I had a sort of New Year resolution not to write about the “Defence Systems & Equipment International Exhibition” (DSEI) arms fair for a while and focus on other issues.
I have changed my mind for two reasons.
Firstly, there is a rumour going round that 2007 was the last DSEI arms fair. Would that it were so, but it is too early to rejoice.
Bill, who runs the CafÃ© which is the regular meeting place of East London Against the Arms Fair (ELAAF), is getting weary of responding to all the people ringing him up with congratulations for getting the arms fairs cancelled.
It ain't over until the fat cats sing a lament (or maybe I should say until the musical protestors stop singing).
There has been some progress towards cancellation.
The conglomerate Reed Elsevier, which owns the company which organises the arms fair, are trying to sell it because it is not ethically compatible with their other concerns. At the time of writing no other company has yet bought it.
The government office (DESO) which supported arms exports has closed.
It also appears that some charities, organisations and companies that used to book events at ExCel, London's largest conference centre, have moved to other venues because it hosts DSEI.
However at the most recent arms fair, we saw an ExCel poster inviting the arms dealers back for DSEI in September 2009. This invitation has since been repeated on the DSEI website.
Whoever organises the threatened arms fair, ExCel are determined to host it.
ELAAF, CAAT, Disarm DSEI and others are determined that it shall not take place anywhere.
More supporters are needed between 1pm-3pm on Saturday 2 February at an ELAAF musical protest outside the ExCel centre. From Custom House DLR station, just follow the signs to ExCel.
The other reason I want to write about the 2007 arms fair is that several protesters, myself included, were arrested.
Some cases have been dismissed, with “no case to answer”, or no evidence presented, or just not proceeded with, and some are continuing into February.
I am very grateful for all the wonderful support in my own case. I have not been able to individually thank everyone who has given support.
However I am very conscious that the privilege of having access to a fair trial in open court was granted to me because of my race.
That is a shocking realisation for someone who would like to believe in equal justice for all.
One person arrested at the arms fair was deported before any of us were even brought to trial.
Jefferson P. da Silva, aged 27, formerly of Leyton in East London, may have been as innocent of any wrongdoing as the rest of us, but, simply because of his immigration status (that is having been born in the wrong place at the wrong time), he was given no chance to prove it.