Arms convention is besieged by protestors
Posted on Sunday, September 18 2005
By Jason N. Parkinson
Fifty-seven protestors are arrested in demonstrations against weapons manufacturers at the international arms show in London...
The four-day 2005 UK Defence Systems and Equipment arms fair is described by organisers as "The world’s largest and fastest growing international tri-service defence exhibition”. Bu the exhibition - held at London Docklands' ExCel centre - turned into chaos this year as hundreds of demonstrators besieged the show in various actions spanning three days.
More than 1,000 companies from across the globe gathered to display the latest in military hardware, including tanks, fighter jets, helicopters, missiles and machine guns.
Of the many countries invited to DSEi, seven are considered human rights violators by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO), including China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Israel.
Some 4,000 police officers were mobilised against the demonstrators at the cost to British taxpayers put at £4m.
A small street party started the demonstrations on Saturday 10 August. Protestors and cyclists toured the local are accompanied by a large police presence.
They played music from mobile sound systems, handed out leaflets and talked to residents.
Tuesday 13 August, the first day of DSEi, saw 400 people march from Central Park in East Ham, London, towards the ExCel Centre in the heart of London’s Docklands.
Demonstrators - both local and international - blew whistles, sang and chanted “Welfare not warfare”.
The march was halted by a steel fence erected some 200 metres away from the Excel centre.
Banners displayed messages from around the world, “Invest In Peace Not Weapons Of War” said one. Another read “From Sweden With Love”.
“This is a disgusting event and people are opposed to it everywhere,” said one speaker from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).
“They live here in London and are angry that this city, which was targeted by bombers weeks ago, is now being used to push more arms onto the world.”
Wednesday saw a day of continuous mass action consisting of marches and road and rail blockades.
At 1100 GMT protestors attempted to enter the convention but were stopped by police.
Two demonstrators halted trains at Canning Town by climbing on top of the carriages.
Ecological protest bicycle group Critical Mass rode from location to location, using their transport to blockade roads and stop the 20,000 delegates entering DSEi.
Other protestors cemented their hands into an oil drum to block the main highway at Canning Town.
One demonstrator attempted to swim across the Thames to the convention, but was surrounded by police boats within seconds.
Protests were largely peaceful, although some demonstrators complained of heavy-handed policing. One woman was arrested for criminal damage.
“I was writing with chalk,” she said, as officers lead her into a police van.
On Thursday evening DSEi delegates hosted a banquet at the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane in Central London and were met by protestors chanting “murderers”.
Some were searched by police under suspicion of intent to commit criminal damage, including an independent filmmaker.
Two protestors gained entry to the hotel but were ejected and arrested after giving staff the run-around on the first floor.
Scotland Yard said 57 people were arrested over the week of demonstrations. Ten for public order offences, nine for obstructing a train, eight for obstructing the highway, five for aggravated trespass and two for ABH.
Ten people were bailed to appear in court at a later date and 23 are awaiting sentencing.
Eight people received a fixed penalty, 11 were released with no further action and four were cautioned.