The day I went to Downing Street…

CAAT petitioners in Downing Street, 9 March 2011
CAAT petitioners in Downing Street, 9 March 2011

Rhiannon Rees wrtes of her experiences as a member of a CAAT delegation presenting an anti-arms trade petition at the office of the Prime Minister.

On Wednesday, 9 March, I went with Anne-Marie, Henry and Sarah from the CAAT office, and Azeldin El-Sharif, of the British-Libyan Solidarity Campaign, to present CAAT’s ‘This is not OK’ petition at 10 Downing Street.

Nearly 4,000 people had signed the petition and posted their comments to tell the Government that selling tear gas, firearms and crowd control ammunition to Bahrain and Libya, promoting arms exports to corrupt and repressive regimes and holding one of the world’s largest arms fairs in London next September are NOT OK. Continue reading “The day I went to Downing Street…”

Edinburgh Uni students close careers fair in protest against BAE Systems

A careers fair at the University of Edinburgh was closed down last week after the organisers’ decision to invite the world’s largest arms firm to the event triggered a nonviolent protest by students. The students laid down in front of the stall run by BAE Systems in a symbolic die-in.

Continue reading “Edinburgh Uni students close careers fair in protest against BAE Systems”

ITT’s Hammertime!

Yesterday I took part in an action which managed to close down arms factory EDO/ITT/MBM for a day. The extremely heavy policing stopped us from blocking the road to the factory, but tens of police vans in our way meant our actions had the desired effect: to close the factory and maximise economic damage to an arms company that the Smash EDO campaign hope to drive out of Brighton.

The action (tagline: “If I had a hammer…”) was inspired by the acquittal of the Decommissioners, who caused £300,000 worth of damage to assembly lines during Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2009. By aiming to “besiege” the factory by blocking its access roads, protesters stood in solidarity with Palestinians who live under siege. The hope is that more civil resistance to EDO’s presence in Brighton will prove the final straw for this arm’s companies operations in Brighton.

CAAT staff poised with inflatable hammers over a model of an EDO-armed fighter plane Continue reading “ITT’s Hammertime!”

Diary of a peace campaigner

Rhiannon Rees recalls her busy week of meetings and actions in October 2010.

Peace campaigners in the London area have had a busy week, and I have been fortunate to get around and meet some fantastic people. Last week was also ‘Quaker Week’, and I went to two of the talks at the Quaker Centre in Euston that illustrated how Quakers are involved in working for peace.

Tuesday 5 October: Andree Ryan spoke at the Quaker Centre about the time she had spent as an Ecumenical Accompanier in Israel/Palestine. These are trained volunteers of all faiths, who spend several months living and working alongside Palestinians and Israeli peace activists, observing and reporting on the daily brutality and hardships of the Israeli occupation and helping to negotiate some mitigation of the hardships and defuse some tense situations by their presence. The programme is co-ordinated by Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) under the auspices of the World Council of Churches.

Inspired by the courage of the Ecumenical Accompaniers, I took the rather less brave step of joining the monthly vigil against Trident in Parliament Square, which is organised by London Region CND and takes place from 5-7pm on the first Tuesday in the month. Since the Peace Camp was ejected and the green has been blocked off by hoardings, we have to display our banners on a narrow strip of pavement close to the rush-hour traffic, but we gave out 350 leaflets and I hope reached some MPs. Continue reading “Diary of a peace campaigner”

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”

Green markets or gun markets

David Watson from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) writes on weapons, wars and climate change for Blog Action Day on Climate Change – 15 October 2009.

On 14 October, BBC’s Newsnight asked the question “Can you be green and capitalist?”

Simon Retallack, associate director at the centre-left think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, was asked how best to fight climate change. He rejected an approach based on changing people’s values, saying: “I worry that the [anti-consumerist] approach gets in the way of putting in place some consumerist approaches to solving some of these problems that doesn’t (sic) entail trying to engineer changing people’s values.”

The interviewer didn’t ask Retallack if not changing our values meant we could continue to support wars and military occupations in strategically important locations.

Neither did he offer an opinion on whether this meant that the UK and the US could carry on spending so much of their stretched budgets subsidising their arms industries. Continue reading “Green markets or gun markets”

Clown Army descend upon BAE careers fair!

Battlefield dispatch from General Whitewash and his brigade of rebel clowns:

Today at 17:00 hours a highly militarised clown battalion laid siege to the BAE Systems stand at the Edinburgh University Careers Fair on Chambers Street. In a bid to disrupt the recruiting efforts of the world’s third largest arms company these brave clowns performed great feats of surrealist mayhem.

Their derring-do extended to other stalls when they were alerted to the presence of such villains as Shell, RBS and Procter & Gamble, all of which futilely attempted to conceal their misdeeds – which range from massive environmental and social degradation (here’s lookin’ at you Shell and RBS) to the routine torturing of animals for cosmetics’ testing (hello Procter & Gamble!) – behind nice and shiny PR smokescreens. Good thing these clowns come fully equipped with bullsh*t detectors!

Back at the BAE stand, company reps were definitely not overheard explaining to students how the company equips F-16 warplanes used by the Israeli army to reduce Palestinian and Lebanese villages to rubble. Like lightening clowns were despatched, heavily armed with sarcasm and fluorescent clothing, to make sure potential graduate employees were fully educated in the glorious history of BAE’s deadly dealings. Continue reading “Clown Army descend upon BAE careers fair!”

Return of Red Warwick

Warwick occupationBarnaby Pace updates us on the current wave of anti-arms activism to sweep the nations universities: –

Since 12.30 yesterday a number of Warwick students have occupied our SO.21 lecture theatre. We are demanding firstly that the university help the victims of the Israel-Palestine conflict by sending textbooks and computer equipment, restoring the ability of students in the region to use their right to education. The university should inform students about the issues by funding a series of talks on the conflict. Importantly we feel that the university should end its complicity in the conflict by severing its ties to the arms trade. Our university promotes arms companies in an unquestioning positive light at careers events, does research for arms companies in our academic departments and has university finances invested in funds which do not preclude arms trade investments, and this is an unacceptable status quo. Continue reading “Return of Red Warwick”

Warwick’s unethical career services

Barnaby Pace writes

On Thursday 15 January a group of Warwick University students, in opposition to the arms trade and in solidarity with Gaza, protested at a recruitment event run by BAE and Warwick University Careers Service.

Why BAE? Is it especially unethical? Just look at their record. BAE is the third largest arms manufacturer in the world. So much has come to light in the last few years with the discoveries, investigations and court cases surrounding the Al-Yamamah arms deal to Saudi Arabia, in which BAE systems was the primary supplier of weaponry. It is alleged that BAE paid over £1 billion in bribes to members of the Saudi regime.

But this case is not unique – BAE is currently being investigated over bribery allegations Arms companies are often not willing to disclose who their customers are (especially for arms components); this may be common practice among many businesses, citing “commercial confidentiality”. However, most businesses do not need to hide that they sold fighter jets to Robert Mugabe (as BAE and Rolls Royce have) or torture equipment for Guantanamo Bay (BAE subsidiary Hiatts). Nor are reputable business alleged to give a cool £1 million in bribes to the late, but not lamented, General Pinochet (BAE again). All good reasons for protesting and the inclusion of Israel in its (very colourful) list of customers made action particularly important at this time for us.
Continue reading “Warwick’s unethical career services”

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.
Continue reading “BAE Systems AGM, 7 May 2008”