The London Chamber of Commerce (LCC) have been accused of running scared from public opinion after moving a seminar for arms dealers to an undisclosed location, apparently to avoid peaceful protests.
The event, which explores arms sales opportunities in the Middle East, was due to take place this afternoon (8 September) at the Royal Bank of Scotland in central London. But when the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) called a nonviolent demonstration outside the building, the LCC chose a new venue – but refused to say where it is.
The seminar is entitled Middle East: A vast market for UK defence and security companies . It comes ahead of one of the world’s largest arms fairs, Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi), which will take place in London next week.
The conference has been labelled as a “seminar of shame” by CAAT, who criticised the sale of arms to oppressive regimes in the region in the wake of the Arab Spring. Armoured vehicles made by BAE in Newcastle were recently used to repress peaceful protests in Bahrain.
CAAT’s Anne-Marie O’Reilly told Ekklesia, “We have embarrassed the London Chamber of Commerce enough to stop them advertising their event exploring the Middle East as a “priority market” for UK arms."
But she added, “It's a shame that they seem to be focusing on hiding the event from awkward protests rather than understanding just how abhorrent it is to view weapons exports to repressive regimes as great ‘opportunities’.”
The Friend, an independent weekly Quaker magazine, has reported this week that the LCC failed to respond to its request for a comment on the issue.
As the Royal Bank of Scotland continue to defend their involvement in the event, CAAT have decided to go ahead with a demonstration outside the building, beginning at 2.30pm today.
The seminar will feature speakers from the UK government's Defence and Security Organisation, which exists to promote British arms sales.
It is a unit of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), part of Vince Cable's Department for Business. Cable was a critic of many UK arms exports prior to his appointment to government.
A wave of protests are expected to greet the DSEi arms fair, which will run at London's Excel Centre from Tuesday 13 - Friday 16 September.