Two members of the London Catholic Worker community, including a priest, have been arrested for a protest at the London arms fair in which they prayed that God would forgive arms dealers.
Katrina Alton and Father Martin Newell poured red paint onto a sign by the main pedestrian entrance to the arms fair at 8.30 this morning (Wednesday 9 September). They raised a banner reading “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do”, echoing Jesus' prayer for the people who crucified him.
Several arms dealers paused and looked on their way into the fair and one reportedly stopped and spoke with Newell. The two Catholic Workers had been kneeling in prayer for 45 minutes before they were arrested by around a dozen police officers.
The last three days have seen a succession of protests against the arms fair, known formally as Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) and held in the Excel Centre in east London.
Catholic peace activist Chris Cole was arrested on Monday (7 September) while protesting against the preparations for the fair. Yesterday the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) staged a large-scale demonstration outside the offices of UK Trade and Investment, the government unit through which the arms fair is subsidised.
“Today the DSEi Arms Fair is proudly trading in arms and weapons that cause death and suffering to millions of the poorest and most vulnerable in our world” said Katrina Alton, “As a Christian I believe these children, women, and men are my brothers and sisters”.
Martin Newell said that “The victims of the arms trade may not know where their suffering has come from – they may only know that their families have been killed, their homes destroyed, their means of survival wiped out. They may not know the words DSEi, Excel, arms fair, arms trade, or capitalism”.
“But those who are working here today, those who work in and for the arms trade, do know that they make a living at the expense of the blood of the innocent” he added.
London Catholic Worker is part of the worldwide Catholic Worker movement, which it describes as “international, radical, pacifist”. They offer hospitality to the poor, homeless and refugees while working to resist injustice and violence.