DEFENCE and Security Equipment International (DSEI), one of the world’s largest arms fairs, is taking place at the ExCeL centre in London between 12-15 September. Protests which began on 4 September will continue for two weeks, with the first week targeting the setting up of the arms fair.
Campaigners have suffered from excessive and violent policing at previous DSEIs. This has included the use of blanket stop and search powers, arrests, police surveillance, harassment and the use of ‘spycops’. Campaign Against Arms Trade says previous DSEI protests have also shown the institutional and systemic racism that is rife in the police, with protests by marginalised communities facing excessive police violence and harassment. This year, the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) will be monitoring the protests, and reporting on how the police are using their powers over the two weeks of protests.
Over 2,800 defence and security suppliers will be courting deals with representatives from human-rights abusing regimes, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar, and Israel. Campaigners argue that the deals done at DSEI lead to death and devastation across the world.
Emily Apple, CAAT’s Media Coordinator stated: “Time and again at DSEI we’ve seen the police protect the arms dealers, and repress our right to protest against this abhorrent fair. DSEI is a marketplace in death and destruction with deals done at the ExCeL centre causing global misery and devastating people’s lives.
“Representatives from regimes such as Saudi Arabia, who have used UK-made weapons to commit war crimes in Yemen, will be wined and dined and encouraged to buy yet more arms. Arms dealers do not care about peace or security because conflict increases profits for their shareholders. Meanwhile this government has shown repeatedly that it cares more about the money made from dodgy deals with dictators than it does about the people whose lives will be ruined by the sales made at DSEI.
“Yet despite the violence perpetrated inside the ExCeL centre, the police view protesters as the problem, not arms dealers. But this year we’re also sending the police a message. You will be watched and you will be held accountable for repressive policing.”
Kevin Blowe, Netpol’s Campaigns Coordinator, added: “There is often a huge gulf between police promises to “respect human rights” at protests and campaigners’ experiences of aggressive policing, racial profiling, intrusive police surveillance and mistreatment at the hands of officers.
“This year’s opposition to the DSEi arms fair, however, is taking place in the aftermath of a growing state intolerance towards protesters and increasingly restrictive anti-protest legislation. Not all the new powers given to the police are in place yet, but the Home Secretary has decided that the definition of “serious disruption” means anything causing more than a minor hindrance, and Netpol believes this is more likely to lead to arrests in the week before the arms fair begins, when in previous years the ExCeL centre has been blockaded by demonstrators.
“It is already easier for the police to impose strict conditions on a demonstrations, but we do not yet know if the Metropolitan Police will become the first to make arrests for the new criminal offences of locking-on and going equipped to lock-on. These offences target the methods by which disruption might potentially take place, rather than focusing on the actual degree of disruption a protest could lead to.
“Netpol believe new police powers exist primarily to further criminalise the right to dissent and to intimidate people into not joining protest movements that the police recognise are likely to grow. That is why we are monitoring the impact of policing on the right to freedom of assembly during DSEI and are urging campaigners to tell us about their experiences.”
Stop the Arms Fair is coordinating the fortnight of resistance, with other groups organising specific events or days. These days will highlight the intersections of the arms trade and the different areas and communities it impacts including migrant justice, arms sales to Israel, the climate crisis, policing and prisons and more.
* A full list of protest events announced so far is available here.
* More information from Netpol on protesters’ rights here.
* Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade