Five Christians face trial for blocking entrance to arms fair

By agency reporter
September 12, 2013

Five Christians, including a Methodist minister, are to face trial after peacefully blocking one of the entrances to the London arms fair on Tuesday (10 September 2013).

The five, none of whom had been arrested before, will appear in Thames Magistrates Court at 9.30am on Tuesday 24 September, charged with aggravated trespass.

They were part of a group of seven Christians who held up travel to the arms fair for around forty-five minutes by kneeling and praying in one of the exits from Custom House DLR station, which leads to the Excel Centre, where DSEi is held. Supporters stood nearby with a banner reading "This is a dead end. There is another way."

The Christians sang hymns, proclaimed their motives and prayed for arms dealers and those who would suffer as a result of DSEi. They asked for God's forgiveness for tolerating the arms trade.

Five of the seven were arrested and charged with aggravated trespass after several hours at Camden Police Station. None was offered the option of a caution even though none of them had previous convictions. The other two participants left the blockaded entrance before the arrests took place.

Those involved include members of Christianity Uncut and the SPEAK Network, as well as other Christian groups such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Student Christian Movement and Christian CND. Many are also supporters of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

The five to be arrested are James Clayton, a community IT teacher from Bradford; Symon Hill, a freelance writer and tutor from London; Chloe Skinner, a PhD student from Sheffield; Chris Wood, a vegan caterer from Birmingham; and Dan Woodhouse, a student Methodist minister from Cambridge.

The two who blocked the entrance with them were Angela Ditchfield, a a mother and community fundraiser from Cambridge and Dr Alison Parker, a university lecturer from Bedford.

All those involved sought to act with a spirit of love for humanity rather than hatred for those involved, says Christianity Uncut. They rejected personal abuse and attempted to engage arms dealers in conversation. One police officer told Dan Woodhouse that he was "the most corteous person I've ever arrested."

The action came the day after the UK government admitted that the guest list for the arms fair includes oppressive regimes such as Bahrain, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia.

Chris Wood, speaking before his arrest, said: "I believe that it is our moral duty to prayerfully and peacefully resist the evil transactions that take place at the London arms fair, where instruments of death are commodified."

Dan Barnes-Davies, an Anglican from London who gave support and held the banner, spoke out after the arrests. He said: "It beggars belief that while the chancellor is cutting public services to the bone, there is always money to be invested in the arms trade."

The London arms fair, known formally as Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi), is taking place at the Excel Centre in east London from Tuesday 10 until Friday 13 September 2013.

The exit from Custom House DLR station leading to the Excel Centre was blocked from shortly before 9.00am until around 9.30am on Tuesday 10 September 2013. The five Christians to be arrested were detained in separate cells at Camden Police Station until around 4.00pm, when they were charged without being interviewed or offered a caution.

A number of campaigning actions against the arms fair are taking place all week, incuding people of many religions and none. Many of them are oganised by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and other groups belonging to the Stop the Arms Fair coalition.

Specifically Christian actions against the arms fair have included an act of worship and resistance, in the road leading into the Excel Centre, on Sunday 8 September.

During this event, three Church of England priests led an exorcism ceremony, praying for Jesus' victory over the spirits of militarism and violence. Last month, six national Christian organisations said that nonviolent direct action would be a moral response to the London arms fair.


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