A contingent of activists from Nottingham traveled to London to take part in the protests against the DSEi arms fair.
The day before the arms fair got underway, Jane’s mlitary analysts held a conference at The Mayfair hotel at which top brass advised the military-industrial complex how to prepare for future wars. Nottingham’s vegan catering campaign Veggies was there, serving food and drink to activists on the picket line. (See Indymedia for more info.)
Tuesday September 11th was DSEi’s opening day, and a Day Of Action against the arms fair. In the morning there was a colourful march called by Campaign Against the Arms Trade that ended in a rally outside the arms fair. The police tried to corral the protesters inside a pen but gave up when the crowd spilled out to hear speakers including comedian and activist Mark Thomas.
As usual, policing of the event was heavy-handed with a bill to the taxpayer that ran into millions. In addition to a massive police presence at the arms fair, police vehicles remained outside the RampART social centre to monitor and intimidate activists. Protesters from Nottingham were detained and searched, and one was taken into custody twice.
Despite this, the police failed to prevent the Space Hijackers from pulling off a spectacular media stunt: The anarchist group drove a 60-ton tank up to the west entrance of the arms fair and “auctioned” it off to the highest cash bidder, satirising the unethical nature of the arms trade. Check the Space Hijackers website for the hilarious full story.
In other actions, a group of activists from Brighton tried to storm the arms fair but were arrested, a pair of London Catholic Worker activists poured fake blood all over a gangway to the arms fair, and a lady of 66 was arrested for trying to leaflet arms dealers. Thanks to the efforts of campaigners like Mark Thomas, customs officers patrolled the arms fair for the first time and two exhibitors were thrown out for marketing leg irons.
The number of demonstrators was down on previous years, perhaps due in part to the recent rise of climate change activism, and some were frustrated that they were unable to disrupt the arms fair. However the protests got good coverage in local and national media, prompting DSEi and DESO to field spokesmen to talk down the “tanks, ships and aircraft” and talk up the “humanitarian” and “peacekeeping” applications.
For full coverage of actions against the arms fair, check Indymedia. There are also a couple of good BBC video clips here and here. (Can you spot the Nottingham activists in both?) And a great comment piece in The Guardian sums up the links between DSEi and war, corruption and human rights abuses.
DSEi will be back in 2009; the dates have been confirmed. DSEi will be back and so will we.