Cops are already arresting activists at the DSEI arms fair – and it’s barely even started yet

Pictures from protests at this years DSEI
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As Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) sets up at the ExCeL centre in London, activists have begun resisting it. Not far behind them are the cops – with nine arrests already, even before this notorious arms fair begins properly.

DSEI arms fair: dealing in death

The Canary has been documenting the build-up to this year’s DSEI, an arms fair which happens every two years – as do the protests against it. As former Canary editor Emily Apple previously wrote:

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.

So, as DSEI began to set up on Tuesday 5 September, activists started resisting it. For example, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) held a “vigil”. It was over arms manufacturers and governments selling weapons to the apartheid state of Israel – which it then uses to kill Palestinians:

PSC said in a statement that the vigil and its attendees:

condemned the presence of Israeli military officials and Israeli arms companies, which develop and use weapons in violence against Palestinians, before selling them as ‘battle-tested’ to other states. This year alone, Israel has killed over 200 Palestinians across the occupied Palestinian territory, including in military invasions, bombing campaigns, and assassinations.

Vigil attendees joined calls for London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who has previously stated his opposition to the fair, to act to bring a halt to the event. Protesters also turned their fire on the British government, which helps organise the event through the Ministry of Defence and UK Defence and Security Exports, part of the Department for International Trade.

Then, on Wednesday 6 September, people held a “peace walk” – plus a workshop on removing militarisation from education also went on:

However, while all these events passed off without incident, that wasn’t the case on Thursday 7 September.

Faith Day is met with cops

It was Faith Day outside DSEI – where people of all denominations (and none) come together to call for peace, and denounce militarisation (and the arms fair).

People congregated on the road leading into the ExCeL to sing and stop vehicles entering it:

Historically, Faith Day has been a flashpoint at DSEI protests. In 2019, cops arrested over 30 Quakers. Apple previously reported:

Quakers were sitting in silence – a key part of their act of worship – when police officers began moving through the crowd to warn people they could be arrested if they didn’t move.

Head of worship & witness for Quakers in Britain Oliver Robertson spoke to an inspector about the decision to move the police in while this was taking place. He expressed his “disappointment” in the police’s actions and that:

“it’s a spiritual endeavour. It’s the same as in the middle of a church service”.

The inspector apologised and said they:

“will take that as a learning point”.

Clearly, cops haven’t learned – as they arrested nine people during Faith Day this year:

‘Stop the deals before they take place’

Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) told the Canary:

On Thursday, people of all faiths and none put their bodies in the way of this trade in death and destruction. The religious services held at the gates were powerful testaments to people’s commitment to the principles of their faith and the need to act against this deadly trade.

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.

War starts with the deals done at the ExCeL centre. Campaigners are showing that we have the power to stop those deals before they take place.

All this is before DSEI has actually even begun. On Saturday 9 September, Stop The Arms Fair has organised its Festival of Resistance – an event which has in the past seen widespread disproportionate policing. So, in the coming days expect more heavy-handedness from cops, amid more protests from people committed to stopping DSEI.

Featured image via CAAT

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  • Show Comments
    1. The Corporate Oligarchy has invested public money in the death & destruction industry, which in my humble opinion just does not kill and main humans but also affects/destroys the planet’s microsystems and general health. There was a small study done after WW2 on the effects of the war on the planet. None has to my knowledge been carried out since the thousands of atomic weapon tests and continuing wars.

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