Organising to Stop DSEI: It Starts Here

‘It Starts Here’ was an amazing weekend of organising and skill sharing. Thank you to everyone who was there to kick off plans to protest the DSEI arms fair in September.

If you missed it, you can watch It Starts Here online

We were joined by incredible activists from all around the UK, as well as our allies around the world, who sent inspiring messages of solidarity. Our thoughts were grounded from the start in the resistance of those at the sharp end of the global arms trade, with messages from Yemeni activists like Ahmed Jahaf of Sana’a, “We know we are not forgotten because of you. Maybe you are few but you are a lot to us.”

Amina Atiq, Liverpudlian Yemeni poet spoke to us ahead of a journey to Egypt, where her Yemeni family have fled. She said, “These wounds take years to heal, some never heal. If everyone does a small thing we can bring change, and we will bring change.”

Activist poet Amina Atiq sends a video message to attendees of It Starts Here.

As well as hearing voices of resistance from conflict-affected countries, we were inspired by the solidarity of our friends protesting arms fairs around the world, like Peace Action Wellington, New Zealand, who said they were inspired by the diversity of UK activists’ tactics. “It’s amazing to feel connected to a global movement. Kia kaha! It means ‘stay strong’ in Máori.”

World Without War activists in South Korea told us how protests to stop the DSEI arms fair inspired their own resistance to stop the ADEX arms fair in Seoul. “The arms industry is so big it can feel impossible to bring them down. It feels like they are everywhere, and they are. But so is our resistance! We hope one day our work will inspire others in other parts of the world.”

Arms trade: rooted in many struggles for justice

Our fight to stop the DSEI arms fair is inextricably linked with other intersecting struggles for justice – struggles that It Starts Here called to put front and centre of our action in 2019. The day began with discussions on issues including anti-racism and the increasing militarisation of the UK’s borders. Listen again.

Activist poet Shareefa Energy opens It Starts Here.

West London-born poet and activist Shareefa Energy reminded attendees of the structural violence inflicted on people of colour and the working class in the UK, seen in how Grenfell residents on our doorstep continue to be treated, to how imagery of people of colour is used in media and NGO coverage of conflict in the global south.

“There’s a conversation we need to have. Why are people from ethnic minorities dehumanised? Would you ever see English people on a newspaper dead? We need to have these conversations. Until we talk about racism and structural violence, we won’t understand why these issues are going on.”

Sarah Reader of Agir Pour La Paix in Brussels, co-founder of Stop The Arms Fair reminded us of how far we have come and what we’ve built together: “It’s amazing to see so many people in the room 6 months before DSEI. 8 years ago there were 8 of us in a room!”

On the ‘Anti-racism, migrant solidarity and the arms trade’ panel, Sanaz from ‘Unis Resist Border Controls’ spoke about the links to arms trade and university funding and research. “Many universities invest in arms companies like BAE Systems, G4S. We need to stop this hypocrisy. [We] demand to end investment in the arms trade, in the private firms that fund the violence that creates refugees.”

Geraldine spoke from the All African Women’s Group, a group of refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK from Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean. “Instead of reaching safety,” she said, “We face detention, deportation, and destitution. But we are part of the growing movement calling for justice.”

Chrissie from Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike reminded us that “Many of the people suffering because of the arms trade are black and brown people. The EU response has not been to support people seeking safety, but to stop migration to Europe at all costs.” Also representing the Crossroads Women’s Centre, Chrissie spoke about the importance of gender: “80% of refugees worldwide are women. We bear the brunt of war. We are the ones that pick up the pieces. But we are not victims, we are protagonists in our struggle, wherever we are.”

DSEI: Let’s stop it here

The DSEI arms fair is where we can stop arms deals before they start. The last DSEI in 2017 saw the most widespread protests, media coverage and parliamentary interest in the arms fair since the Iraq War. A huge range of groups took action, from queer and environmental activists to academics and faith groups. Over six days, the set up of the fair was disrupted by a huge array of creative and fun actions. Will you help make 2019 even bigger?

We can stop them

Activists have now successfully chased the arms fairs out of Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham. After the threat of action by Birmingham Stop the Arms Fair, organisers moved the DTPRE arms fair to behind security fences at Farnborough military base. And last year protests outside the Undersea Defence Technology arms fair in Glasgow persuaded Glasgow City Council to promise it would never host an arms fair again. If enough people disrupt the set-up of DSEI in 2019, we can stop the arms fair.

