Racist State Violence: A US and UK Problem

Credit: Victoria Pickering, taken the morning after protests in Washington D.C. on 31st May.

The violent crackdown and use of rubber bullets and CS gas on peaceful protestors in the United States has shone a light on the increased militarisation of the police which is happening around the world. Tear gas, which can cause serious injuries, miscarriage, and even death, is a chemical weapon banned for use in war, yet it is widely used against civilians from Gaza to Minneapolis.

What is the UK’s role in all this?

Since 2010 the UK has licensed £2 million worth of Security and para-military police goods to the US police, and £18 million worth of ammunition sales to the US military and police, including crowd control ammunition, CS hand grenades, and tear gas. The USA is the second biggest buyer of UK arms in the world. 

UK licensing rules prohibit arms exports where there is a clear risk they might be used in internal repression.

Yet the UK has licensed tear gas to Hong Kong, which used UK-made tear gas against protesters in violent crackdowns in 2014 and 2019; to Egypt, where UK tear gas was used against protesters in Egypt’s Tahrir Square in 2011, aiding a bloody crackdown which killed over 800 people. It has been sold to Greece, where tear gas has been used against refugees, and to France, where tear gas was used against Black Lives Matter protesters in Paris. 

The UK doesn’t just license the sale of weaponry. It actively promotes the sale of crowd control equipment – and with it, the militarisation of policing – through multi-million pound arms fairs like the Defence and Security Equipment International. 

What can I do?

Call on the UK Government to end the licensing of arms to the US. 

The UK government should not be licensing this equipment, and increasing the militarisation of policing, anywhere. Right now, the public outcry against what is happening in the US gives us a window of opportunity to put pressure on. 

Call on the Government to cancel these licences and send a clear message against US state violence and racial injustice. 

Email your MP to stop arming the US now.

Use this moment to speak out against racism here too.

While the UK government can revoke arms export licences to send the US Government a message, it certainly does not have any moral high ground on the issues of state violence and racism. As we demand an end to the licensing of arms of the type used to shut down Black Lives Matter protests, and justice for George Floyd’s family, we must also recognise the need to address our own racism problem in the UK. 

For countless decades, black people have been fighting for an end to the deeply entrenched racial discrimination and inequality affecting the lives of black people and people of colour in the UK, rooted in our colonial past. From police violence, poorer health or education outcomes, to the inaction over the lives lost at Grenfell, or the focus of immigration detention and deportation policies on people of colour. As journalist Afua Hirsh puts it, the racism that killed George Floyd was built in Britain.

As well as the continued demands for justice of the people living the experience of racism every day, research from the Race Disparity Audit, the Lammy Review, the Equality Commission, and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Racism, E. Tendayi Achiume, all points to the same persistent exclusion and marginalisation of racial and ethnic minorities.

Find out more

The UK needs deep, structural change if we are to see true equality. And this begins with white people educating themselves and stepping up. If you are a white person wanting to find out more, or share information with other white people, here are a few places you could start. 

Learn more about state violence

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World military spending surges to new heights

Last year, as the world unknowingly stood on the brink of the worst international crisis since World War Two in the form of the Coronavirus pandemic, its nations stood very well prepared… for war.

According to data published today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military spending in 2019 amounted to at least $1,917 billion.

Continue reading “World military spending surges to new heights”

Coronavirus and the Arms Trade

We hope all CAAT’s supporters are well and keeping safe. A lot of CAAT’s work will be evolving over the coming months as we adapt to the current crisis. Staff are working remotely, local group meetings and activities are moving online, and we’re looking at how Covid-19 interlinks with our different areas of work.

Some parts of the arms trade are on hold too. The biennial arms fair at Farnborough, where weapons were due to be promoted to military buyers from around the world, has already been cancelled. But in other areas it’s important we maintain our scrutiny.

Increase in state powers and policing

From ramped up surveillance of citizens in China and Singapore to accusations of a racist, politicised response in Sri Lanka, governments globally are responding with measures that some fear could outlast the pandemic, and further harm marginalised groups. 

