DSEI: playground of the power elite

Brenda Heard of Friends of Lebanon on how arms fairs, such as DSEI, fuel conflict worldwide.

The images have become commonplace. Pick-up trucks laden with rocket launchers and machine guns.  Dusty men with their rifles, poised as so many Rambos. Billows of smoke that linger after the bomber has flown on to its next target. These are the images of contemporary conflict. Differences of socio-political opinion are settled by bloody confrontation.

True, violent conflict is as old as mankind itself. True, self-defence is a necessity, even a responsibility. But the business of war has become the norm rather than the exception. The significance of this development lies not merely in the multitude of violent and unnecessary deaths -but more so in our readily viewing this reality with a novel brand of bold nonchalance.

In business-speak for international arms dealing, DSEI -Defence & Security Equipment International—boasts that its biennial exhibition “provides a time-effective opportunity to meet the whole defence and security supply chain”. DSEI further promises that this year’s event will exceed attendance figures from 2009: 25,170 attendees; 1280 exhibitors; 98 countries; 70 official delegations; 27 national pavilions. Just have a look at its slick website offering  “infinite opportunities” to those who would jump on the weapons carousel.

A stall at DSEI advertising AK-47 assault rifles
A stall at DSEI 2009 advertising AK-47 assault rifles for sale

Continue reading “DSEI: playground of the power elite”

How to shut down an arms fair

Kat Hobbs reports on how Australian peace activists shut down three successive arms fairs and why they should serve as an inspiration for activists who want to close DSEI 

Why would someone label peace activists “feral, low-life people that want society to be in a state of near anarchy for their own perverse pleasure?” These were the words of Kevin Foley, then Acting Premier of South Australia, in September 2008.  But it’s no wonder he was feeling bitter. Australian peace activists had just stopped a third arms fair from going ahead. An arms fair that Foley, who wanted to promote South Australia as the “Defence State”, had supported and spent government money on. Continue reading “How to shut down an arms fair”

Wild beasts and parliamentary action

Kaye Stearman asks: “Why do MPs care so passionately about animal rights while failing to tackle issues like the arms trade?”

One night in June as I was drifting off to sleep, I was galvanised by the passionate debate being played out on the normally soporific Today in Parliament on Radio 4. The programme is noted for its erudition in the explanation of arcane bills and ministerial soundbites but to hear genuine anger and passionate advocacy is rare.

Tiger jumping through hoop

Even more surprising was that the debate was led by backbenchers and cut across partly lines. Who, I wondered, were these MPs and what was their cause. Surely it must involve an issue such as violation of human rights, poverty, famine, war or the arms trade.

Alas, it was none of these. To be fair, it did involve the rights of living beings – in this case wild animals. MPs united in support of a law that would ban lions, tigers and other wild animals from circus shows in the UK. The government had tried to impose a three-line whip, backbenchers had refused to knuckle under and a heartfelt debate on the wrongs of animal mistreatment ensued. Continue reading “Wild beasts and parliamentary action”

Something for the Weekend: Disarming DSEI

On Sunday 12th June, the “Get Ready for the Arms Fair” planning event took place. Campaigner and blogger Kirsten Bayes took part and had this to say about it…

I spent the day with some of the most amazing people I have ever met (present company excepted, of course).

They were gathered together to work out what to do about about the world’s largest Defence and Security Equipment exhibition, taking place in London 13-16 September.

DSEI is a particularly poisonous event. It has a history of Governmental-invites to representatives from dreadful regimes, of drawing on massive public subsidy, and of using British servicemen to demonstrate tanks, guns, ships to international arms dealers. This in support of multi-billion corporate profits. Continue reading “Something for the Weekend: Disarming DSEI”

London CAAT indulge their artistic side at Fine Art Fair

Ian Pocock writes about London CAAT’s demonstration at the International Fine Art & Antiques Fair.

CAAT Arms Trade Clarion Banner
Our fantastic banner brought us lots of attention

London CAAT members maintained the pressure on Clarion Events with a demonstration outside the International Fine Art & Antiques Fair at Kensington Olympia on Saturday 11 June. After being moved on by the over-zealous security guards, we took up a position outside the entrance to the tube station.

Our brand new banner ‘This Show is Brought to you by the Arms Trade’ gained a lot of attention and a number of passersby stopped to ask why we were there. Continue reading “London CAAT indulge their artistic side at Fine Art Fair”

Kicking up a stink at the Baby Show

Anti-arms activists in Birmingham had a busy week protesting against Clarion Events’ Baby Show.

