Yesterday around 200 arms dealers from the ‘defence’ sector of the aerospace industry and their guests (military ‘top brass’ and high-ranking officials from the Ministry of Defence and foreign embassies) gathered for a dinner. At these events companies that manufacture and sell weapons entertain their clients, network and promote their deadly wares. Seven supporters of London Campaign Against Arms Trades and East London Against Arms Fairs went along to remind them of their victims.
Dressed in our smartest clothes (it is amazing what a suit will do!) we entered the plush surroundings of the Institute of Directors in Pall Mall. Once inside the double doors, four of us sat down with arms linked to block the entrance. For the next half hour, the arms dealers and all those entering had to climb over us, while we told them that we were there to protest against the export of arms to regimes that abuse human rights. Two of us went off to block a second door, while the other two lay across the main entrance. The security guards talked about ‘health and safety’. What about the ‘health and safety’ of those peaceful protestors killed and injured in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and other countries where UK companies have sold arms to brutal regimes that kill their own people?
Eventually the police arrived (perhaps they are not too keen on people selling weapons either!) and politely asked us to leave. We then displayed our banner outside. Let us hope that the Institute of Directors will think twice before hosting another such event.
Meanwhile two of us had walked confidently into the dining room and left ‘calling cards’, in the form of photos of victims of conflict, on the tables. It should have been a good dinner (at £170 a head), but let us hope that some of the guests lost their appetite at being reminded of the victims of their shameful trade.