Arms dealers are busy people. If they’re not burning the midnight oil securing the next dirty deal, they are likely schmoozing and networking at fancy industry events and receptions, dining on three-course meals, feasting on banquets and enjoying the company of other high net worth individuals.
And the story was no different last month, on Wednesday 22nd January, when arms dealers convened at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House hotel for the annual Aerospace, Defence and Security (ADS) dinner, which brings together arms dealers, MPs and military personnel to schmooze, swill champagne, and feast on expensive food. At the same time, 14 million Yemeni people are at risk of famine, starved as a result of the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing of their country. Many of the bombs are made by the arms companies present, and have been sold with the support of the politicians in attendance.
Over 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed since war in Yemen broke out in 2015, including 12,000 civilians in directly targeted attacks. The war in Yemen has caused one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The UK government is directly involved in causing this suffering; only legal action from CAAT has forced the government to review arms sales to Saudi. Meanwhile, UK-made planes are dropping UK-made bombs in Yemen, and UK arms sold to Turkey have been used in the decimation of the Kurds. UK arms sales fuel death, destruction and violence across the globe.
A number of activists and came together on a bitingly cold January night to make our resistance known. As well as chants and songs, messages of solidarity were read out, reminding us of why it is imperative we insist to those dining that they cannot eat in peace, whilst being responsible for suffering and wickedness.
Will never be
As with previous years, ADS has managed to keep the guest list a tight-lipped secret, meaning as yet we are not clear on the exact politicians and representatives who attended, however, we were thrilled to successfully dissuade Clare Balding from being this year’s keynote speaker, to the dismay of a few attendees (see: #ClareFail on Twitter).
Other highlights of this year included the presence of young people from Woodcraft folk dressed as Grim Reapers, in-keeping with our ‘dining with death’ theme. We also riled up a few arms dealers on their cigarette breaks, who were insistent that actually they are ‘reasonable human beings’ working in ‘engineering’.
Shame on you!
Nothing much is certain in these uncertain times, but we can guarantee that so long as arms dealers dine in London annually, we’ll be right there challenging them, adding an awkward – if not bitter – taste to their banquet.
Blog post written by Siana – Training & Events Co-ordinator at Campaign Against Arms Trade
Want to see more images from our ADS dinner action last month? Check out the full album on Facebook by clicking here: ADS 2020 Album