Arms fairs: a great time to show opposition to the death trade

IssueMarch - June 2002
Comment by Tikiri

Arms traders spread suffering and death wherever they can profit from it. Their political and lobbying power has a huge impact on the violence committed by states and paramilitaries within states all over the world.

Like many other monsters, arms traders don't really like the spotlight. Fortunately for them the mainstream media rarely provides detailed accounts of the realities behind contracts signed between company managers from so-called human rights upholding countries, or of their customers rushing to try out their new toys on their victims bodies.

However, a few times a year, the company managers of the arms industry don't even hide their dirty business: they exhibit it! Which is why arms trade exhibitions and company AGMs provide great opportunities to show our opposition to the arms trade.

In Europe, the two biggest arms exporting countries are France and Britain. This probably accounts for why they also host the main arms trade exhibitions Farnborough International and DSEi in Britain, and Le Salon du Bourget and Eurosatory in France.

June 2002, France

This year Eurosatory will take place between 17 and 20 June. It is the biggest exhibition of land and air armaments in the world. During the last Eurosatory in 2000, the organisers welcomed 840 exhibitors from 39 countries and 52,000 visitors, even though this kind of exhibition is not open to the general public.

At Eurosatory, the buying countries can find everything needed for committing mass murder: from small arms to heavy tanks and guided missiles. Undemocratic governments find themselves very much at home here and, if the generals want to discuss their business needs, Eurosatory offers them a whole networking structure which, in turn, helps to ensure that the industrialists get their slice of the worlds enormous military budgets.

Similar to the Disarm the Trade group working against DSEi in Britain, antimilitarist and grassroots organisations in France have been working together to stop the arms trade since 1998. Calling themselves Fermons Eurosatory, it has provided a great boost to the protests against Eurosatory.

British activists join in

Since 1998, the British group Campaign Against Arms Trade have taken part in protests against Eurosatory. They will do so again this year, by organising to enable British activists to join in the actions and demonstrations in Paris. This year, two initiatives are being planned to stop Eurosatory. One is being coordinated through the well-established group CANVA and will focus on holding a witness-bearing peace vigil throughout the exhibition. The second is being called by Fermons Eurosatory and, as in 1998 and 2000, will include a morning of noisy and colourful protests at the exhibition gate on the opening day. The next day will see a range of nonviolent direct actions. Of course, plans wont be revealed here and now, but, to give you an example: in 1998 the Eurocopter office in Paris was occupied, and in 2000 it was the turn of Lagardères head office.

In previous years the collective has also disturbed the social event under the Louvres pyramid to which 3,000 arms traders and customers had been invited (an event paid for by the French state). The collective has demonstrated both in front of the pyramid and also inside where some of the museum workers expressed their disapproval of death trade taking place within their walls. When organised by affinity groups, these kind of NVDAs can be performed either autonomously, or as more open activities which welcome participation by others.

Public meetings and benefit gigs are due to take place during the weekend before this years Eurosatory. So, once again, lets make sure the arms dealers cant carry out their dirty business without being disturbed.

Topics: Arms trade, Europe