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Protests under way ahead of DSEI arms fair in London

Poster reading 'Stop the Arms Fair'

Protests under way ahead of DSEI arms fair in London

The biennial DSEI arms fair is already facing resistance, days before it opens at London's Excel Centre.

The London arms fair – known euphemistically as Defence & Security Equipment International or DSEI – is one of the world’s largest arms fairs and takes place every two years in east London. It brings representatives of the world’s governments and armed forces together to meet and do deals with arms dealers.

This year, it is planned for Tuesday 4 – Friday 15 September.

But protests are already underway at the venue, as local people, faith groups and peace and human rights campaigners demonstrate against the setting up of the arms fair. A protest camp has been set up near the Excel Centre. Yesterday (Tuesday 5 September) saw a vigil against the sale of arms to Israel while today opponents of DSEI will hold teach-ins near the entrance. A large number of protests, vigils, discussions and other actions are planned for this week and next week.

Many of the protests are organised by groups belonging to the Stop the Arms Fair coalition. The coalition includes the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), Demilitarise Education, various faith groups and human rights organisations.

Visiting DSEI is likely to be one of the first engagements of new Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, where he is expected to face protests and resistance. DSEI is also likely to be disrupted by nonviolent direct action, organised by a wide range of people. The PPU today reiterated their belief in the moral right of people to take nonviolent direct action against war, militarism and the arms trade.

Yesterday (Tuesday 5 September), members of a Peace Pilgrimage left Oxford to walk to London. They will arrive at DSEI on its opening day, Tuesday 12 September.

As the fair opens early on Tuesday, arms dealers will be greeted by the sight of members of the Peace Pledge Union holding a memorial ceremony for victims of war and the arms trade. They will read out a list of names – a tiny percentage of people killed in wars around the world in recent years – and lay a wreath of white poppies.

Emily Apple of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) condemned the DSEI arms fair, saying, “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”.

She added, “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.”

The PPU described the DSEI arms fair as an example of everyday militarism, helping to normalise war and the arms trade, with arms deals taking place only a short walk from residential areas.

Join the resistance to the DSEI arms fair! Find out more here from the Stop the Arms Fair coalition.