Campaigners urge Newham mayor to help stop arms fair taking place in Docklands
PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 July 2019
Protesters have urged the mayor to use her powers to stop the "world's leading arms fair" taking place in the borough.
Activists waved placards demanding "No Guns in Newham" outside the council's Dockside Road headquarters on Wednesday, July 17, half a mile away from the ExCeL exhibition hall where the fair has been held.
Newham Against the Arms Fair campaigner Kevin White said: "It's abhorrent, they are selling weapons to governments, some of which have dubious humna rights records. We don't want it here."
The 20-strong group is opposed to the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) trade event.
But a DSEI spokesman said it serves only the legitimate defence and security industry.
He added: "The event is a key procurement platform for the Ministry of Defence, providing an effective platform for the UK defence and security sector, which has a turnover of more than £48billion and employs more than 290,000 people.
"DSEI allows industry to demonstrate its expertise and capabilities in a strictly-regulated environment.
"All equipment displayed or promoted at DSEI must comply with UK, EU and international law."
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But in a letter handed to Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, the campaigners urge her to use her influence as co-chairman of the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone (RDEZ) board - which supports the area's businesses - to get this September's fair cancelled.
The message reads: "We call on you to join us and stand in solidarity with everyone facing conflict, torture and oppression, by saying no to DSEI".
On receiving the letter, Mayor Fiaz promised to present it to the RDEZ board.
Speaking in her role as mayor, she said: "This type of exhibition isn't welcome in Newham."
The council passed a motion in June saying it was "dismayed" by the event agreeing with the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who expressed his opposition to London being "used as a market place" for the arms trade.
ExCeL London CEO Jeremy Rees said: "In 2019, events at ExCeL London will support 37,600 jobs and contribute £4.5bn to London's economy. Each year, we host 400 diverse and varied events, delivering 25 per cent of London's inbound business tourists.
"We are committed to supporting the community, ensuring we operate in a sustainable and responsible way, whilst helping to drive employment, education and opportunity for local people."
The DSEI spokesman added: "DSEI respects the right to lawful protest.
"The event takes place entirely within the ExCeL and the organisers are responsible for event security. The policing of events outside the exhibition site is the responsibility of the Metropolitan Police."