Hundreds of protesters have disrupted the set-up of the one of world's largest arms fairs. Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) is due to open at the ExCeL Centre in East London tomorrow, starting with a day-long drone conference.
Protesters have stopped vehicle access to the Eastern entrance, which was being used to bring weaponry into the exhibition and a camp has been set up. Blockades are also in place at the Western entrance. Further actions are planned.
'Occupy vs. the Arms Fair', was called by Occupy London as part of Stop the Arms Fair's week of action. It is supported by Campaign Against Arms Trade and solidarity protesters from Algeria, Bahrain, Brazil and Turkey.
An Occupy activist said:
The weapons companies and militaries responsible for the civilians killed on the streets of Bahrain and Egypt, for those killed in drone attacks, and even for arming Assad, will be in London. We're taking action to stand in their way, to bring down the government support for the arms fair and to take on those who profit from conflict and repression.
Sarah Waldron of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said:
The arms fair is preparing to welcome some of the most authoritarian regimes in the world and those who profit from their brutality. The deals done here fuel death, injury, fear and repression — yet instead of banning it, the government helps make it happen. We are here to resist it: to stand in solidarity with the people facing the deadly consequences of its weapons and do what we can to stop this obscene event continuing.
- The 'Occupy vs. the Arms Fair' action on Sunday is called by Occupy London, marking nearly two years since the
Occupy movement set up its camp near St Paul's cathedral. It is supported by Campaign Against Arms Trade, Stop the
Arms Fair coalition and others. It launches a week of action against the arms fair:
- Monday, 9 September, will see a "Say No to the Game of Drones" protest. There will a siilent vigil outside ExCeL in the evening.
- On Tuesday 10 September protesters will "greet the arms dealers" as they arrive at the ExCeL Centre.
- On Wednesday 11 September there will be a wreath laying at the nearby docks.
- Thursday 12 September will see a Critical Mass bike ride to the arms dealers' dinner and a protest outside Parliament where a debate will take place on the role of UK Trade & Investment whose Defence & Security Organisation, the government's arms sales unit, is hosting DSEI.
- The London arms fair, Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) takes place from 10-13 September, with a drones conference and a naval conference on the 9 September in the same venue. DSEI is a key event in the international arms trade. It has been held every two years since 2001 at the ExCeL Centre in Newham, East London.
- In 2013 DSEI will see 1,400 exhibitors from around the world, displaying arms ranging from rifles to tanks to fighter jets to battleships. CAAT has developed an arms company map which displays names, address and other information on UK based companies exhibiting at DSEI and other arms exhibitions.
- 30,000 'trade' visitors are expected to attend DSEI. These include arms dealers, and military delegations,
including countries involved in conflict and from human rights abusing regimes, as well as those with desperately
underfunded development needs. The fair will host:
- The company which supplies 78% of Assad's conventional weaponry.
- The companies which manufactured the tear gas which has killed and injured protesters in Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, Brazil and elsewhere.
- About half of the world's militaries. The government has refused to reveal the list of countries it has invited until the fair begins, presumably for fear of negative publicity this will cause, but the list from DSEI 2011 reveals that countries in conflict and those the UK Foreign Office classifies as 'of concern' for human rights, are invited in great numbers.
- The company which in 2009 and 2011 was found guilty of promoting illegal cluster munitions at the fair.
- DSEI is organised by Clarion Events, a private company, and UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTO DSO), the UK government body that provides support for arms companies in their export-related activities. This includes promoting weapons sales worldwide, including to countries in conflict and regimes with a documented record of human rights abuse.
- UKTI DSO has refused to release the list of military delegations it has invited to DSEI until 10 September, when the arms fair opens its doors. However, of the 63 countries invited in 2011 least 15 had serious conflict and human rights concerns or urgent development needs. CAAT has recently been informed by the FCO that they "are unaware of Egypt having been invited" to DSEI 2013, however it is very likely that other countries involved in military repression of civilians will attend as guests of the UK government.