Not Guilty: Waiting for my trial next week

By Symon Hill
January 28, 2014

There are many things I have done in my life of which I am ashamed. I am guilty of failing to love my neighbour on numerous occasions. There are many sins for which I seek forgiveness from God and others.

One action for which I feel no shame, and over which I bear no guilt, occurred on 10th September last year. Along with six other Christians, I knelt in an entrance to the London arms fair. We sang hymns, prayed together and prevented arms dealers from entering the fair for nearly an hour.

On Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th February, I will be on trial with four of the others in Stratford Magistrates’ Court in east London. We have all entered pleas of Not Guilty.

On the day that we were arrested, two companies were thrown out of the London arms fair (known euphemistically as Defence and Security Equipment International, or DSEi) for displaying illegal torture equipment. They were removed only after their illegality was raised in Parliament. Their staff and bosses were neither arrested nor charged with any crime. It is those of us who tried to prevent the torture deals who are in the dock.

I am on trial with James Clayton, Chloe Skinner, Chris Wood and Daniel Woodhouse. Many thanks too to Angela Ditchfield and Alison Parker, who blocked the entrance with us, and the many who have done so much to support us, particularly Jo Frew.

I have been moved to tears by the messages of support we have received from people with a range of religious, non-religious and political views. I thank God that we are being upheld and assisted by friends and strangers. I am sorry I cannot name you all in this blog. I am conscious that what we have done is fairly minor compared to the actions of peaceful protesters in places such as Bahrain, who risk torture and death from a regime that was able to do weapons deals at the London arms fair.

We’re delighted that several people have already organised a peaceful vigil to be held outside the court on both days, from 9am onwards. There will be a moment of silence and reflection at 10am each day, in memory of the victims of the arms trade. Please come along for any part of the day if you can make it, or join in the the moment of silence from wherever you are, if you are able. If praying is something that you do, that would be great too.

You can also follow developments on Twitter, by following @PutDowntheSword and using the hashtag #StopDSEi.

Facebook includes an event page for several arms fair-related trials including this one (https://www.facebook.com/events/1414329932128337/?fref=ts). Some are leaving messages of support on the Christians Against the Arms Fair page (https://www.facebook.com/Christiansagainstthearmsfair?fref=ts).

We may have a long time to go until the day when we beat our swords into ploughshares, our tanks into tractors and our stun batons into walking sticks. Thanks to everyone whose love and solidarity helps to bring that day closer.

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(c) Symon Hill is a Christian writer and an Ekklesia associate. His latest book is Digital Revolutions: Activism in the internet age, which can be ordered from the publisher, New Internationalist at http://newint.org/books/politics/digital-revolutions.

For links to more of Symon's work, please visit http://www.symonhill.wordpress.com.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.