‘The arms trade is rooted in the economics of brutality. It causes untold human and non-human animal suffering.'
Around 100 Quakers joined other Stop the Arms Fair protestors at last week’s Defence Security Equipment and International (DSEI) arms fair. Unlike previous years, no Friends were arrested.
Friends from across the country took part in the witness over a few days, including vigils, nonviolent action and lock-ons. Protestors lay out in the rain to stop people from attending the event, sang peace songs and glued themselves together as part of their witness.
Daniel Jakopovich, of BritainYearly Meeting, said; ‘The arms trade is rooted in the economics of brutality. It causes untold human and non-human animal suffering. It devastates countries and the environment. And it incarcerates humanity’s potential.’
Quaker Roots tweeted that it was taking nonviolent action to ‘resist the fair, challenge attendees and amplify the voices of those most directly impacted by the weapons sold at this horrendous event’.
Steve Hornby, from Central Manchester Meeting, told the Friend that he was taking action along with hundreds of campaigners because ‘I’m a pacifist at heart’. What motivates him, he said, is seeing his grandfather and father conscripted for world war one and two. ‘I didn’t think my generation would be so daft to carry things on… but people make money out of it.’
Delegates arriving were greeted by a remembrance ceremony, as the Peace Pledge Union read out the names of dozens of victims of war of many nationalities over the last twenty years, including Afghan civilians and British soldiers.
The protests reached BBC London News on 14 September, where demonstrators could be heard singing ‘We Shall Overcome’. Roddy Porter, spokesperson for DSEI, argued that it is ‘appropriate’ to hold the fair in Newham, despite it being home to many who have fled war-torn countries. ‘It is also a question of defence and the protection of those who are the most vulnerable,’ he said, arguing that the history of UK deployments of the last twenty years has been as much about trying to protect victims of conflict as protecting the UK’s interests.
Dozens also joined Quaker Roots’ walking vigil to arms companies’ London headquarters, including BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. Rosie Horsley from Quaker Roots read a message from a humanitarian activist and mother from Yemen. ‘You would never miss out the sound of a missile that is falling. First you hear the word “plane” which means something is coming. If you are lucky, you will get to hear it. Then you will hear the sound of a whistle – that is the sound of a missile about to drop, and after the building shakes. The window’s glass breaks and the big wave of air just hits you wherever you are and makes you fly away… If someone you know just drops something, you just get scared. And you’re an adult. Imagine that to a child.’
The fair is held every two years and welcomes representatives of governments around the world, including those with records of human rights abuses. The mayor of London Sadiq Khan has urged organisers not to return.
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