On Sunday the 8th September, the Occupy movement will take action against the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) arms fair in East London, which is billed as “The world leading defence and security event”.
Marking almost two years since Occupy took on London Stock Exchange, this mass mobilisation will challenge another pillar of global injustice: the arms industry which dominates public spending priorities, and profits from conflict and repression. The action invites people to take creative action to intervene in the arms fair, in solidarity with those who face its weapons around the world.
DSEi hosts 1400 international weapons companies, and nearly 30,000 buyers and sellers attend the event, which is co-organised by the UK government.  The companies arming Turkey, Egypt, Brazil and Syria will attend along with many of the world’s militaries : the arms fair plays a crucial role in providing the weapons which have killed people and increased repression in response to recent democratic uprisings. Drones will also be a key theme this year, with an additional one day conference at the start of the event and a dedicated 21,000 sq ft ‘unmanned systems showcase’.
Activists will challenge the UK’s military budget, which is the fourth highest in the world, and has been protected from public sector cuts. They will highlight that the UK’s military spending of £39 billion a year is enough to stop the cuts to the NHS twice, and call for an end to the public subsidy  for this key event in the arms industry calendar.
One Occupy activist described the reasons for this action:
“The UK government is both a proud leader in promoting violence to the world, and is inflicting the violence of austerity on its own people. How can the UK spend more money on weapons and this arms fair while hospitals close and people are made homeless? We stand with those calling for democracy and economic justice around the world, who are being met with violent state repression.
“The weapons companies and militaries responsible for the civilians killed on the streets of Bahrain and Egypt, for those killed in drone attacks, and even for arming Assad, will be in London. We’re taking action to stand in their way, to bring down the government support for the arms fair and to take on those who profit from conflict and repression.”
Notes to editors:
1. Occupy vs. the Arms Fair is an event called by activists from Occupy London, with support from the Stop the Arms Fair coalition. More details can be found here:
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.
Twitter: @stopthearmsfair | #occupydsei
2. The arms fair is co-organised by UK Trade & Investment Defence and Security Organisation, the government unit responsible for promoting weapons sales. The arms fair enjoys tactical and promotional support from the UK military, and will host government ministers throughout the week. The costs of policing are also significant.
3. The arms fair will host:
- The company which supplies 78% of Assad’s conventional weaponry.
- The companies which manufactured the tear gas which has killed and injured protesters in Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, Brazil and elsewhere.
- About half of the world’s militaries. The government has refused to reveal the list of countries it has invited until the fair begins, presumably for fear of negative publicity this will cause, but the list from DSEi 2011 reveals that countries in conflict and those the UK Foreign Office classifies as ‘of concern’ for human rights, are invited in great numbers.
- The company which in 2009 and 2011 was found guilty of promoting illegal cluster munitions at the fair.