In the UK, South Korea and New Zealand, activists have been taking action against the global arms trade.
I had barely recovered from the marathon of activism against the DSEI arms fair in September, when I found myself on a plane to Seoul, South Korea: to take action against the ADEX arms fair. I joined activists from five continents for a gathering organised by the Korean anti-militarist group World Without War and the international network War Resisters International.
For four days, we heard about the different ways people are impacted by the military-industrial complex and are taking action against it; from challenging the creeping militarisation of policing in the US, to the movement for independence in West Papua, to the campaign against the US naval base on South Korea’s Jeju Island. Coming from different contexts but united in our goal to stop the war business, we shared stories, tactics and skills and found new ways of linking our struggles and strengthening our movement.
An international gathering of anti-militarist activists would not be complete without an action! And so the night before the ADEX arms fair was due to open, we descended on the Marriott Hotel to disrupt the arm fair’s launch event. Arms dealers were greeted by banners in multiple languages and chants as they arrived at the hotel. Inside, a group of activists pulled out placards, flung blood money and chanted “Stop the arms trade”.
The next day a few of us paid a visit to the arms fair. Despite having spent years protesting against arms fairs on the outside, this was the first time I had been up-close to the deadly equipment. Many of the same companies that were at DSEI were in Seoul, including BAE Systems, Elbit and Lockheed Martin; and the UK arms sales department even had its own stand.
But ADEX didn’t go ahead unheeded, with Korean activists taking creative action inside the fair.
I got back to London feeling excited about the links we had made and energised by the growing international movement. On my first, slightly jet-lagged, day back in the office, I logged into my emails to find a message from activists in New Zealand! On 17 and 18 November, New Zealand is hosting its very own weapons conference and activists are going to try and stop it. Peace Action Wellington are planning a day of creative action and are organising several events in the run-up to the fair with similar themes to those we used to organise ahead of DSEI.
Arms fairs like DSEI bring us face to face with the arms trade and give us a tangible target on our doorstep. The depravity of the arms industry is laid bare as dictators are courted and human rights abusing regimes are brought together with the companies supplying weapons. In challenging something as powerful and pervasive as the military-industrial complex, it can be hard to know where to start; to feel like you’re having an impact, and to visualise an end to it. But shutting down these arms fairs will bring us one step closer towards putting an end to the international arms trade. After taking action in South Korea alongside activists from around the world; blocking armoured vehicles with hundreds of people for the sixth day running in London, and seeing the way we continue to inspire each others struggles, it feels like we can win.
- If you are on Twitter, you can support the protests against the Wellington arms fair by signing up to the ThunderClap and following #StopWeaponsConf for updates.
- Stop the Arms Fair is organising a solidarity action at the New Zealand High Commission in London on 16 November at 18.00. See Stop the Arms Fair’s events page for more information and share the Facebook event.