The arms fair and the media

It has now been six days since the main day of action called by the Stop the Arms Fair coalition against DSEi –the world’s largest arms fair- held in the Excel Centre in East London. The dust will always take a little while to settle after big campaigning days such as Tuesday, but enough of a picture has emerged to process it through the word mill.

Firstly, we were not successful in shutting down the arms fair. If this sounds like too much of a pipe dream to have seriously been considered a possibility, it is always worth remembering that a concerted campaign by peace activists in Australia did bear this very result. Though we are unsuccessful this time around, we can take some comfort from the fact that it has been achieved before, and will be achieved again. Continue reading

Violence in suits

In just under two weeks time the Defence and Security Equipment international (DSEi) arms fair will once again open its doors in the Excel Centre, in London’s East End. DSEi, one of a number of weapons fairs owned by Clarion Events, rears its ugly head once every two years in the borough of Newham. It coincides, in something of a mirthless irony, with the anniversary of 9/11.
Throughout the week, some of the world’s most corrupt, repressive and human rights-abusing regimes will be invited at the behest of either Clarion or the British government, to peruse the wares of BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Heckler & Koch and other weapons manufacturers of dubious repute. Newham borough council condemned DSEi in a unanimous vote in 2007, on the grounds that it is deleterious to the celebration of ethnic diversity in a part of London that was particularly torn apart by bombing during World War 2. Needless to say, with the government placing such a premium on the value of the arms fair (a £320,000 subsidy for starters), DSEi continues to grow.
Activists from around the country will be descending on the Excel Centre again on the 13th September to try and the event cancelled -though in the short term many would probably settle for disrupting the event, and raising public awareness (and outrage) about this institutional travesty up another notch. Part of my own involvement in the Stop the Arms Fair Coalition has been producing a community newspaper, The Newham Adversary, which we intend to distribute to local residents in the week preceding DSEi. The article below is something I wrote for it in the aftermath of the August riots: