A week of action against the DSEi arms fair

IssueOctober 2009
News by David Polden

Between 8-11 September the ExCeL Centre in London’s Docklands hosted the Defence Services Equipment International exhibition (DSEi), the world’s largest arms fair.

The day before the arms fair proper began, a connected “UK Defence Conference” was held at the QEII conference centre in Westminster. Before this started, Christian peace activist Chris Cole sprayed “Build Peace, not War Machines” across the doors and “arms trade = death” on the steps. Chris, director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (England) was charged with £2,000 worth of criminal damage. His bail excludes him from entering the M25 (the greater London area).

Later that same day, Dan Viesnik shackled himself to the police pen outside the conference, and began a five-day hunger strike (see p12), and on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth, a CND supporter used their hour to set up an installation entitled: “Never mind art – disarm the arms trade.”

Day of action
On 8 September, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) hired a couple of old London buses to bus demonstrators from the ExCeL centre to a lively protest at the Victoria Street offices of UK Trade and Investment, which provides government support to the arms trade.

Also on 8 September, a 200-strong march organised by “Disarm DSEi” assembled outside RBS in Aldgate and marched into the City to the offices of Barclays, HSBC, Legal & General, Lloyds, BT and AXA, to expose the role of these banks in financing the arms trade.

They hung banners, threw shoes Iraqi-style, invaded BT’s offices, caused damage to AXA’s windows and doors, and threw paint bombs. The police throughout refrained from intervening.

The following day, at 8.30am, London Catholic Workers Katrina Alton and Martin Newell poured red paint, representing the blood of the arms fair’s victims, on to a sign advertising DSEi at the arms fair’s main pedestrian entrance. They raised a banner reading: “Forgive them Father; they know not what they do” and remained kneeling in prayer for 45 minutes before being arrested for criminal damage.

East London Against the Arms Fair, CAAT and Disarm DSEi also organised musical protests, tours of financial institutions that finance the arms trade, a silent vigil at the arms fair, banner drops, a memorial procession, and an angry noise demo outside the DSEi delegates’ banquet at the Park Lane Hilton as dinner was being held. 10 arrests were made.