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A distinguished address? Arms dealers speech targeted by activists

Activists in Bristol have been busy, and this October succeeded in chasing an chasing an arms fair out of their town. But it seems one arms event just wasn’t enough for Bristol’s arms dealers. The day after the protest at the arms fair in Cardiff, the CEO of QinetiQ was in Bristol speaking to students as part of the University of West England’s “Distinguished Address Series”. Luckily, Bristol Against Arms Trade were waiting, and activist Aly Vernon explains what happened next.IMG_1495

QinetiQ work mainly on military technology – they make weapons, guidance systems, military aircraft- but also branch out into surveillance & security technologies (including technologies considered for ID cards) and ‘energetic materials’ (i.e. explosives). QinetiQ make a mint supplying arms to the beheading-regime in Saudi Arabia and run the UK Drones test centre in Aberporth, West Wales, where they test the Israeli-developed drones that have killed hundreds in Gaza.

At a time when Bristol prepares to celebrate its Green Capital status in 2015, residents and UWE students were keen to show the business of death is not welcome in our city and staged a protest outside our City Hall where the event was being held. IMG_1496We engaged with the many passers by on the busy main street at rush hour, assisted by a couple of Grim Reapers. Over 50 letters to the council were signed against arms trade events being held in the council building.

As the demo was ending, Bristol’s elected Mayor George Ferguson had the decency to come down to speak to us. Whilst refusing to give a concrete pledge to stop the council building being used for such talks in the future, Ferguson did admit to being “spiritually on your side” and welcomed a follow up conversation on turning Bristol’s “swords to ploughshares”. Bristol Against the Arms Trade will be taking him up on this offer and plan on turning his rhetoric into action.

Want to get involved with Bristol Against Arms Trade? Email bristolagainstarmstrade(at)gmail*com to get in touch.

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