The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has pointed to nationwide actions against the arms industry as evidence of “public revulsion” towards the arms trade. Such feelings are expected to increase ahead of the world's largest arms fair, due to take place in London in September.
Stop the Arms Trade Week 2009 saw concerned people across the UK protesting against government support for the arms industry, with events ranging from a 'Merchants of Death Walking Tour' in London to a presence at the Somerset Green Fair.
Protests in major cities such as Glasgow, Cardiff and Manchester were complimented by events in smaller towns, including Norwich, Hastings and Evesham.
Over 40 churches and other organisations took part in Stop the Arms Trade Day of Prayer, co-ordinated by the CAAT Christian Network.
Campaigners are particularly angry about the support given to the arms industry through UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), a unit of the Department for Business. UKTI employs more staff in its Defence and Security Organisation (DSO), to promote arms, than in all its civil units combined, although arms make up less than two per cent of UK exports.
UKTI's support will play a major role in the London arms fair – known more formally as Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) - which will take place in London's Excel Centre from 8th-11th September.
“Many members of the public told campaigners how shocked they were by government support for the arms trade” said CAAT's Anne-Marie O'Reilly.
She added that “We expect even more people to join us to protest against the DSEi arms fair in September and to call for UKTI DSO - the government body which facilitates this destructive event - to close.”
UKTI took over responsibility for arms export promotion following the closure of the Defence Exports Services Organisation (DESO), a unit of the Ministry of Defence, in 2008. DESO was shut following a long-running campaign by CAAT, the Fellowship of Reconciliation and other groups.