PARTICIPANTS in London’s arms fair will pass a memorial ceremony for victims of war and the arms trade when they arrive for the opening of the event today (12 September). Members and allies of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) will read out the names of 100 recent victims of war from around the world, including both civilians and combatants, before laying a wreath of white poppies at the entrance to the arms fair.
The ceremony will take place at the west gate to the Excel Centre at 8.00am as arms dealers and government representatives arrive. Those queuing at the pedestrian entrance are expected to be standing right next to the memorial ceremony.
Representatives of governments from around the world are expected to attend the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) event from 12 to 15 September. The run-up to the arms fair has already seen repeated protests, including nonviolent direct action to block vehicles entering the Excel Centre as the event was set up.
Peace Pledge Union campaigns manager Symon Hill said: “Most people are naturally appalled by the suffering caused by wars in Ukraine, Yemen, Israel-Palestine and around the world. But for a few wealthy and influential businesses, the horrors of war are a marketing opportunity. The arms trade fuels war and perpetuates poverty.
“DSEI is a vicious example of everyday militarism. Local people have rejected the arms fair. The people of Britain didn’t ask for it. Even the Mayor of London doesn’t want it. People have rightly taken nonviolent direct action to impede the set-up of the arms fair. As Britain and the world face the threats of poverty, pandemics and climate chaos, the last thing the British government should be funding is an opportunity for arms dealers and despots to do deals in a London conference centre.”
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is highlighting the presence at DSEI of over 40 Israeli arms companies, which use Palestine as a laboratory for weapons and technologies of repression before exporting them around the world. This has included exporting arms to Myanmar, despite making promises they were not doing this. The UN described the situation in Myanmar as genocidal in 2017, after 700,000 Rohingya were forced to flee to Bangladesh.
Emily Apple, Campaign Against Arms Trade’s Media Coordinator said: “DSEI is a marketplace in death and destruction. The companies exhibiting read as a who’s who of the world’s worst arms dealers, both from the UK and across the world. Israel is an apartheid state, and it is disgusting that the UK is not only selling weapons to Israel but encouraging Israeli arms companies to sell their weapons in London.
“Deals done at DSEI will cause misery across the world, causing global instability, 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. They care about perpetuating conflict, 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.
“However, arms dealers will not be welcome when they arrive in London as they will be met with protesters who will ensure they have to face the reality of the consequences of their deadly trade. War and repression starts at the ExCeL centre and campaigners will be doing everything they can to stop it there.”
Stop the Arms Fair (STAF) is coordinating a fortnight of resistance, with other groups organising specific events or days. These days have highlighted the intersections of the arms trade and the different areas and communities it impacts. On 12 September, arms dealers attending DSEI will be greeted by a migrant justice protest.
* More information on planned protests here.