Friends arrested at DSEI day of witness

'By standing in silent protest at DSEI, Quakers challenge the notion that such conflicts are unrelated to the UK.'

A Friend sits in the access road to the ExCel centre, shortly before being arrested

Nine people were arrested, the majority of them Quakers, at last week’s ‘No Faith in War’ day of witness against the DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International) fair. The event, at the ExCel Centre in London, hosts around 2,800 defence and security suppliers, and representatives of human-rights-abusing nations.

The fair went ahead despite opposition from Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, who wrote to the organisers to remind them that London is home to thousands who have fled conflict and suffered as a result of weapons like those displayed at DSEI.

Quakers joined other campaign and faith groups to stand – or sit – in opposition to the fair. Several Friends were arrested when, during worship, they refused to move from the access road to the fair, which was being used to transport weapons for display.

As she was being arrested, one Quaker told the Friend how she had been supported by her Meeting to make her protest. She had been given financial assistance to attend the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, which is where she learned of the links between the climate crisis and the arms trade, and became moved to act.

Anglicans were represented by Roger Morris, the bishop of the local diocese, who said that working with Quakers was ‘always a joy’. Conscious that people would likely be arrested, he told the Friend that ‘protest has to be disruptive, because what we are protesting against causes more disruption’.

Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM), which had staff on hand on the day, said that ‘the UK is one of the biggest exporters of arms globally, including to repressive regimes… By standing in silent protest at DSEI, Quakers challenge the notion that such conflicts are unrelated to the UK, showing how events at the ExCel Centre are deeply linked to events in Yemen.’

Protests were expected to continue throughout the fair, which runs until 15 September.

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