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Tikiri reports on some of the events and actions which took place at the Eurosatory arms "exhibition" in France in June.

Eurosatory 2002: arms trader gathering

One of the special guests at Eurosatory this year was Mr Kalashnikov. His world famous invention - the Kalashnikov sub-machine gun - is now used in most conflicts across the globe. These same conflicts are what companies such as the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), GIAT Industries, British Aerospace Systems (BAeS), and so on, need in order to keep global defence expenditures on the increase - and thus their profits. This is probably why Mr Kalashnikov, a venerable 83-year-old, was a special guest at Eurosatory this year.

Around one hundred activists also tried to invite themselves to the opening of the exhibition on Monday 17 June. But many of us were stopped at the nearest train station by the police. Therefore, as we couldn't go further, we obliged many of the delegates and visitors to pass through our banners, walk over our “dead bodies” and under our shouts of protest; their feet were soaked in fake blood. Some of them politely took stickers reading “shut down Eurosatory” and “arms traders: out”.

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Die-in at the railway station PHOTO: RACHEL HAND

Later that day, 14,000 petitions asking for the closure of Eurosatory and an end to the arms trade were handed in to the French ministry of defence. A banner reading “Fermons Eurosatory” was dropped from the Eiffel Tower and remained there for half an hour.

Peaceful but angry!

The next day a number of different actions took place. Around 80 activists went to la COGES, the body in charge of the Eurosatory exhibition. As there was nobody there, we informed the passers-by and were thinking we would move on when the police arrived in numbers and surrounded most of us. Half an hour later, 52 of us were in a police station basement.

The same day, 20 people, including a street theatre company, were showing off in the rue de Rivoli by the Louvre museum. Soon after, dead bodies were drawn on the pavement and flyers given out and 15 were arrested while others were able to disperse without capture!

Later, peace activists from faith groups (including Quakers, Arche, Pax Christi) were walking gently, one behind the other, staying on the pavement. This was not “peaceful” enough for the police and all of them were arrested!

At 6pm, there were still a few activists by the Louvre museum to welcome the 3,000 VIP exhibitors and delegates who had been invited to a banquet by the French ministry of defence and paid for with tax-payers money. Unfortunately, the police were also there in large numbers and in the end we could only be far from the rush of taxis and big cars queuing for the fancy meal. Activists who got too close to the arriving delegates were arrested, including two tourists who had nothing to do with the demo.

To our surprise, the heavy security had somehow left the exit from the venue's underground car park unguarded, and high ranking military officers and their wives, and groups of corporate VIPs, found themselves in the middle of a peaceful, but still angry, crowd. Inside the museum, staff showed their disapproval of the event with a rain of flyers falling from the sky in the reception room.

What kind of “security”?

The “Fermons Eurosatory” collective - responsible for much of the organising of protest at the event - was a bit frustrated after these two days of action. We definitely failed to raise public consciousness on the dirty business hidden behind the “Defence Industry Exhibition”. On the other hand, we did show the arms traders that they can't do their business without activists being concerned and disturbing them.

We also showed over the following days that we were able to introduce leaflets into the exhibition centre without being noticed - that these so called specialists can't even secure their own exhibition site, while they pretend offer “security” to the whole world!

More than 100 activists got a free ride to the police station for an ID check, lasting from 30 minutes to more than four hours. Being out on the streets and showing some kind of opposition to the arms trade was the only reason for these checks. Are we frightening them?

Tikiri works with French antimilitarist magazine Le Rire

Topics: Arms trade | Europe