London CAAT met at 11am today to start our “Central London Arms Trade Crawl” outside BAE’s headquarters. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in this first leg we were emphasising the corrupt nature of the trade in death in our home city. The secluded Carlton Gardens, where the firm that the government won’t allow to be investigated for corruption shares a building with investment bankers, is a few hundred metres from Buckingham Palace. Crime evidently pays very well.
After forty minutes of chatting with and handing out leaflets to some of the people coming in and out of the building and those around it we began the short journey to the far busier Haymarket. At noon we were outside New Zealand House, which houses the offices of Land Rover Leyland International Holdings, the parent company of Ashok, which agreed to sell military trucks to Sudan despite the embargo there. The focus here was on the indiscriminate nature of the trade and the mention of Darfur was a definite catalyst for passers by to agree to sign our petition.
A short walk across Trafalgar Square with our placards brought us some more attention and interest and we started our 1am protest outside Matra BAE Dynamics (MBDA) on the Strand. Like the previous location, we got interest from normal Londoners as well as some of those who unknowingly worked in the same building as Europe’s largest missile company. With a focus on the fact that Alan Garwood – the present head of DESO – was seconded from MBDA, we were protesting against the fact that the arms trade is part of the UK establishment and calling for the closure of DESO.
In keeping with the theme of a “crawl”, our final stop was for refreshments at The Chandos, a favourite post-demo pub partly owing to its proximity to Trafalgar Square. Everyone felt the event had gone well: we spoke to people about companies they did not know were there and about issues in the news. We are all hoping that measurable success will be achieved with new members joining the London CAAT group we launched with this event. There was also much discussion about what to do next, a decision which you could perhaps influence.