Photo: Campaign Against the Arms Trade

 

As one of the world’s biggest weapons fairs sets up in the East End of London, Greens have been at the forefront of the campaign to shut it down.

The DSEI arms fair is organised by the UK government and welcomes military regimes from around the world, including human-rights abusing countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Vietnam.

Hundreds of people have been protesting every day this week and over 50 people have been arrested for attempting to block weapons going into the Excel Conference Centre, where DSEI will be held next week.

Among those arrested was the co-chair of York Green Party, Tom Franklin, who was one of four protesters who abseiled off a bridge to block the road to the Excel Centre beneath, blocking all equipment going into the site for over two hours.

This is not the first time Franklin has been arrested. At the last DSEI Arms Fair, in 2015, he was arrested for obstructing the highway. When he and others were brought to court over this, judge Angus Hamilton acquitted them, saying:

“[There is] clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence from the expert witnesses of wrongdoing at DSEI and compelling evidence that it took place in 2015. It was not appropriately investigated by the authorities. This could be inferred from the responses of the police officers, that they did not take the defendants’ allegations seriously.”

York Green co-chair blocks the road to DSEI in 2015. Photo: Campaign Against the Arms Trade

 

Senior Greens have also been involved in the campaign. Jonathan Bartley visited the Occupy the Arms Fair camp, recorded this Facebook video and gave a speech in which he labelled the arms fair “a f*****g disgrace”.

Bartley’s fellow co-leader Caroline Lucas has also vocally supported the campaign, as she has done in previous years. It was through her asking a question in Parliament that the secretive arms fair invitation list was first revealed, showing that many dictatorships, human-rights abusers and countries at war were invited.

North of the border too, Greens have been leading the fight against DSEI by introducing a motion to the Scottish Parliament calling for the Parliament to support the #StopDSEI campaign. At the time of writing, no MSPs from other parties had put their names to the motion despite Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats all opposing arms sales to Saudi Arabia in their last general election manifesto.

Further action to stop the arms fair is planned including protests, comedy shows and art exhibitions. Full details are available on the Stop The Arms Fair website.