In the morning of Tuesday 8th September CAAT supporters arrived from all over the UK to gather at the west entrance of the Excel Centre to call for an end of the DSEi arms fair. The weather was obviously on CAAT's side: the sun was shining brightly all day. Arms dealers on their way to the arms fair were greeted by chanting and singing protesters waving banners and placards, demanding an end to the deadly arms trade and an end of the DSEi arms fair.
Soon two traditional routemaster buses turned up, proudly carrying CAAT's campaign message “End the DSEi arms fair, close down UKTI DSO”. They received a warm welcome by the protesters. In an encouraging speech Sarah Waldron, CAAT's core campaign coordinator pointed out how government department, UKTI DSO, uses taxpayers' money to make the DSEi arms fair happen.
After taking some more pictures the protesters hopped on the buses for a tour through London. During the drive to the UKTI DSO offices, we had a guided tour pointing out some of the nastier places in London and their connections to the arms trade. After several tours around Parliament Square we finally arrived at “Arms”gatehouse on Victoria Street, the headquarters of UKTI DSO.
Within minutes we set up a jolly fayre, with the beautiful red buses in the background. CAAT supporters began leafleting, engaging passers-by to have some “armless” fun at our fayre and asking them to sign our petition to close down UKTI DSO.
Soon you could see people with painted faces “decommissioning” scary looking ducks (representing some of the bigger arms companies exhibiting at DSEi) or trying their luck in the unlucky dip, where they received information about the country delegations which UKTI DSO invited to DSEi.
There was also a big white elephant (n. a useless object, maintained at great cost) symbolising UKTI DSO. People could write their personal messages on doves and stick them to the elephant to let UKTI DSO know what they think about their support for the arms trade and for DSEi.
On the picture above you can see CAAT supporter Mary Holmes handing in the names of thousands of people who support the campaign – collected thanks to the efforts of CAAT's local groups.
All in all it was a great day. CAAT supporters demonstrated their rejection of the DSEi arms fair and UKTI DSO's support for it. They showed that it is not legitimate to invite human rights abusers, warring states and countries with desperate development needs to this deadly arms fair and they also made it clear that taxpayers' money should not be spent on supporting the arms trade.