London peace activists tell arms dealers they aren’t welcome
Campaigners block the road in East London outside the DSEI arms fair | Photo: @CAATuk / Twitter

More than 2,800 military and security suppliers—including manufacturers like BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Thales have set up shop in London this week to exhibit their war machines. The message they got from peace campaigners: “You’re not welcome.”

The annual Defense and Security Equipment International (DSEI) fair is taking place at the ExCel Center in the British capital until Friday. Companies at the fair will be courting deals with representatives from human rights-abusing regimes, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar, and Israel.

Campaigners argue that the deals done at DSEI lead to death and devastation across the world.

Among the companies will be Elbit Systems, which battle tests their weapons on Palestinian civilians and exports technology to countries like Myanmar, as well as other Israeli companies.

The United Nations described the situation in Myanmar as genocidal in 2017, after 700,000 Rohingya were forced to flee to Bangladesh.

Kicked off last week

Protests kicked off last week to stop the fair from setting up, with at least 12 people arrested for taking part in the actions. Stop the Arms Fair (STAF) is coordinating two weeks of action, with groups organizing events to highlight the different areas and communities that the fair impacts.

Arms dealers were greeted by a memorial ceremony for their victims organized by the Peace Pledge Union (PPU). Members of the PPU read out the names of 100 recent victims of war from around the world before laying a wreath of white poppies at the fair’s entrance at 8 a.m.—just as company and government representatives arrived.

Some of the victims on the list were almost certainly killed by weapons made by companies attending the DSEI arms fair, the PPU said.

A protest marking “Migrant Justice Day,” coordinated by Newham Anti-Raids, will also take place.

Campaign Against Arms Trade’s Emily Apple called DSEI a “marketplace in death and destruction,” adding: “The companies exhibiting read as a who’s who of the world’s worst arms dealers.

“Israel is an apartheid state, and it is disgusting that the U.K. is not only selling weapons to Israel but encouraging Israeli arms companies to sell their weapons in London.

“Deals done at DSEI will cause misery across the world, causing global instability, and devastate people’s lives.

“Representatives from regimes such as Saudi Arabia, who have used U.K.-made weapons to commit war crimes in Yemen, will be wined and dined and encouraged to buy yet more arms.”

Apple repeated her previous warnings that arms dealers do not care about peace or security but only about “perpetuating conflict, because conflict increases profits for their shareholders.”

She also hit out at the British government for repeatedly showing that it “cares more about the money made from dodgy deals with dictators than it does about the people whose lives will be ruined by the sales.”

“Arms dealers will not be welcome when they arrive in London as they will be met with protesters who will ensure they have to face the reality of the consequences of their deadly trade,” Apple said.

“War and repression start at the Excel Center and campaigners will be doing everything they can to stop it there.”

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Ceren Sagir
Ceren Sagir

Ceren Sagir is a reporter and deputy news editor for Morning Star, the English-language socialist daily newspaper from Britain, and the UK representative for Halk TV, a Turkish nationwide TV channel.