Arms fair protest: Activists dub first day ‘huge success’
PUBLISHED: 11:03 08 September 2015 | UPDATED: 18:54 08 September 2015
Activists chained themselves to a military vehicle as campaigners kickstarted a week of demonstrations against a controversial arms fair heading to the ExCel that saw one arrest.
Various campaign and faith groups came together on Monday for the first protest against the Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI), a weapons fair set to attract thousands of buyers at the ExCel Exhibition Centre next week.
A Met spokesman said one woman, believed to be in her 20s, was arrested for criminal damage on a lorry and was taken to an east London police station.
During the first day of the week-long demonstrations protestors chained themselves to a military truck in a bid to block the vehicle from being delivered into the centre. One protestor sported a Tony Blair face mask.
Kat Hobbs, spokeswoman for Campaign Against Arms Trade, one of the groups involved in the protests, told the Recorder the first day had been a “huge success”.
She said: “Activists blocked a military vehicle from entering the arms fair all afternoon and we had a full day of workshops and speakers.
“We had a lot of great support from local people, with a number coming out from the surrounding areas to join the demonstration. I live in east London, and it’s shocking that this event takes place in our community.”
The DSEI arms fair, which takes place at the ExCel every two years, is expected to have about 30,000 visitors and about 1,500 companies from across the world showcasing their products.
Kat added: “DSEI arms fair is one of the world’s largest arms fairs, and it’s a scandal that the UK government is rolling out the red carpet for some of the most brutal regimes to come and shop for weaponry.
“A worker from the ExCel center even came out to speak to us and said he supported our protests and that this has caused chaos for the arms fair organisers.
“It’s important that as many people as possible come down and join the week of action, particularly on Saturday [September 12] for the big day of action – it’s up to all of us to stop this deadly trade from going ahead.”
A spokesman for DSEI said: “DSEI fully respects the rights of all individuals and groups to engage in lawful protest, and we have always accommodated a number of such groups that wish to make their views known to our attendees in a peaceful manner - this year is no different.
“DSEI is one of an ever-increasing number of large international events taking place throughout the year at ExCeL, and DSEI does not impact on the local area differently to these.
“Furthermore, this edition of DSEI is estimated to directly benefit the local economy by over £30 million.”
The arms fair takes place between September 15 and 18.
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