The UK Government’s COVID-19 Bill contains powers lasting two years which give police new rights to detain people. While this may make some feel safer, it’s a worrying move while people of colour are already subjected to disproportionate levels of detention and state violence in the UK. Read more about the new laws.

There is already evidence of ‘authoritarian leaders using the Covid-19 crisis to tighten their grip’ with the pandemic used to advance Orban’s power grab in Hungary – and the government’s control in Cambodia, while  teargas and other crowd-control equipment has been used to violently enforce controls.

Yemen 

As yet there are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 within Yemen, but five long years of catastrophic war have destroyed its healthcare system. Ahmed Aidarous, 36, a resident of the southwestern city of Taiz, told the Middle East Eye, “Advanced countries like America are unable to fight coronavirus so Yemen will be an easy victim for corona as there is no good health system or good leadership that can help.”

The Saudi-backed Yemeni government has closed schools and cancelled all flights, which had only just resumed for people who needed to leave the country to access healthcare abroad. Mwatana for Human Rights reports that at least 45 people had already lost their lives waiting for promised humanitarian flights to access healthcare.

We took action this month to mark five years of war in Yemen, and stand together in solidarity and resistance. While coronavirus means there is a risk that the  war is forgotten, it’s as important as ever that we keep up the pressure for peace and end UK arms sales.  

Borders

Protestors hold a banner saying 'Borders kill' at a demo outside the Home Office, February 2020
Activists protest the Home Office and its Hostile Environment policies, February 2020.

The first case of Covid-19 has been diagnosed at Yarl’s Wood, the immigration detention Centre in Bedford which holds survivors of torture and sexual violence, and where racist verbal, physical and sexual abuse have been reported. Already experiencing high levels of mental distress and self harm, now detainees face the risk of infection by Covid-19.

The Centre is run by the world’s 73rd largest arms company Serco Group, who work closely with the UK military sector, winning £92m of Ministry of Defence contracts in 2018. A legal case related to the health crisis forced the Government to release 300 detainees recently, but thousands remain detained across the UK. There have been over 30 deaths reported in UK immigration centres, and thousands of attempted suicides.

CAAT is developing its thinking around UK borders policy, as the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration strategy is part of a wider racist, state sponsored violence that keeps weapons flowing to countries where they predominantly harm people of colour.

It is also some of the same arms companies profiting from weapons sales causing many to flee their homes which profit again when they win lucrative contracts to provide security services and surveillance technologies at increasingly militarised borders. Find out more about the companies profiting twice. 

Arms to ventilators?

 In these turbulent and challenging times we will be looking for hope too – that in future when governments tell us things can’t change, we know that change can come almost overnight when the political will is there. 

Rolls Royce, who produce military aircraft engines, and aerospace companies like Airbus which profit from the sale of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, have been called on by the UK government to help produce components for ventilators in the fight against coronavirus. The case for moving our engineering skills from industries that take lives to ones that save them has never been stronger.

Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, recently called government economic stimulus packages in response to the coronavirus crisis as “a historic opportunity” to tackle the climate emergency.  “This is a huge opportunity we cannot miss,” he said. “Here the issue is not only the level of money but the direction of the money”.

Find out more about the call to convert jobs in arms manufacturing to greener, more socially useful industries in the New Lucas Plan

A small hand sewn banner reads 'Choose people', hung at the DSEI arms fair week of action, 2019
A banner at the DSEI arms fair week of action, 2019.

Rethinking ‘security’

We can also see more than ever that our security is not advanced by wars, or by spending billions on nuclear weapons systems and aircraft carriers, but by building fairer societies that support the most vulnerable, and by investing in our public services like the NHS and social care.

Let’s work together to ensure that out of this crisis we create a Just Recovery, and build a world where real human needs, are prioritised.

Thank you for your support in 2019

Thank you for every petition you signed, every gift you gave, every action you took part in this year. Here are some of the year’s highlights in our fight together for a more just and peaceful world.

