“We are everywhere”

Challenging arms dealers in London and Seoul

This week I watched a video that really made my day. It was  made by activists in South Korea who had taken action against the ‘Seoul International Aerospace & Defence Exhibition’ – also known as the ADEX arms fair.

The video made me the happiest I’ve felt in a long time about taking action against the arms trade. This wasn’t just because it was a great video with impressive actions, catchy music and a cheeky cameo by Arnie Schwarzenegger, but rather because as I was watching it, quite a few of the actions were familiar to me.

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Arms Companies Not Welcome at UWE

A protester sits on top of a closed gate to UWE with a "Bristol Against the Arms Trade" poster
Arms dealers access to the site was somewhat impeded by the protest

Companies attending Wednesday’s ‘Defence, Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportation’ event were greeted by queues trailing back along the A4174 as protesters blocked the UWE North Entrance. One gate was eventually locked and attendees forced to use other entrances.

Later, as they approached the building, attendees were accompanied to the door of UWE’s Exhibition and Conference Centre by protesters letting them know who would be attending the event; the likes of Raytheon (bombs in Iraq, missiles in Gaza), Babcock (nuclear submarines), Chemring (teargas used in the Arab Spring) and our good friends BAE Systems.
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Sending arms dealers to the Tower?

Have arms dealers realised the error of their ways and sent themselves to the Tower of London in penance? Sadly it seems not.

tower of london eventInstead the Tower is to host “one of the most prominent events in the defence and security calendar”: a lavish £200-a-head dinner, organised by the London Chamber of Commerce (LCC).

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One less venue for arms dealers

Campaigners celebrate with a banner saying 'arms dealers NOT here today'
We were there to greet them, but where were the arms dealers? Turns out direct action at the last arms dealers’ breakfast at the Savile Club was enough to put them off!

In July, the Chamber of Commerce hosted a Defence Breakfast at the Savile Club in Mayfair.

The event promised to help arms dealers “…expand your network of contacts and promote your business…”. It is part of a series of gatherings which let arms dealers meet with each other and their customers, often buyers from repressive regimes.

A group of activists turned up and blocked the entrances, keeping the arms dealers from their croissants and seriously disrupting the opportunity for schmoozing.

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How London Gezi linked to CAAT

Placard with a red heart on it reads 'Unite today for Turkey', held against the London skyline and a cloudy sky
London Gezi solidarity flashmob, July ’13

A group of people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds and political views came together during the Gezi -Taksim resistance. They did not and do not represent a political party or any other organization. In support of the Gezi movement they organised flashmobs, protests, workshops, and started to interact with other international solidarity groups. As part of this we came across CAAT. At the first CAAT meeting we attended, we realised we have many reasons in common to protest the arms fair.

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Birth defects: Iraq’s toxic legacy

Paediatrician Dr Samira Alaani examining another case at Fallujah General Hospital.
Paediatrician Dr Samira Al’aani examining another case at Fallujah General Hospital.

During the occupation of Iraq, the city of Fallujah bore witness to some of the most intense US combat operations since Vietnam, with 2004’s Operation Phantom Fury widely condemned for its ferocity and disregard for international law.

Paediatrician Dr Samira Al’aani has worked in the city since 1997. In 2006 she began to notice an increase in the number of babies being born with congenital birth defects (CBD). Concerned, she began to log the cases that she saw. Through careful record keeping she has determined that at Fallujah General Hospital, 144 babies are now born with a deformity for every 1000 live births.

This is nearly six times higher than the average rate in the UK between 2006 and 2010, and one strong suspicion is that contamination from the toxic constituents of munitions used by occupying forces could be the cause.

Now a new nationwide study by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), has the potential to catalyse efforts to understand and confront the issue, but only if science can be allowed to rise above politics. For years there have been huge problems with funding, political bias and delays. Continue reading “Birth defects: Iraq’s toxic legacy”

Salt water, wheels and a sprint – my mission to end the arms trade

Rebecca with her toddler Ivy on her bike trailer - getting in practice for the Sprint Triathlon.
Rebecca with her toddler Ivy on her bike trailer – getting in practice for the Sprint Triathlon.

It’s true. I care more about peace and fair food than I do about my own fitness or figure.

I am utterly in awe of people that run…swim… cycle… simply for the joy of it. What is THAT about?! When I do something ludicrous, it has to be oddly attached to some sort of cause.

And why is one of those causes Campaign Against Arms Trade – CAAT? Well, sorry to the marvellous team who do wonderful publicity, but my boyfriend has just hit on the best way of describing CAAT’s aims… Continue reading “Salt water, wheels and a sprint – my mission to end the arms trade”

Bradford activists contact Yorkshire exhibitors at world’s largest arms fair

Bradford activists write to local arms firms - July 2013. Credit: Andrew Dey
Bradford activists write to local arms firms – July 2013.
Credit: Andrew Dey

A group from Bradford’s JustSpace community has written to over 30 companies around Yorkshire, including several from Bradford, expressing concern about their participation in the world’s largest arms fair. The DSEI weapons expo takes place every two years at the Excel centre in London’s Docklands. Continue reading “Bradford activists contact Yorkshire exhibitors at world’s largest arms fair”

The loneliness of the half marathon runner

Ready to run; Kat does her own half-marathon.
Ready to run; Kat does her own half-marathon.

In the new year, I signed up for the East London Half Marathon, to be held on 14 April.  It was 13.2 miles; the farthest I’ve ever run. I started volunteering in the office of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) when the DSEI arms fair came to East London in 2011, so with the arms dealers returning this autumn and some exciting plans afoot to disrupt the 2013 DSEI arms fair, it seemed appropriate to be raising money and running in the East End.

I was very excited, and spent most of February and March running around Hackney in thermal running tights, and enthusiastically describing new knee stretches I’d learnt to my friends in the pub. (They were not impressed.)

In my head, I was a running super hero, an athlete, and destined for sporting greatness. Or at the very least, destined for a souvenir T-shirt. Continue reading “The loneliness of the half marathon runner”

Do we know where our weapons are aimed?

Do we know where your weapons are aimed?
Do you know where our weapons are aimed?

This is the translation of the message in the final scene of this video (see still above). It was made by activists from NESEHNUTÍ and is part of their campaign to raise awareness of the Czech arms trade. I met with NESEHNUTÍ activists in May when I was invited to participate in Different Fest, their anti-arms trade festival, to represent Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

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