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.
Crowds of protesters gathered at the entrance to ensure that UWE were suitably embarrassed to be holding the event and that those entering were told they weren’t welcome on the campus or in our city. Some UWE students peacefully entered the arms conference and staged a die-in. They were threatened with arrest for trespassing on their own university.
The protest continued around campus letting students know what was being held in their space and banners were displayed at each entrance. Arms dealers and the likes of these companies will be greeted by the same response at future events at UWE.
For more information and to show your support see:
Bristol Against the Arms Trade’s Response to UWE’s “this is not an arms fair”
UWE’s statements: Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor for the University of the West of England, insisted the exhibition “is not an arms fair”. He said: “The exhibitors at this conference do not have any form of munitions, weaponry, artillery or hazardous military equipment on site. It is not University policy to support arms fairs. The conference and exhibition focuses on helping the management of procurement projects for the defence industry, a key sector in the British economy.”
University spokesman, Keith Hicks commented, “It is our policy not to support arms fairs. This is not an arms fair. This is a conference that promotes project management of large procurement projects and supply chain management. The University is also not a sponsor of the conference or involved besides the rental of the space.”
Our response: Although Keith Hicks and Steve West are keen to assert that DPRTE is not an arms fair, they have either been naively sucked in by the arms industry’s misleading jargon, or are knowingly complicit in covering up the university’s vested interest in the arms trade.
The statement that it “promotes project management of large procurement projects and supply chain management” is true, but meaningless because it avoids saying what is being procured, and what the chain is supplying – a quick look at their website show that they themselves promote it as a “defence showcase”. Our concern is not that there were “munitions, weaponry, artillery or hazardous military equipment on site”, we were not concerned about being blown up or shot at on campus that day. Our concern is that companies producing such products, and other less obvious items, were meeting to continue ‘business as usual’, that networking at these events is a crucial step in the supply chain of products that end up facilitating and fueling war and destruction.
The DPRTE event invites corporations to network, share knowledge and “showcase the latest technologies”. The list of attending companies includes BAE (the world’s 3rd largest arms company), Raytheon (bombs, guided bomb systems, tomahawks and other military equipment used in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon), Roke Manor Research (who produced tear gas used in the Arab Spring) and Babcock (who refurbished the UK’s nuclear submarine). Many smaller companies, who may not yet be producing weapons, are clearly attending in the hope of increasing their chances of getting profitable contracts.
Keith may be right in stating that UWE is not a sponsor of this conference – however, UWE has consistently showed its support of the arms industry – in March UWE sponsored the president of Boeing to give a talk; UWE has invited arms companies such as Airbus, Babcock and Boeing to its careers fairs and UWE’s engineering department is proud to play an “important part” in developing the global market of aerospace technology, and boasts “increasing activity” in Unmaned Aerial Vehicles (drones).
UWE’s willingness to rent its facilities to this event are yet another indication of its involvement in the arms trade and lack of ethical conscience. UWE students are starting to ask questions about their university’s relationship with the arms industry, and despite UWE’s attempts to keep this hidden, there is a growing student movement taking action.