Protesters who attempted to disrupt the DSEI arms fair in London in September are due to appear in court on 4th November 2013. Mel Strickland, one of the activists, has been interviewed on Occupy Radio.

The War Machine – Occupy Radio LDN

Mel writes: “A group of activists including me are being prosecuted for obstruction of the highway for our action in getting in the way of arms dealers on 8 Sept during the Occupy vs the Arms Fair day of action. As you may know, representatives of companies who were chucked out of the arms fair for promoting torture equipment (an offence) were not arrested or charged. As you may also know, the arms deals done at the DSEI arms fair ultimately result in children in Palestine being terrorised, a bullet in someone’s back in Colombia, tear gas fired at Turkish protestors… you know what I’m saying. The arms industry is part of the ‘war machine’ along with banks and oil companies, as the Artist Taxi Driver puts it.”

Occupy vs the Arms Fair, the campaign against the Arms Trade, Christian groups and many more joined in protest against one of the largest arms fairs in the world. Now they are facing prosecution, denying them the basic human right of protest against violence and injustice.

“We will defend our right to challenge the arms trade!

A group of activists (mainly women) were charged after taking part in the ‘Occupy v the Arms Fair’ day of action on 8 September, which was part of the week of action against the DSEI Arms Fair at the Excel Centre, London. Our intention was to stop the arms fair from setting up by blockading roads used to transport military equipment and weaponry into the Excel Centre.

The Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair takes place at Excel every two years. It is supported by the UK government, including the UK Trade & Investment’s Defence & Security Organisation, which heavily markets the arms industry abroad. This support takes many forms political, financial and logistical (including inviting official government delegations), and is part of the government’s ongoing subsidy for UK arms manufacturers. Some 30,000 buyers and sellers, many from countries with horrifyingly oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain, Israel, and Colombia, attended the arms fair this year. For the UK government and the companies involved, conflict means profit.

That the arms fair takes place at all is a travesty, but we repeatedly hear that arms dealers breach even the laws we do have on the restriction of weapons and torture equipment. Illegal cluster bombs and munitions have been promoted at previous DSEI events and again in 2013 illegal torture equipment was promoted at DSEI. Right now, the government is pushing for military action against Syria, potentially without UN backing and potentially contrary to international law. Such military action will inevitably result in innocent people being maimed, psychologically scarred and killed. We took our action to prevent the greater crimes of torture, killing of innocents, and to stop potential breaches of international law, including crimes against peace.

We, and other human rights defenders, anti-militarists and activists for peace opposing the arms trade will not quietly shut up and let the killing happen. We will defend our right to challenge violence at home and abroad, especially where this is subsidised by the UK government whilst it is simultaneously imposing a vicious austerity agenda at home. Arms subsidies, and the more than £100bn projected cost of replacing the Trident nuclear missile and submarine system should be redirected to renewables, the NHS, schools and socially useful green infrastructure which would provide decent jobs for people. We demand investment in caring not killing.

We stand in solidarity with other ordinary people arrested for actions against the DSEI arms fair, and with people all over the world fighting for their rights, fighting against State and corporate repression, fighting for economic justice and the simple right to live in peace.

DSEI defendants’ group