Friends get ready for DSEI

‘We don’t want the arms fair. We need to learn to live in peace. The sale of arms encourages going to War.’

Friends have welcomed the London mayor’s statement that the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair should not return to London.

The intervention by Sadiq Khan comes as hundreds of Friends prepare for days of action surrounding the arms fair due to arrive in London’s Docklands from 14-17 September.

Sharing the news on Facebook, Basingstoke Quakers wrote: ‘We don’t want the arms fair. We need to learn to live in peace. The sale of arms encourages going to War.’

The partly Quaker-founded Art the Arms Fair initiative – which will run a pop-up shop from 11-17 September on Mayfair’s Brook Street – also took to social media to thank the mayor. It tweeted: ‘The arms fair has no place in London. This city welcomes those seeking sanctuary, not arms dealers.’

According to The Independent, the mayor wrote to the organisers saying that the fair’s presence in London was insulting to people who had escaped violence and made London their home, and that it threatened investment in the city’s Docklands, as well as costing too much to police.

He argued that the capital was ‘home to many people who have fled conflict and suffered as a consequence’ of weapons ‘like those exhibited at DSEI’.

Many Quakers have spent the summer gathering for briefings ready for the big day of action on 14 September when the arms fair starts at ExCeL London. Quaker Roots supporters have been preparing for this year’s witness with talks and events. Protests will start with an in-person preparation day at Friends House on 13 September, followed by a vigil at ExCeL London. The next day, Friends will be led to worship around the site after a 9am gathering.

The Stop the Arms Fair group has urged those coming ‘to be COVID-safe, to protect our community and make this protest accessible to all. Please take a test before coming, bring sanitiser and respect those who want to social distance’.

Two years ago, over 600 Quakers joined in worship outside the DSEI exhibition at the ExCel Centre in Docklands.

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