A Christian activist has been imprisoned following a nonviolent protest against the arms trade. Chris Cole was today (19 January) sentenced to 30 days in prison at Westminster Central Magistrates’ Court, London for non-payment of a fine resulting from his opposition to a conference of arms dealers.
Cole, a Roman Catholic, protested outside the QEII Conference Centre in London when arms dealers and government figures met there in September 2009. He sprayed slogans including ‘Build Peace Not War Machines’ and ‘Stop this Bloody Business’ across the entrance to the Centre.
The conference coincided with the biennial London arms fair, known formally as Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi).
Cole is a well-known figure in the peace movement and a former director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, England. He has long been involved with the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).
At the original trial in October 2009, Cole was found guilty and ordered to pay £1,545.00 in compensation and £350 in court costs.
But he decided that he did not want to collude with the system and has instead gone to prison. This is the fifth time that Cole has been sentenced to imprisonment for nonviolent civil disobedience.
“The arms industry is pushing military solutions to human security threats that in reality need political and humanitarian responses, not more weaponry,” explained Cole as he defended himself in court.
He added, “If we want to be a nation that is committed to building peace and defending the poor, we need to address underlying causes of injustice and not promote the ideology of ‘might is right’”.
The publicity brochure for the conference at which Cole protested said that it would bring together government, the armed forces and the arms industry to “explore the business opportunities” to be found in responses “to global security threats”.