Reasons to feel hopeful in 2020

1. CAAT win at the Court of Appeal  

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, crowd and outdoor
Campaigners celebrate outside the Royal Courts Of Justice, London. PHOTO: Darren Johnson

On 20 June, CAAT won its appeal against the UK government’s decision to license the export of military equipment to Saudi Arabia. The Court of Appeal concluded that it was ‘irrational and therefore unlawful‘ for the Secretary of State for International Trade to have granted licences without making any assessment as to whether violations of international humanitarian law had taken place.

As a result of this landmark decision, the government must retake all decisions to export arms to Saudi in accordance with the law. It has stopped issuing new arms exports licences to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt, for use in Yemen

The Government is appealing the Court’s decision, so we will bring you news when we have it. In the meantime, 57 applications for export licences under consideration at the time of the ruling mean hundreds of millions of pounds of arms sales remain on hold, and a new £10 billion deal for the sale of 48 more BAE Systems’ Eurofighter Typhoon jets, agreed in March 2018, has not yet been finalised.

2. DPRTE arms fair on the run

The Government-backed Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability (DPRTE) arms fair was successfully chased out of Birmingham’s NEC in March, having already been forced out of Cardiff following protests.

Activists from the peace movement, trade unions, and Yemeni and Palestinian groups came together to plan a day of creative action that was never needed. The threat of protest was enough for the event to be moved away from scrutiny and behind military wire at Farnborough. 

The arms fair will be at the Farnborough International Exhibition & Conference Centre again in 2020. Contact events@caat.org.uk and join the campaign to shut them down. 

3. Our resistance is global

Activists stage a die-in outside the Japan DSEI arms fair, Chiba, November. PHOTO: War Resisters International

Fellow activists around the world have been taking incredible inspiring actions. Thanks to creative non-violent action by Auckland Peace Action and its allies, New Zealand’s Weapons Expo has now been cancelled, chased out of three host cities – Auckland, Wellington and Palmerston! 

Meanwhile in Japan, activists organised a huge rally and die-in outside the first ever ‘DSEI Japan’ arms fair in Chiba in November. Arms trade events were banned under Japan’s constitution until a few years ago, when a change made by the Government allowed the sale and transfer of arms.

4. European worker solidarity with Yemen

Saudi state-owned ship the Bahri-Yanbu was met with protests as it tried to dock in European ports this year, as workers stood in solidarity with the people of Yemen. While French President Emmanuel Macron defended the right to sell arms to the Saudi regime, French activists blockaded the port of Le Havre for two days in May, forcing the Saudi ship to set sail without its military cargo on board. 

Later that month the Saudi state faced more embarrassment as workers in Marseille refused to load another state-owned ship, the Bahri Tabuk, with military equipment destined for Yemen.

At the Bahri-Yanbu’s next port, Genoa, Italian dock workers joined forces with unions and campaigners including Potere al Popolo (Power to the People), and refused to load the ship. The group released a statement saying “We will not be complicit in what is happening in Yemen.” Power to the People indeed.

5. DSEI Week of Action 

Dabke protest at DSEI by Hawiyya Dance Company PHOTO @ShahdAbusalama viaTwitter

In September, LGBTQIA+ activists, green groups, people of faith, migrant groups and many more came together to resist the world’s largest arms fair coming to London. Each day was themed around a different issue linked to the arms trade from Borders to Climate Justice, because in the words of Audre Lorde, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” The struggle against the arms trade must be anti-racist, anti-capitalist, antipatriarchal, and actively centring those most directly affected by its devastating consequences.

During seven days of action, the roads outside the Excel centre saw hundreds of people using their bodies to block delivery of military equipment. As well as direct action there were faith meetings, Palestinian dabka dancing, solidarity protests with Rojava and Hong Kong, a play led by the young activists of Advocacy Academy, music, film screenings and much more.

