Protesters welcome defence expo to the ExCeL

The world’s largest defence exhibition opened in Docklands today amid a large police and security presence as protesters attempted to disrupt events.

Officers from British Transport Police were grouped at DLR stations including Custom House and Prince Regent during the first morning of the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi), and at least one man was led away by police from Custom House.

The four-day event at the ExCeL conference centre brings 1,300 exhibitors, 641 of them based in the UK, into east London with delegates gaining access to UK government ministers.

A group of around 50 protesters gathered next to Custom House DLR station with large peace flags and a loud PA system blaring out bomb and gun noises.

They had cycled from the Bank of England under a police escort.

Group member Bill Perry, 64, of Liverpool Road, Canning Town, 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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Inside, delegates went about their business at the event, which is organised in close cooperation with the government’s Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation.

Tim Vaughan, the head of business development for defence firm Lorica Systems UK, said he was aware of the protests.

He said: “I admire the protesters but I admire the right of the government to defend their interests.”

More than 25,000 people visited the last defence expo in 2009 and representatives of 98 countries are expected to visit this year.

Further protests during the expo are planned by groups including Campaign Against The Arms Trade and East London Against the Arms Fair.