Ayotzinapa one year on: How the UK is fuelling Mexico’s deadly war

Protesters stand with pictures of the disappeared in front of the Mexican Embassy

On 26th September 2014, police in the Mexican town of Iguala in the state of Guerrero ambushed a convoy of buses carrying students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College to a protest march. Police opened fire, killing several students and bystanders, and abducted 43 students in police vehicles. The students have not been seen since.

The first anniversary of this mass disappearance saw demonstrations across Mexico and around the world. I joined campaigners outside the Mexican Embassy in London’s Mayfair, and spoke to the crowd about the UK’s complicity in the human rights abuses spiralling out of control in Mexico.

Protesters stand with pictures of the disappeared in front of the Mexican Embassy
Demonstrators outside the Mexican Embassy in London, 26th September 2015

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William Hague: Hero or Hypocrite?

William Hague with Angelina Jolie and Brad PittIt was a surreal sight to see Foreign Secretary William Hague posing with Hollywood’s most famous couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at the recent high profile Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Responding to media accusations that he was “hobnobbing” and “starstruck”, Hague defended the importance of his role at the summit, telling Radio 4 listeners that “this is about conflict prevention.”

So let’s take a look at Hague’s record on conflict prevention.

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How I (nearly) got into an arms trade conference

How shameless is the government’s arms sales unit? Even as ordinary people across the Middle East are laying down their lives in the struggle for democracy, UKTI DSO organises a seminar to help arms companies to sell weapons to the repressive regimes of the region.

The event was called Middle East: A vast market for defence and security companies, it was presented by London Chamber of Commerce, and it was to be hosted in the City of London by Royal Bank of Scotland. (The very same RBS that Amnesty International recently forced to stop financing the makers of cluster bombs.)

MIDDLE EAST: A VAST MARKET FOR UK DEFENCE AND SECURITY COMPANIES

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One Show reports on UK arms companies

On March 17th, BBC TV’s prime-time magazine programme The One Show aired a report about the UK’s hidden arms companies. For CAAT this report was a valuable opportunity to present our message to a mainstream audience of millions, and I was excited to be involved in making it.

The One Show’s report was prompted by news coverage of the UK’s arms sales to repressive regimes such as Libya and Bahrain. The programme’s makers contacted CAAT and decided to base the report on a map of arms companies around my home county of Nottinghamshire. I took One Show reporter Simon Boazman on a short guided tour of a few of the companies, including small arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch, the target of a long-running local campaign.

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How BAE uses LEGO to groom children

Why is arms company BAE Systems encouraging schoolchildren to play with LEGO?

The company wants children to develop the skills it needs for developing high-tech weapons platforms, and has hit upon LEGO’s programmable robot kits called Mindstorms as a fun way to get kids interested.

Children being shown how to make robot vehicles
Children making robot vehicles at the BAE-sponsored FIRST LEGO League

BAE Systems runs LEGO Mindstorms sessions in British classrooms, and last year the company enlisted the help of Eastenders actor Todd Carty to front a school roadshow in which children worked to create a robotic LEGO vehicle. Meanwhile, in the US, BAE heavily sponsors the FIRST LEGO League, in which children compete to build the best LEGO robot.

For BAE, this is part of a wider involvement in schools aimed at steering the best and brightest pupils into a career making military machines. Continue reading “How BAE uses LEGO to groom children”

Rage Against The Arms Trade

Rage Against The Machine on stage
Rage Against The Machine in Finsbury Park

Agenda item at Campaign Against Arms Trade’s weekly meeting: We’ve been invited to have a stall at the Rage Against The Machine gig in Finsbury Park on Sunday 6th June. Is anyone interested in helping run the stall?

“Me! Me! Me!”

I couldn’t believe my luck. Less than a month in the job and I got to see one of my favourite bands.

Remember the 2009 campaign that got RATM’s 1992 single Killing In The Name to Christmas number one in order to keep Simon Cowell’s X Factor winner from the top spot? Well this was the free gig that the band put on to say thank you to British fans. Continue reading “Rage Against The Arms Trade”