Protesters storm UK defence fair
By Tim Weber
Business editor, BBC News website, DSEi in London
Protesters have tried to invade one of the world's largest defence fairs at London's Excel centre.
Arms trade critics, shouting "murderers" at exhibitors, were quickly overwhelmed by police.
Further disruption is expected later when pressure group Campaign Against Arms Trade holds a demonstration.
Held every two years, the Defence Systems & Equipment International show attracts more than 1,350 exhibitors and military delegations from 56 countries.
The DSEI event is a showcase for weapons systems, ranging from logistics software to tanks and rocket launchers.
Soldiers and exhibitors come not just from the UK, Germany, the US and other Nato countries, but from countries such as Libya, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and India.
However, as in previous years, the organisers have ordered exhibitors not to show any equipment that might be considered too offensive - such as torture devices and cluster bombs - neither as an exhibit, nor in pictures or literature.
As well as the Campaign against Arms Trade protest, other campaigners have threatened to try to disrupt the event using "direct action".
Public pressure has persuaded the company organising the show, Reed Elsevier, to sell the business by the end of the year.
Security around the London venue is tight
DSEI spokesman Al Lockwood said the sale was on track and that bids for the show were currently being assessed.
He added DSEI had a "bright future" and would be held again in September 2009 at the same venue.
"We are well aware that DSEI has its critics," Mr Lockwood said, adding that organisers had designated an area where demonstrators could protest and would be visible to visitors arriving at the exhibition.
There had been doubts about the future of the exhibition, after Prime Minister Gordon Brown decided to abolish the government's Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), which helps to organise the show and hosts all foreign military organisations.
In another snub to the industry, the UK's defence secretary has broken with tradition and will not open this year's event.
However, the promotion of arms exports as such has not ended, with DESO's function to be moved to UK Trade and Investment department by the end of the year.
Reporter from afar
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Activists breached the two manned security cordons at the East entrance to the Excel site just before eight o'clock as delegates and staff were arriving. The gates were opened to allow access to traffic, and the activists were able to simply run past the security guards.
Police had to rugby tackle protesters to the ground to prevent them reaching the East entrance and the loading bays to the rear of the building. One of the police present was heard to comment, "What happened to the security? They were crap!"
In fact the grey-suited and rather rotund figure who seemed to be in charge of security at the two gates panicked when he saw around 16 black clad figures heading towards him. He started screaming to the guards, "stop them, stop them, don't let them through!", and in his haste to get to the second inner cordon, fell flat on his arse, his clipboard and papers flying around him.
As it was, only the intervention of four vans of TSG doing hand-break turns across the car park prevented the activists reaching the Excel building. Which is not so good for a location which was supposed to be on heightened 'terrorist' alert. Heads will roll for this one.