Take action to Stop DSEI 2019

Join the next Stop the Arms Fair gathering in London on the 30th March and find out how you can help stop DSEI.

Activists on trial for trying to stop the DSEI arms fair

This week activists are on trial for taking action against the DSEI arms fair last September.

Yesterday, three of the defendants presented their case. All of them spoke at length about why they felt their actions against DSEI were necessary in order to prevent greater crimes.

Activists with a 'Stop Arming Israel' banner and waving Palestinian flags stand on an armoured vehicle
Activists blockade an armoured vehicle from entering the Excel Centre

Continue reading “Activists on trial for trying to stop the DSEI arms fair”

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.

Continue reading “William Hague: Hero or Hypocrite?”

Bradford activists contact Yorkshire exhibitors at world’s largest arms fair

Bradford activists write to local arms firms - July 2013. Credit: Andrew Dey
Bradford activists write to local arms firms – July 2013.
Credit: Andrew Dey

A group from Bradford’s JustSpace community has written to over 30 companies around Yorkshire, including several from Bradford, expressing concern about their participation in the world’s largest arms fair. The DSEI weapons expo takes place every two years at the Excel centre in London’s Docklands. Continue reading “Bradford activists contact Yorkshire exhibitors at world’s largest arms fair”

Arms companies at the Big Bang Fair

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Britain’s largest science and engineering fair for young people, which took place last month, was sponsored and supported by a total of five major arms companies, including the world’s third largest weapons manufacturer, BAE Systems.

General Dynamics, Rolls Royce, Thales and Selex ES also have sponsorship deals with the Big Bang Fair. As part of the deal, the arms companies enjoy a stand at the fair, from which they can promote themselves to young people.

Continue reading “Arms companies at the Big Bang Fair”

An exciting year ahead for London CAAT

The London CAAT group looks ahead to a busy year of protesting.

Members of London CAAT protesting outside the Spirit of Summer FairWho we are

London CAAT is a friendly group, made up of both new and more seasoned campaigners, who are committed to making a difference in London, the global hub of the arms trade. We’re an active bunch and there’s plenty to get involved with!

Coming up
Global Day of Action on Military Spending – 17 April

In April, London CAAT will be gearing up to take part in the second annual Global Day of Action on Military Spending.

Continue reading “An exciting year ahead for London CAAT”

Taxpayers’ money wasted as DSEI-related trial adjourned till May

Supporters at Chris Coles' court case - 16 January 2012
Supporters at Westminister Magistrates Court

Anti-arms trade campaigner Chris Cole arrived at Westminister Magistrates Court ahead of time to defend himself against a charge of criminal damage outside the DSEI arms fair. He was accompanied by supporters who held a small demonstration outside the court.

Fellow anti-arms trade activist Kirsten Bayes said:

“It is important to support Chris as he was trying to stop an arms fair that sells weapons to countries with dubious human rights records. Government support for the arms trade is disgusting and yet they support people trying to overthrow repressive regimes:  they can’t have it both ways.”

Continue reading “Taxpayers’ money wasted as DSEI-related trial adjourned till May”

Top Gear not Top Gun

Ian Pocock journeys to the ExCel Centre to tell Top Gear fans about their favourite show’s links with the arms trade.

"Jeremy Clarkson" protests against the arms trade
"Jeremy Clarkson" protests against the arms trade

I joined members of London Campaign Against Arms Trade at a protest outside Clarion Events’ latest show, “Top Gear Live”, which took place this Saturday at the ExCeL Centre in London. Clarion Events own the DSEI arms fair while Top Gear is the BBC’s phenomenally successful motoring show.

Three of us had the dubious pleasure of donning masks of the three presenters of the show (Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May) but our visual presence did help us engage with the public on the issue of Clarion’s involvement in the arms trade. A number of passers-by were sympathetic to our cause and a couple were as vehemently opposed to the arms trade as London CAAT are. Continue reading “Top Gear not Top Gun”

Arrested at the arms fair!

Chris Cole under arrest at Custom House station
Chris under arrest at DSEI 2011

On Tuesday September 13th, Kirk Jackson and Chris Cole were arrested for taking part in demonstrations against the world’s largest arms fair – DSEI, which takes place every two years at the ExCeL exhibition centre in East London. In this article, Kirk and Chris talk about their actions, their arrests and what happens next.

Continue reading “Arrested at the arms fair!”