DSEI protest Day 1: #StopArmingIsrael day of action

Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) protests kicked off yesterday with a day of action against the arming of Israel at the ExCeL Centre in London. Phoenix Media Co-operative joined activists on the ground for a fortnight-long resistance against what is known as one of the world’s largest arms fairs, according to Stop The Arms Fair. Stop The Arms Fair is a coalition made up of groups and individuals who joined forces in 2011 to put an end to DSEI and all UK arms fairs. The coalition says:

Aside from selling illegal torture weapons, it brings together military buyers from human rights abusing regimes, despots from countries involved in conflict, and arms manufacturers to browse, exhibit and trade in weapons of warfare. With the support of the UK government and our taxes, arms deals made at DSEI are where war, refugee crises, genocide and environmental devastation, begin.

The day started at 8am with the #StopArmingIsrael action which began with a mass bike ride from Elbit Systems to the arms fair. The biennial fair is joined by 1,600 exhibitors selling everything from sniper rifles to tanks and military aircraft, aiming at a global network of buyers hailing from regimes responsible for war crimes.

There is an even bigger police presence this year, as police officers are expected to camp overnight to carry out surveillance activities against those who joined the protests. Phoenix Media Co-op witnessed a surveillance van (number plate HK57DWP) with suspected facial recognition systems. The officers on the ground denied this element of their operations. The security is carried out yet again by UK company G4S, who had been responsible for operations at previous DSEI events.

Activists marched at the Royal Victoria entrance chanting “Free, free Palestine” and “Resistance is justified while Palestine is occupied” and “Shut the arms fair down”. The gate was blocked with a banner and a samba band. Vehicles were forced to reverse and were successfully delayed from entering the fair.

A Colombian protester told Phoenix Media Co-op that as well as profiting from Palestinian suffering, the British police are training the police and military in Colombia. Read our past interview with Martha Lisbeth Alfonso Jurado, founder of the Colectivo de Mujeres del Tolima and the Red Departmental de Mujeres, who explains the ongoing human rights crisis in Colombia here.

At 3pm rapper and activist Lowkey made a special appearance at the gates to talk about the UK’s complicity in the war on Yemen. He said:

And then we get to the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today. We are talking about, per capita, the poorest population in the world, in Yemen, which is being killed and bombed by the richest states in the region, backed by some of the richest countries that have ever existed. You’re talking about 10 million people on the brink of famine; you’re talking about 80% of the Yemeni population requiring humanitarian assistance. That’s 24 million people. There are rates of acute malnutrition of children under five, which are the highest ever recorded.

Lowkey continued:

[Weapons] that are produced here cannot be sent to any country around the world without the rubber stamp of the business secretary. In fact, The Arms Trade Treaty is very very clear: ‘If there is any risk that weapons maybe used for serious violations of international humanitarian law, then they should not take place.’

When you have drones being produced, UAV tactical systems in Leicester, in a community which clearly doesn’t want those drones to be produced in its locality; when you have engines for those drones being produced next to Birmingham, again, in a community that clearly doesn’t want these weapons of war to be made there; when you have BAE systems, the largest arms company in this country, in co-operation with an Israeli company Rafael, to produce the naval drone which buttresses the siege of Gaza, which many international bodies in the world condemn as illegal, you have to question whether these companies are engaged and complicit in very serious crimes.

The actions will continue in full swing today including a day of solidarity with Afghanistan. This will include speeches from Afghani activists and speakers from Stop the War and other groups representing Afghani people in the UK.

Stay tuned via our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages for more live updates from the ground. We are very grateful to have received some financial support from Stop the Arms Fair in order to report the actions against DSEI from 6 to 17 September.

Main picture via hosny_salah @Pixabay