|DSEi Arms Fair Protests - Sep 11 2001|
Fiesta for Life in the Docklands
The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and the umbrella group Disarm DSEI have joined in a "Fiesta for Life against Death" in the Docklands of London to shut down DSEI, the largest arms fair in Europe.
The soulless expanse surrounding East London's docklands was transformed into a fiesta of colour, sound and vibrancy on 11 September as over a thousand people gathered outside the Dsei International Arms Fair. Protesters converged at key access points to the Excel Centre in Canning Town to expose the shocking trade in weapons taking place there - trade on which world governments spend 3719 billion a year.
The day kicked off early as pedal powered activists took a cross-city bike ride from Waterloo to Canning Town to the tunes provided by the Rinky Dink sound system. There they joined hundreds of anti-arms protesters of all different flavours, including Earth First, Campaign against the Arms Trade, Reclaim the Streets, Wombles, Christian pressure groups, tactical frivolity groups and the Rhythms of Resistance samba band. Within minutes of the crowd gathering, police composed a containment order to surround protesters - a tactic that set the tone of policing for the day.
Despite such heavy handed, unprovoked policing (including numerous injuries and, according to police, 18 arrests), the pink and silver clad crowd remained good-natured as they slowly moved down to the West gate of the conference building, where several hundred Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) demonstrators greeted them with jubilant cheers. Meanwhile, several groups of activists managed to evade police containment tactics and broke free to either canvass the local community or confront delegates arriving at Customs House (DLR) train station nearby.
Back at the Excel centre gate, a carnival spirit prevailed - banners went up, giant puppets went dancing and the samba band continued to blast out a defiant beat. Later on, a diminished crowd led by the samba band made their way to Canning Town station and were ambushed by four vanloads of police officers who randomly lashed out at people. The crowd was then contained by reinforcements. Once the delegates who had been boarding trains had left the area, protesters were forced into the station and out of the area.
Here's the timeline from Tuesday Sep 11:
[17.50] People are now finally dispersing as police stopped taking their pictures outside Canning Town station. Several groups of people are leaving the area by foot while others jump into trains arriving at the station. Unconfirmed reports of another group of demostrators with a pedal-powered sound-system, are still demonstrating outside the West Gate of the conference centre.
[17.15] Police release people in small groups into Canning Town Station and take their pictures in the process.
[16.50] The crowd caught by the police have now been hemmed in and prevented from reaching Canning Town station, while the delegates from the arms fair are boarding the trains unhindered. Reports of serious police violence.
[16.35] As a crowd of around 400 move away from the West Gate with the samba band they are charged by police trying to arrest a particular protestor. Messy scenes as the police force people in to the road, beating them to the ground, and then chase them down the street.
[16.20] While the arms traders are holed up in the Excel centre East London, the fountains of Trafalgar Square flow blood red, as part of a symbolic action against war and bloodshed.full story
[16.10] Around 400 people at the samba street party by the West Gate are pressing up against the police lines - the atmosphere is still positive, but increasingly defiant.
[15.55] A street party is underway at the West Gate, featuring music from the Samba band and the Rinky Dink sound system, street theater and general merriment.
[15.20] Giant Banner saying "Who are the terrorists?" hung from Silvertown Way bridge over the Arms Fair.
[14.45] Groups of protestors and a Samba band manage to block the side entrance of the Arms fair at Customs House - preventing delegates from coming in or out of the fair and their hotel opposite.
[14.30] CND and others giving speeches to a relaxed crowd, chilling out and grabbing food in the CAAT enclosure. Legal Defence report five or six arrests so far.
[14.15] The Pink and Silver group has joined the West Gate CAAT demo supported by the Wombles. Only a thin line of police are between the demo and the DSEI exhibition. see photo Police are getting aggressive and starting to arrest people. see video
Outside Custom House, a relaxed crowd of 100 people are trying to close DLR Entrance. Local school kids are joining them.
[14.00] At the West Gate of the DSEI Fair, the CAAT demo has grown to 200. Peaceful atmosphere, live music and nice food.
[13.45] The Fiesta for Life has grown to 1000 people, still in high spirits. Police at front and back of the crowd.
"Indymedia Public Access Point" ( a mobile computer unit allowing people to upload stories to the web from the heart of the protest) now set upon the northern side of Silvertown Way bridge.
[13.30] One more person arrested.
[13.15] A guy and a girl in pink were arrested in the 'kettle' near Canning town Station. Many small groups of Samba and Party people are threading their way towards the arms fair. Heavy police prescence around the whole site and Docklands Railway Stations.
[12.30] Critical Mass arrives at the roundabout at Canning Town Station, where police prevent them joining the Pink and Silver group. The cyclists disperse into sidestreets to join the fiesta. Looks like the Rinkydink Soundsystem got fenced in.
[12.00] A Pink & Silver crowd of about 300, including Samba Band and Wombles are surrounded by the police at Silvertown Way.
[10.00] Critical Mass starts in Waterloo Station, 3 soundsystems on 200 bikes went through to tower bridge, Commercial Road, Residents very interested in protest against armstrade. Lots of pink and silver on public transport as well.