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Active nonviolence disrupts arms fair set-up

Older Quaker being arrested at DSEI

Active nonviolence disrupts arms fair set-up

Nonviolent resistance is continuing to impede the setting up of the DSEI arms fair at the Excel Centre in east London.

With the arms fair due to start on Tuesday (10 September), the last week has seen hundreds of people taking nonviolent direct action to prevent lorries and military vehicles from entering the site to get things ready.

Each day this week has seen roads blocked for several hours, in some cases by people locking themselves together in the middle of the road. The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) said that such action demonstrates the power of active nonviolence.

Actions will continue over the weekend, with a Festival of Resistance on Saturday (7 September), followed by action making the link between war, migration and refugee rights on Sunday (8 September).

The arms fair - euphemistically called Defence & Security Equipment International or DSEI - allows representatives of regimes from around the world to meet with arms companies, view their wares and make deals. Particularly brutal regimes to have been invited this year include Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

The protests involve a wide range of groups and individuals. Many belong to Stop the Arms Fair coalition, which includes the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), War on Want, the Peace Pledge Union, trades unions, faith groups and local community campaigns.

Over 70 arrests have so far been made. The police have been noticeably heavy-handed, at times using absurd excuses to remove or arrest people. Today (Friday 6 September), one peaceful campaigner was arrested on the grounds that he was "equipped to commit an offence", as he had a tube of glue in his pocket. On Tuesday (3 September), the police arrested dozens of Quakers while they were holding a Meeting for Worship in the road leading to the Excel Centre.

The PPU have been very happy to work alongside other groups during the week. Several PPU members have been present at each day of the protests and at least two PPU members - Richard Barnard and Alison Parker - have been arrested after blocking roads by locking themselves to other activists.

Alison Parker said that since the last DSEI two years ago, it had become even more obvious that Saudi forces are committing atrocities in Yemen, but they were back on the guest list. She explained that this is why she was prepared to "put my body in the way of the set-up of this abhorrent event". She urged more people to join in the nonviolent resistance in the remaining days before the fair is due to open.