Musical protesters will strike a note for peace against London arms fair

By agency reporter
March 17, 2009

East London Against the Arms Fair (ELAAF) are appealing directly to the state-owned Abu Dhabi Exhibition Company, owners of the ExCel Centre, to stop hosting the London Arms Fair in 2009.

On 25 March 2009, ELAAF will hold a musical protest outside the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embassy in Kensington.

The protest will start with Buddhist chanting, followed by music from members of the Big Red Band – a regular feature of ELAAF protests. Non-musical protesters, with colorful posters and banners, will also be present. The UAE Ambassador will be asked to receive a petition presented by two residents who live close to the ExCel Centre.

ELAAF, which is affiliated to Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), has been campaigning against the Arms Fair (officially Defence Security Exhibitions International - DSEi) at the ExCel Centre for many years. In addition to the ethical issues around arms sales, the event causes huge disruption for the surrounding communities, due to a heavy security presence which blocks off and access roads and bridges.

In 2008 the ExCel Centre was bought by the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company, which is owned by the Abu Dhabi government.

One ELAAF supporter says: “ We see this as another opportunity to get our message across. We urge the Abu Dhabi government to follow the ethical option and give up the Arms Fair, together with the heavy security costs and negative publicity that comes with it.”

Kaye Stearman, spokesperson for CAAT adds: “It is shameful that DSEi is actively supported by UK Trade and Investment's Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO). In other words, honest people's taxes are being used to promote arms sales to some of the most abusive countries in the world. Removing the Arms Fair from the ExCel calendar would be a win for everyone – except, of course, the arms industry.”

Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) has been held every two years since 2001 at the ExCel Centre in Newham, east London. This year it is scheduled to run 8-11 September 2009. Every year there have been high-profile protests against it.

Until 2008 DSEi was owned by Reed Elsevier, who finally responded to years of public pressure by CAAT and other organisations and sold DSEi and two other arms fairs to Clarion Events.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade.

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