Peace campaigners voice Docklands arms fair opposition
The first day of the international arms fair at ExCeL was punctuated by the appearance of protestors who shouted their messages on the streets and DLR stations around the venue.
As thousands of delegates began arriving yesterday for the four-day Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition in Custom House many watched and heard campaigners voice their opposition to an event that has become a must for many defence firms.
Although security around the venue was tight and visible, with Police numbers augmented by their British Transport colleagues and ExCeL security staff, it did not stop one man from making it as far as the footbridge to the show site at Custom House DLR station in the morning.
He was detained by officers while shouting at delegates that they should go home before he was led away.
A matter of minutes later a group of about 50 protestors arrived by the same station in Victoria Dock Road in colourfully decorated bicycles. They remained by the station, using a PA system to broadcast the sounds of war and bombs exploding while watched by police officers.
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Bill Perry, 64, of Liverpool Road, Canning Town, was among the cyclists. He said he would call the delegates “murderers” if he could but admitted it was difficult to make contact with access to the station restricted.
The activist, who runs the Garden Community Caf� in nearby Cundy Road, said: “We work with local kids and try to say guns and knives aren’t the way to solve conflicts and the government is pouring money into guns and conflicts.”
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Another group of campaigners took their message of opposition to the west entrance of ExCeL. A police helicopter was deployed while security staff re-directed delegates away from the group so that they would not come into contact with them.
One of the protestors told the Recorder that mounted police officers had been used and that she thought that was an “over reaction”.
Police and security staff, many of whom were seen at DLR train stations in large numbers, ensured disruption for delegates was kept to a minimum. Their numbers seemed to increase as the day wore on.
Many exhibitors inside the venue said they were aware of opposition to the arms fair but respected the rights of campaigners to express their views. Others pointed out that many pieces of equipment on display was designed to protect rather than kill.