6. Kurdish solidarity action against Brighton arms factory 

Brighton Against the Arms Trade “weapons inspectors” seal off #Brighton arms factory EDO-MBM in November. PHOTO @BrightonAAT viaTwitter

A big shout out to Brighton Against the Arms Trade who successfully blockaded EDO MBM Technology in November, the factory exposed by The Guardian as having developed drone parts used by Turkey in the bombing of the Kurds in Syria. “Weapons inspectors” sealed off entry to the factory which has also supplied aircraft components to Saudi Arabia and Israel used in attacks on Gaza and Yemen.  Read more on how a small factory in Brighton has helped Turkey on its way to becoming the second biggest user of armed drones in the world

7. A bumper year for institutions ditching unethical sponsors

2019 saw huge wins for the movement for ethical sponsorship. Art Not Oil successfully persuaded The Festival of Making to drop British arms company BAE Systems as its main sponsor, and lesbian magazine Diva dropped BAE’s staff network from its 2019 Diva Awards shortlist after complaints from LGBT and peace groups.

Feeling the heat from climate strikers and activists, the Royal Shakespeare Company announced it had listened to its youth strikers and ended its sponsorship deal with BP in October. The National Theatre swiftly followed  suit, announcing its decision to drop Shell’s funding, citing the climate emergency and the role of theatre in shaping culture and encouraging understanding. 

It’s not just oil and arms under the spotlight. The National Portrait Gallery turned down a £1m grant from the Sackler Foundation after artist Nan Goldin led a campaign against the Sackler family’s funds, whose pharmaceutical investments are profiting from the US opioid crisis.

Thank you for your support for the petition to the New Scientist this autumn, calling for an end to sponsorship of their annual New Scientist Live event by BAE Systems and BP. The momentum gained this year against unethical sponsorship promises fertile ground for the campaign to continue in 2020.

8. International Criminal Court called on to investigate arms companies 

On 12th December CAAT joined the European Center for Constitutional Human Rights, Yemeni organisation Mwatana for Human Rights and other international organisations, in calling on the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate executives of transnational arms companies and Government officials for their potential complicity in violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. A 350 page dossier was submitted, focused on 26 specific airstrikes which unlawfully killed or injured civilians, and destroyed or damaged schools and hospitals.

The criminal responsibility of arms companies and Government Ministers exporting and authorising arms to the Saudi-led coalition has never been challenged, yet they have played a critical role in the violations of international humanitarian law, and in creating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen. We’ll let you know how this ground-breaking legal action progresses, and whether those responsible will be brought to court.

Thank you for everything you do to support CAAT’s work. Here’s to resisting together in 2020.

Stop the Arm Fair Week of Action Day 7: Borders & Migration

What an end to the week of action – the end of a week packed with resistance and solidarity, and energies were still high. There were so many amazing actions to disrupt the set-up of the arms fair. Roads were blocked, and there were creative actions from games to drag aerobics, all saying loud and clear to the UK government:  #Nohumanisillegal #FreeMovementForPeopleNotArms.

Continue reading “Stop the Arm Fair Week of Action Day 7: Borders & Migration”

Stop the Arms Fair Week of Action Day 5: Climate Justice

The struggle for climate justice and the struggle to end the arms trade are closely intertwined. When fossil fuel resources are extracted, land captured, and communities displaced by governments and fossil fuel companies, it is arms that make it possible.

Continue reading “Stop the Arms Fair Week of Action Day 5: Climate Justice”

Stop the Arms Fair Week of Action Day 3: No Nuclear

Day three of the #StopDSEI protests saw a morning of back-to-back successful blockades of both entrances to the DSEI site, meaning vehicles carrying weapons and equipment were blocked from getting in.

Continue reading “Stop the Arms Fair Week of Action Day 3: No Nuclear”

Stop the Arms Fair Week of Action Day 1: Stop Arming Israel

What a incredible start to the Stop DSEI week of action. Huge kudos to the efforts of Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK, War on Want and all their friends who created a beautiful first day of direct action, workshops, dance and music, to protest and disrupt the set up of the London arms fair and say Stop Arming Israel.

Continue reading “Stop the Arms Fair Week of Action Day 1: Stop Arming Israel”

Countdown to the DSEI arms fair week of action

In just 6 weeks’ time, arms companies from around the world will be setting up at the Excel Centre in East London for ‘DSEI’, one of the biggest arms fairs in the world, made possible by the political and financial backing of the UK government. We will be there to resist.

Turkish explosives on sale at DSEI 2017. Credit: Matt Kennard
Continue reading “Countdown to the DSEI arms fair week of action”