“Merchants of Death” guided tour.

London CAAT decided on a “Merchants of Death” walk as The thirteen companies we visited.one part of our “Stop the Arms Trade Week”. Rather than a series of protests, this was a more sedate tour of Central London, with descriptions of certain companies thrown in. So thirteen of us met outside Victoria station and even had the sun shining on us. In terms of the types of companies we went to, there was a clear distinction.

Obviously, we took in major military producers and arms dealers such as BAE Systems, Boeing UK, Rolls Royce, Lockheed Martin (including INSYS), QinetiQ, MATRA BAe, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Land Rover Leyland International Holdings. Among such “Merchants of Death” there is a long history of corruption, sometimes involving countries with serious records of human rights abuse, which underlines how indiscriminate the trade is.
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BAE Systems AGM, 7 May 2008

My BAE AGM virginity was about to come to an end as I entered the Queen Elizabeth Conference centre, where no expense had been spared on lavish security measures to welcome proxy shareholders like myself. The BAE chairman Dick Olver’s introductory statement included a shareholder-pleasing boast about a 13.3% proposed increase in the 2007 dividend. However, much of his presentation was devoted to this year’s hot topic, business ethics. He acknowledged the reputational damage that the whole SFO affair had done but kept stressing that “our” company had never been found guilty of any wrongdoings in four years of SFO scrutiny, conveniently omitting the fact that the investigation was halted just as it was making good progress unearthing useful details from Swiss bank accounts.
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CAAT Press Conference As CAAT Wins Landmark Case Against Government

April the High Court handed down a ruling in favour of CAAT and The Corner House, finding that the government had buckled under pressure from a Saudi prince and unlawfully ended the investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Given the landmark status of the Court’s judgment a press conference was held to field the massive media interest, and arriving early before the ruling was made public, the tension and sense of trepidation in the air was tangible.

Having never met a journalist before (never mind attended a press conference) I shared in the mood of nervous excitement as I helped to welcome and register the mixed bag of scruffy ruffians and suit-clad media people that would constitute our audience. Weaving through the throng I overheard a well-known journalist speaking on his mobile phone. He described the Court’s judgement as ‘withering’ and said he’d never heard anything like it. Despite the unassuming look of many, their tardy tendancies and willingness to squash into a room already packed to the rafters, journalists are tough. They often hold a lot of sway in whether and how the public recieves a story, and this press conference would be a crucial chance for CAAT to elucidate a stronger stance for supporters and answer back to critics. Representatives from two dozen media houses attended, reflecting the truly national implications of CAAT’s court case and maximising exposure for an important but oft-overlooked cause.
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London CAAT Map Activism Award

A London CAAT map on platial.com has won a site award in the “Activism” category. The map, called London Arms Trade, shows the locations of the offices of weapons manufacturers and distributors in London.

When the local London group was set up, it was determined to highlight the immorality of the ‘defence’ industry. The map was created using CAAT’s resources and the British Defence Equipment Catalogue, to begin to pinpoint those involved in making London the capital of the world arms-broking trade.
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Can I interest you in any missile components today?

UK Students tell their universities it’s time to ditch their arms shares

On 27 February Students across Britain joined protests against their universities’ links with the arms trade. They called for an end to university arms investments. Students dressed as arms dealers roamed the campuses of University College London (UCL), Warwick, Manchester and other universities and tried to “sell” toy guns and missiles to their fellow students to raise awareness about the links between their universities and arms companies.

Student campaigners at UCL wearing black suits and sun glasses approached fellow students with the opening line “Excuse me, can I interest you in any missile components today ?” Many students, staff and prospective students, who had a look around UCL that day, stopped to sign a petition and to talk to campaigners about the continued arms investments.
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National Day of Action for University Ethical Investment, Wed 27th February

Just to let you know that the spontaneous meeting some students activists had at the CAAT National Gathering  back in November has now actually led to a National Day of Action on 27 February around lunchtime. Join us and campaign for ethical investment at your university.

Campaign Against Arms Trade and People and Planet will be helping coordinate a national day of action in protest against university shareholding in arms companies. The event was initiated by activists at University College London and Manchester University.

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Elvis, Aliens and the unlikelihood of BAE’s innocence

As part of the Control BAE campaign, London CAAT set up stall near Old Street station on Friday 30th November to call for the reopening of the Serious Fraud Office’s enquiry into alleged corruption in deals with Saudi Arabia. We chose the location because it was outside the BAE/HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) joint venture company located at 4 City Cloisters, 196 Old Street.

The main objective of the afternoon (in the absence of any media for our photo opportunity stunt) was to inform people in the area of the issues and get signatures on the petition to reopen the enquiry. In addition, we were able to point out the presence of an arms company to many surprised local residents and garner some interest in the local group.
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CAAT wins again !

Just a quick one to say how excited I am that CAAT and Corner house have won the court case last Friday :). The permission has now been granted to bring a full judicial review against the governments decision to cut short a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into alleged corruption by BAE Systems in recent arms deals with Saudi Arabia.

That really is fantastic news!

 CAAT Control BAE protest in May

Well done to everyone who campaigned for the SFO inquiry to be re-opened and thanks a million to those of you who helped me raise 280 quid  on pledegebank for CAAT to go ahead with the legal challenge. The money really helped to make a difference. Or as my friend Masa put it: “That was 10 quid well spent!”:)
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The new regime

Until the recent shocking events of the past couple of days our new Prime Minister Gordon Brown seemed to have a permanent grin attached to his face. In every photo in every paper there he was beaming from ear-to-ear, an expression that I had never seen him reveal as Chancellor. Gordon Brown had obviously been waiting a very long time to be PM and he was going to enjoy it.

So here it is then, a new Prime Minister and a new political era of sorts.

I imagine the way Brown conducts his activities will be less tainted with the cringe-worthy sense of celebrity that Tony Blair always seemed to want to espouse.

And also, we hope, less tainted by the sleaze that was becoming a daily fixture during the last years of the Blair premiership.
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Stop the Arms Trade Week

The beginning of CAAT’s designated “Stop the Arms Trade Week”, 2nd June, coincided with activities organised under “The World Can’t Wait” banner and London CAAT produced a small leaflet to tie in issues of poverty, lack of development and the more than £1118 billion spent annually on arms, which puts into pathetic perspective the amounts the G8 promises and does not deliver to the world’s poorest countries.

A few of us headed down to Archbishop’s Park by Lambeth Palace and later to the banks of the Thames, to offer our support to the idea of “waking up the G8”. Dressed in white and packing alarm clocks, bells, horns and drums, the protesters were up for it. At 2:00, Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, the banks between them and even boats on the river resounded with unheeded wake-up calls.
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