A careers fair at the University of Edinburgh was closed down last week after the organisers' decision to invite a multinational arms firm to the event triggered a nonviolent protest by students. The students laid down in front of the stall run by BAE Systems, one of the world's largest arms companies.
The protesters included supporters of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), who point out that BAE arms some of the world's most repressive regimes, including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. They also accuse BAE of excessive influence within the UK government.
The CAAT activists were joined by members of Students for Justice in Palestine, who are angry about BAE's sale of weapons parts to the Israeli government.
The peaceful protest saw students waving banners reading “BAE – Blatant Absence of Ethics” as they chanted “BAE sells, Israel kills”. Police arrived as students laid down in front of the BAE stand.
Security staff cleared the hall and closed the event for thirty minutes. No arrests were reported.
A spokesperson for Edinburgh University told local student newspaper The Journal, “The University attaches great importance to freedom of speech, as long as points of view are put across in a safe and lawful way”.
Student Liam O'Hare told the same publication that BAE “are being given a platform to persuade people to join their company, and we are opposed to them being given that platform”. He said that the university was in effect still supporting BAE, despite having ditched its own shares in the company five years ago.
CAAT recently launched a new Ban BAE campaign, aiming for an end to arms companies' presence at careers fairs. Students are expected to campaign against BAE at a number of recruitment events in the coming weeks.