on the basis that their direct actions were reasonable given the role DSEI plays in bringing together arms companies with countries that are fuelling conflict and repression, and the amount of evidence that countries like Saudi Arabia are using British-made weapons to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law. Three judges agreed that DSEI was deemed to be of significant enough public interest to justify people blocking roads and obstructing equipment destined for the arms fair.
During DSEI 2017, arms dealers from 56 countries received official invitations to view the wares of 1,600 exhibitors. Nine of the countries invited, including Algeria and Bahrain, had authoritarian regimes. Six, including Saudi Arabia and Colombia, have been listed by the UK as having human rights issues. And a further five countries on the list, such as Ukraine and Pakistan, are currently at war.
Reader described why she had taken action at DSEI:
The companies exhibiting at DSEI are making money from conflict, repression and the consequences of war. This trade fuels violence, and then profits from the border systems, detention centres and militarisation that result from it. We need to dispel the myths around the economic benefits of the arms trade, stand in solidarity with those affected by conflict and bring an end to this climate of fear.
DSEI will take place again in 2019. Reader hopes “the recent acquittals will inspire thousands of people to come and help shut it down for good”. And she believes it is down to all of us to try and stop it:
The European Parliament and the UK’s International Development Select Committee have both said we should stop arming Saudi Arabia and yet the UK continues to invite Saudi Arabia to meet with its weapons suppliers at DSEI. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said he wants the arms fair banned but doesn’t have the power to stop it. It’s up to us to mobilise in our communities and through our networks over the next year and a half to shut the arms fair down for good.
These judgements put the arms trade under the spotlight. They show that direct action can and does work. And DSEI is going to have a long battle ahead if it thinks it can hold its fair in 2019 without serious disruption.
– Support Campaign Against Arms Trade.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?