Arms fair opens in London to wave of protest
An international arms fair opening in London today was met with a wave of protest from local residents, community leaders, politicians and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). The comedian and writer Mark Thomas addressed a peaceful demonstration organised by CAAT outside the event. The fair, Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi), will run from today until Friday at the Excel Centre in Newham, east London.
Ian Prichard of CAAT said:
"DSEi's owner, Reed Elsevier has decided to improve its reputation by selling the fair. The Prime Minister has responded to public concerns by choosing to close the unit that helps to run DSEi. The Government and business community are beginning to realise that participation in the arms trade is not an option for anyone who wants public opinion on their side. They must now follow this through and ensure that 2007 sees the end of DSEi."
Writer and comedian Mark Thomas said:
"After the scandals of BAE Systems and the collapse of the bribery investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, BAE's centre-stage presence at DSEi this year is nothing short of corporate contempt for the rule of law and observance of human rights. The multitude of arms dealers gathered from around the world to flog guns, bombs and the other wherewithal to take human life while Londoners pay £4 million police bill to protect the arms dealers from peace protesters makes DSEi unacceptable and unwelcome."
1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade.
2. Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) is held every two years at the Excel Centre in Newham, east London.
3. The demonstration organised by CAAT involved a march towards the Excel Centre followed by a rally, which took place at around 12.30pm today. The demonstration was entirely peaceful and the logistics of it had been negotiated in advance with the police. All CAAT activities are strictly nonviolent.
4. DSEi is owned by Reed Elsevier. Following a public campaign Reed announced on 1st June that it would sell its arms fairs by the end of 2007. On 25th July, the Prime Minister responded to campaigning by CAAT and other groups and announced his intention to close the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), a Government unit which promotes sales for private arms companies and is heavily involved in the organisation of DSEi.
5. CAAT spokespeople are available for interview about DSEi.
6. Photographs of CAAT's demonstration and of the speakers are available for media use
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caat press release