Dozens arrested as faith groups and activists block Britain’s biggest arms fair

The world's ten largest arms manufacturers will meet next week to sell their weapons. Activists are trying to stop them.

Hundreds of anti-war protestors — from faith groups to seasoned activists — descended on a “world leading” arms fair taking place in east London today, blocking roads and disrupting exhibitors. Several have been arrested.

The Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), a “world leading event” for buyers and sellers of arms, will open its doors next week at the ExCeL centre in London’s docklands.

The event is expected to attract over 30,000 visitors; the ten largest arms companies in the world will attend to flog their wares; and keynote speakers will include defence secretary Liam Fox and the chiefs of staff of the British armed forces. 

Protestors are spending this week trying to halt the preparations. The protests began yesterday and six people were arrested.

Around 200 people from faith groups and anti-war campaigns have spent today blocking the roads around the ExCeL centre, preventing lorries bringing in the exhibition pieces.

We spoke to Quaker Helen Drewery who took part in a prayer meeting this afternoon blocking one of the roads. Six of her fellow Quakers were arrested during the protest.

“We just had a meeting for worship in the middle of one of the entrance roads to ExCeL. People quoted from the Sermon of the Mount — ‘blessed are the peacemakers’ — and parts of Quaker literature about standing up for peace.”

“We’re opposed to the trading in the weapons of war and killing machines generally,” Drewery said.

“The police asked individuals in the road to move, and some refused. They arrested about half a dozen people but others took their places.”

“Some activists down the road from us scaled a bridge and are hanging off it from ropes, ‘locking-on’ and blocking the road there as well”.

“Today is a day that faiths take turns in standing here opposed to war. There are lots of Quakers, Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Muslims from Bahrain and other countries, Jews from the group Jewdas and others.”

The protest outside ExCeL will continue throughout the week, attempting to block the conference from going ahead. You can follow the action on Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT)’s Twitter.

(Photo: Jane Dawson, Quakers in Britain)

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