With DSEI looming, it’s once again time to ‘stop the arms fair’ in its tracks

protests at the 2017 DSEI arms fair
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Campaigners are getting ready to resist Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), one of the world’s largest arms fairs.

DSEI: courting human rights-abusing nations

DSEI is taking place at the ExCeL centre in London between 12 and 15 September. As Emily Apple previously reported for the Canary:

Taking place every two years – supported by the UK government, and organised by Clarion Events – DSEI is a massive event for arms dealers. One of its primary functions is to allow arms companies to network with representatives from some of the world’s most repressive regimes. Companies will encourage delegates from human-rights-abusing nations such as BahrainQatarTurkey, and Saudi Arabia to buy the latest weapons to suppress their own populations and/or to wage war against others.

There is no pretense. DSEI exists to connect buyers and sellers. It exists to make deals that will devastate people’s lives.

This year, over 2,800 defence and security suppliers will be courting deals. However, every time DSEI takes place, activists also descend on the ExCeL centre and its locality to protest it. Stop the Arms Fair (STAF) organises the resistance – and the Canary has repeatedly reported on this bi-annual horror show.  As we reported in 2017:

Demonstrations happened throughout the week, with people performing ‘lock ons’ to lorries, blockading roads and camping out. Groups working alongside STAF included legal observers from Green and Black Cross, the Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol) and the British Quakers.

That year, STAF organised a ‘Carnival of Resistance’. However, as is usually the case, the protests and events were marred by over-the-top and heavy-handed policing from the cops:

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In 2019, cops arrested over 110 people – including Canary journalists. Then, in 2021, resistance to DSEI was strong again. So, 2023’s arms fair looks set to be against a similar backdrop of protest.

‘Shut this arms fair down for good’

This year, protests will begin on Monday 4 September, lasting for two weeks. The first week will target the setting up of the arms fair. STAF is coordinating the fortnight of resistance, with other groups organising specific events or days. These days will highlight the intersections of the arms trade and the different areas and communities it impacts, including migrant justice, arms sales to Israel, the climate crisis, policing and prisons, and more. You can find a full lost of STAF’s events here:

Former Canary journalist Emily Apple is Campaign Against Arms Trade’s media coordinator. She said:

DSEI is a marketplace in death and destruction. Deals done at DSEI will cause misery across the world, causing global instability, and devastating people’s lives. Representatives from regimes such as Saudi Arabia, who have used UK-made weapons to commit war crimes in Yemen, will be wined and dined and encouraged to buy yet more arms.

Arms dealers do not care about peace or security. They care about perpetuating conflict, because conflict increases profits for their shareholders. Meanwhile this government has shown repeatedly that it cares more about the money made from dodgy deals with dictators than it does about the people whose lives will be ruined by the sales made at DSEI.

It’s therefore down to all of us to take action to resist DSEI and to shut this arms fair down for good.

The events will include a ‘Festival of Resistance’ on Saturday 9 September. STAF says this will be:

A day of music and mayhem. A day for the creative celebration of all our resistance… If you’re a performer, a singer, a clown or a just down funny guy and you’d like to share your skills and celebrate our resistance, reach out.

The Canary will be covering this year’s resistance to DSEI, as we have always done. It is crucial that STAF’s organising is supported – as DSEI is a microcosm of the violence the colonial capitalist system metes out.

Featured image and additional images via the Canary 

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