Catholic priest sent to prison following protest at London arms fair

Catholic priest sent to prison following protest at London arms fair

By Agencies
19 Mar 2008

Zelda Jeffers and Fr Martin Newell of the London Catholic Worker community were sentenced to days in prison yesterday, at Stratford Magistrates Court, after pouring fake blood onto the gangway entrance to the DSEi (Defence System Equipment International) Arms Fair at Custom House DLR station in east London in September.

The entrance to one of the world’s largest arms fairs was closed for at least 4 hours as a result.

The were found guilty of “criminal damage” at their trial at the same Court in February and ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £700. However, as they refused to pay these, the Magistrate ordered them to serve a custodial sentence. The two admitted pouring fake blood, but denied that it was criminal damage.

Fr Newell had poured out five litres of red paint on the gangway, saying 'rivers of blood that start here at the DSEi Arms Fair’. Having done this, he then knelt down to pray. He was dragged away and arrested.

Ms Jeffers had held up a banner saying "Get the Guns Out of London" and then poured fake blood on herself before being arrested.

Martin Newell said in court today, “To pay this fine would be to co-operate with a system that is fuelling murder and mayhem around the world by promoting and protecting the arms trade. We withdrew our co-operation at the DSEi arms fair last September. We continue that refusal to go along quietly with manifest evil.

"In Holy Week, Christians and others remember the price Jesus paid on the cross for standing up for truth, life and freedom, when he was arrested for his act of civil disobedience when he cleansed the Temple of traders and bankers. It is a great privilege to be able to follow, in a small way, Jesus’ example of suffering for love and righteousness sake.”

At the trial in February, Zelda Jeffers said, “"I am a mother, have held my babies, know the love and care and concern a mother anywhere has for her children. They have a right to physical integrity that is, not to be blown up shot or burnt. I worked as a midwife which is a respected profession, I helped babies be born, I hoped for them to grow up. The week before the arms fair Ryan was shot in Liverpool, with a gun that was manufactured and traded, then ended a young life, this is wrong, it should be stopped. I worked in Nicaragua during and after the war there. I saw the results of these arms not only in maiming and killing but in poverty, ignorance and hunger. How can I not try to stop this going on? The blood coloured paint and dye was not damage but a statement of truth. The action was not criminal but my duty as a human being."

Both Ms Jeffers and Fr Newell cp live and work at the London Catholic Worker community house of hospitality in Hackney, east London. The house provides accommodation for asylum seekers, and members run a community cafe and soup kitchen in Hackney.

The London Catholic Worker is part of the international Catholic Worker movement, started in 1933 in New York to "explode the dynamite of Catholic Social Teaching". The movement is committed to radical social, political and economic change. The
London CW organises and campaigns for peace and justice and publishes a quarterly newsletter as well as a website.

You can read a profile of Fr Martin Newell in the Times newspaper here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3461731.ece

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