One day: many actions

IssueMarch 2007
Feature by Emily Apple

From 11 to 14 September, DSEi (Defence Systems Equipment International), the world's largest arms fair, returns to East London's ExCeL Centre.

Despite massive local opposition, and a huge bill to the taxpayer, arms dealers will once again be free to deal in death and destruction. “Stop the War” (whichever war) is useless sloganeering unless it is accompanied by a commitment to stopping the global arms trade. No wars will ever stop whilst weapon sales are a booming capitalist business worth in the region of US$40 billion a year.

Previously at DSEi...

In 2005, DSEi hosted 1,100 companies, 70 official military delegation, and 20,000 visitors from across the globe. Many of the countries invited were at war, some with each other. Many were dictatorships with appalling human rights records. Many had huge national debts with populations in severe states of poverty and starvation.

After a period of reflection and debate over what has and has not worked in the past, DISARM DSEi is launching its 2007 campaign. In calling for a day of consolidated action, DISARM DSEi hopes to co-ordinate one day with protests ranging from vigils and marches, to dancing and clowning, to smashing and invading.

Good protester, bad protester

In previous years, protests have been divided into separate days, with the first day traditionally being the nonviolent “fluffy” day and the second being the no guidelines “spiky” day. However DISARM DSEi believes this has both divided the strength of the possible impact upon DSEi and plays into the State's preferred tactic of divide and rule. It means we are automatically divided into “good” protester and “bad” protester.

Whilst DISARM realises this may cause controversy within some areas of the peace movement, who have always argued for separate days, DISARM also feel that this has been tried, and that it is time to attempt something new. There are no good or bad protesters. We are simply groups of people trying different ways and different tactics to shut down this deadly trade.

This still leaves room for different groups employing different tactics in different spaces. In this sense, DISARM are still acting as a coordinating group. They will help to advertise whatever protests people decide to call and liaise between different groups to ensure that, for example, families who want to take part in a baby bloc, are not in the same place as a group who are aiming to invade the ExCeL Centre.

DISARM DSEi also believe affinity group actions have been some of the most effective in terms of disruption of the fair, with people gaining entry and occupying tanks, and others blockading rail and roads. It is hoped small groups will take part in actions both on 11 September, and throughout the week of DSEi - both at the fair, and at the arms companies themselves.

Get involved

On the anniversary of 11 September 2001, arms traders will gather to fuel the war on terror and to make the world a more dangerous place. We need to be on the streets. We need to stop them.

The more people that get involved now, the bigger we can make the protests. DISARM DSEi is holding a public meeting in London on Saturday 28 April at 2pm. Location to be confirmed - see the next PN, or contact DISARM for more information.

Come along and find out how you can make a difference in stopping this horrific fair.

Note, there may be police photographers outside this meeting and you may wish to wear a scarf in this cold weather.