The Quaker who disrupted Vince Cable's speech to a conference of arms dealers has defended his protest as “an act of witness to the truth”. Sam Walton interrupted the Business Secretary and addressed the conference himself for around a minute before being dragged from the building.
Walton, a 26-year-old Quaker from north London, has argued that the gathering was ignoring the reality of the effects of UK arms exports. The event on Thursday (26 April) was the annual symposium of the Defence & Security Organisation (DSO), a wing of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), a unit within Cable's department.
“It was really an act of witness,” explained Walton. He told Ekklesia that he had not planned an interruption when he entered the conference, but that he had been moved to act by the nature of the discussion.
He explained, “I listened through through the head of UKTI talking about exports and the economy, but there was not mention of what this deadly trade does. And I had to give a voice to the people all over the world – in places such as Bahrain and Libya – who are suffering the consequences of what these people are doing.”
During his impromptu speech to the conference, Walton encouraged the assembled arms company executives to go straight to the Job Centre and find alternative employment.
UKTI, which promotes British exports, is the subject of criticism by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) over its support for arms exports to repressive regimes, such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Gaddafi's Libya. UKTI devotes more staff to its arms wing, DSO, than to all civil sectors combined. Arms account for less than two per cent of UK exports.
Walton said he had no regrets about his action. “I think the important thing is that they weren't allowed to pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves about doing things for the economy,” he explained. “The voices of those who are crushed by their trade were heard”.