These activists go on trial today for protesting the arms industry

More than 100 activists were arrested at the infamous DSEI arms fair in London.

The first batch of activists arrested at London’s Defence & Security Equipment International arms fair (DSEI) go on trial today. 

Over 100 activists were arrested for protesting against DSEI, one of the world’s biggest arms fairs, last September, with 43 activists being tried at Stratford Magistrates Court in the coming weeks.

DSEI is an annual site of protest, with good reason: it brings together some of the world’s most repressive regimes to London.

The guest list for DSEI featured all of the biggest arms companies in the world, as well as military delegations representing a range of human rights abusing regimes and dictatorships: including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Philippines, Turkey and Thailand.

The defendants on trial tomorrow are: Matt Fawcett, Bryony Moore, Brigid-Mary Oates, Guillame Chome (all from Yorkshire CND), Angie Zelter, from Knighton in Wales, Margaret Bremner from Edinburgh, Randall Harford from Bristol, Barbara Cookson from Liverpool, and Genny Scherer, from London. All have been charged with ‘obstruction of the highway.’

43 activists go on trial for ‘obstruction of the highway’ in the weeks ahead – with the first batch in court today. Some of the 100 people arrested over last September’s protests have had their charges dropped.

Margaret Brenner, 63, is a retired nurse and is among the defendants. She said:

“I have campaigned against nuclear weapons for over 30 years and as a member of Trident Ploughshares I have taken part in direct action to try to get rid of the Trident system.

“I despair of a government committed to selling arms to countries which abuse human rights.”

Many of the protesters took action at the ExCel over the involvement of Saudi Arabia, who were using UK weapon systems against Yemen.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:

“The policing at DSEI was totally inappropriate and very heavy-handed, with over 100 arrests for taking part in peaceful protests and direct action. The protesters rightly opposed the presence of human rights abusers and arms dealers…

“London is a global city, with thousands of residents who have fled the same regimes that were attending DSEI. The police should have been looking at the despots, dictatorships and torturers that were in attendance, not intimidating and criminalising those that stood up to them.”

Polling done prior to DSEI found that 76% of UK adults oppose arms exports to repressive regimes, while 64% oppose government support for arms fairs that include representatives from governments with poor human rights records.

In 2016 protesters who blockaded the arms trade fair were acquitted after the judge saw evidence of illegal weapons on sale.

Photo by Paige Ofosu for Campaign Against the Arms Trade


Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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