Today (14/05/13) the UK Trade and Investment: Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) held a symposium at the BIS conference centre in Westminster, London. In order to facilitate the networking of UK small and medium-sized arms enterprises with larger companies and to provide ‘advice, information and support to increase their sales opportunities in the defence and security sectors at home and overseas‘. The anti Arms Trade force was maintained at this event, as it had been at BAE’s AGM last week. Arms dealers need to gain some conscience and realise that, surprising as it may seem, profiting from death is wrong.
The UKTI DSO event was free to all delegates, as it was paid for by the UK tax payer. The UK government has made it very clear that they are more concerned with spending tax payer money on warfare, than on the welfare system. In a time of austerity measures the UK government still thinks it can spend £39 billion a year on the military, whilst cutting the NHS dramatically. £39 billion could stop the NHS cuts not once, but twice. There needs to be a strong public outcry that it is high time to shift priorities!
A group of anti Arms Trade campaigners from Stop the Arms Fair and Campaign Against the Arms Trade approached the BIS conference centre early this morning. Two began to climb onto the foyer to drop a banner. The first successfully mounted the foyer before the BIS private security guards ran out of the glass fronted conference centre towards them. They grabbed the ankle of the second campaigner and tried to pull her down whilst other campaigners warned ‘stop, you’re hurting her!’. The security guard was unsuccessful. However undeterred the same security guard grabbed the bottom of the banner being dropped by the campaigners on top of the foyer, threatening to pull them off the ledge. This time he was successful and the banner was ripped out of their hands. Luckily a spare banner was available and was quickly thrown up to the campaigners and held for all arriving delegates to see. It read ‘Arms dealers here today: This is not OK’.
On the ground the private security guards seemed to think they had the right to act as brutally as the arms dealers inside the conference centre. When campaigners tried to get closer to the building they were prevented by security and protested by dropping to the floor in a ‘die in’. They were subsequently dragged along the ground by security guards back onto the pavement. Excessive force was definitely used. One young man was pulled by one leg on multiple occasions. The police were called, but no arrests of campaigners…or private security were made. Other campaigners handed out leaflets to passers-by and a few supportive hoots from passing vehicles were heard.
Arriving delegates were warmly welcomed to this Arms Trade networking event with wonderful songs via a megaphone, leaflets, speeches and of course the lovely banner. The effects of the sales of their weapons to repressive regimes thousands of miles away may be easy for them to ignore, but this protest was not. Profiting from death via indiscriminately selling weapons to known human rights abusers such as the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Israel is unforgivable. This is a capitalist world that has gone absolutely crazy by putting profit way ahead of people. Even if it means that the profit makers effectively have blood on their hands.
This campaign’s presence is set to remain especially with the DSEi Arms Fair at the Excel Centre, London looming in September 2013. Look out for more Arms Dealers at a venue near you soon.