Warships arriving at the London arms fair have been delayed after their route was disrupted by critics of the arms trade taking nonviolent direct action.
The campaigners intervened when the warships attempted to dock in east London's Royal Victoria Dock in preparation for one of the world's largest arms fairs, Defence and Security International (DSEi), which will take place at the Excel Centre from 13-16 September.
As the ships approached the dock on Saturday (10 September), they were prevented from gaining access by a number of kayaks containing members of Disarm DSEi, a direct action group affiliated to the Stop the Arms Fair coalition.
The arms fair, which is run by Clarion Events with the active support of the UK government, has attracted particularly strong criticism in the wake of the Arab Spring.
David Cameron and his ministers have been accused of hypocrisy for welcoming the removal of dictators in Egypt and Libya while inviting delegations from other oppressive regimes to the arms fair.
Representatives of the Gaddafi regime were invited to the last DSEi, in 2009. Yesterday (11 September), the Sunday Telegraph revealed that UK authorities had been attempting to sell sniper rifles to Gaddafi only weeks before the Libyan uprising began.
A spokesperson for Disarm DSEi pointed out that the same politicians encouraging mourning for the victims of 9/11 “are fuelling the fires of war and armed conflict around the world”.
The spokesperson continued, “It is up to ordinary people to intervene to stop the obscene traffic in arms”.
The arms fair is expected to be greeted with a wave of protests when it opens tomorrow (Tuesday 13 September), including lawful demonstrations, prayer vigils, a mass lobby of Parliament and civil disobedience. The beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia suggested this weekend that nonviolent direct action would be an “entirely justified” response to the arms fair.
Disarm DSEi pointed out that DSEi takes place in Newham, one of London’s most impoverished boroughs.
They said, “Whilst the government has subsidised DSEi by £320,000 and paid up to £4 million for policing, Newham Council are being forced to cut £116 million from their budget over the next four years”.
A report issued in April this year confirmed that since 2009 the UK government have authorised the export of components for military helicopters to Algeria, sub-machine guns and tear gas to Bahrain, machine guns to Egypt and hand grenades to Jordan. British arms firms have also sold small arms ammunition to Syria, hand grenades, sniper rifles and tear gas to Saudi Arabia and shotguns to Morocco.