Clarion Events is the owner and organiser of several arms fairs, including the forthcoming Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) in London in September. Clarion sees no contradiction between organising consumer shows, like the Baby Show, and arms fairs.

Before the Baby Show opened, activists took their message to prospective customers of Mothercare, one of the principal sponsors of the Baby Show. On Monday 16 May and Friday 20 May, campaigners ran an information stall and leafleted outside Mothercare in central Birmingham. Many people turned away in disgust. Others went inside and asked the management why they were supporting arms dealers. Continue reading “Kicking up a stink at the Baby Show”

Arms trade campaigners target “Destinations”

Anti-arms fairs A report of London CAAT’s protest at the Clarion-owned Travel Show.

Members of London Campaign Against Arms Trade (London CAAT) descended on the Destinations: Holiday and Travel Show in Earls Court on  Saturday, 5 February, to protest about the organiser’s involvement in the arms trade. They are Clarion Events and they also own the notorious DSEI arms fair.

Luckily the threatening rain held off and we handed out a large number of leaflets. Some passers-by engaged with our message, particularly a Palestinian lady who expressed strong agreement with our stance. One of the speakers at the show, Ben Fogle, star of Castaway 2000 and Country Tracks, passed us on his way into the show but declined to take a leaflet.  He was one of the speakers CAAT wrote to prior to the event asking them to raise the issues of Clarion’s involvement in the arms trade with them.

Two members of London CAAT entered the show to talk to stallholders, focussing on the smaller exhibitors as they were more likely to be staffed by people who could have a say on their company’s presence at the fair. They were all interested in what we had to say but, unfortunately, there were no firm commitments to talk to Clarion.

We will continue to keep the pressure on Clarion. We will be at their next show, the Baby Show, on Sunday 20 February from 11am-1pm at the ExCel Centre (nearest tube Custom House DLR).

Want to know more: contact London CAAT at: londoncaat(at)riseup*net

Green sees red over arms sales

Why did Lord Green take the Trade Minister post when he clearly had problems with the ethics of arms sales? Kaye Stearman ruminates on ethics, religion and arms sales.

What started out green, then rapidly turned yellow, white and red?. No, it’s not a chameleon. It’s the new UK Trade Minister. Why? Well, he is called Green, quickly turned yellow, waved the white flag of surrender, and then grew red with embarassment – as did the government. 

Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint takes his seat in the House of Lords
Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint takes his seat in the House of Lords

This is the background to the riddle. For months the Coalition government had been seeking a Trade Minister, someone with gravitas and international contacts,  to act as a public face of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). They thought that they had hit the jackpot with Lord Stephen Green of Hurstpierpoint – after all he is a newly appointed Tory Lord just stepping down from the Chairmanship of banking giant HBSC and an ordained Church of England priest. What’s not to like?

Lord Green’s dilemma

Unfortunately Lord Green is reputed not to like weapons companies, so much so that he decided that HBSC would no longer provide financial services to those companies who manufactured arms such as landmines, cluster bombs and combat aircraft. However, according to the Telegraph of 7 January, “the bank retains BAE Systems as a client and its senior non-executive director, Sir Simon Robertson, is chairman of Rolls-Royce”,  so clearly the adversion to arms goes only so far. Continue reading “Green sees red over arms sales”

Looking back with CAAT

At the start of 2010, Kaye Stearman looks back on events of the past year and what was achieved.

8 November 2008 – CAAT’s National Gathering at Conway Hall in central London sees the launch of the new “Armed & Dangerous” campaign to focus on the support given to arms exports by United Kingdom Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO).

Kingsgate House Demo, 24 November
Kingsgate House Demo, 24 November

24 November  – CAAT holds its first demonstration outside UKTI DSO headquarters at Kingsgate House, Victoria Street, Westminster. Is it right for civil servants to act as arms dealers?

27 December onwards – Israel launches an armed attack on Gaza which continues for three weeks. CAAT highlights how British weapons and components are deployed and calls for a complete ban on British arms exports to Israel. Continue reading “Looking back with CAAT”

DSEI video blog

On the 8 September the DSEI arms fair opened in East London.  I spent the day meandering around CAAT’s demonstration outside the offices of UKTI DSO talking to all and sundry.

I wanted to see the range of reasons why such a large group of people had gathered to fight actions our government deems to be legal. The range of passionate and articulate responses are collected in the video blog below, and stand as a testament to those who wish to stop British companies from profiting through war. They will surely rank with those who have fought such accepted abberations as the slave trade in the past.

It was a great day to feel part of such a positive movement for change, and I would encourage all who are inspired by the film to become an active part of CAAT in the future.