DSEI Protest Day 5: Climate action and police aggression

The fifth day of Stop the Arms Fair coalition’s protests against the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) yesterday was focused around climate action and Greta Thunberg’s Fridays For Future campaign. The crux of the message of the day was “War is Ecocide”. Activists bravely blocked the roads to DSEI, one of the world’s largest arms fair, as it was being set up at the ExCeL Centre for Monday, while the police continued using aggressive and unacceptable tactics to intimidate those in the vicinity.

Extinction Rebellion explained the link between human wars and the climate catastrophe, saying that the effects of military operations range “from immediate pollution of water, land and air, to the use of armed assault on indigenous communities to further pillage the ecosystems that they protect, to the fact that the US military is the single largest institutional emitter of carbon on Earth”.  The group makes it clear that there is no such thing as “green militarism”.

They also said armed conflict will only make the chances of humanity to “deal with a future rocked by escalating ecological crises” extremely slim, as dealing with the climate emergency requires “unprecedented levels of international cooperation and collaboration.”

If we fail to change course, we know what a future of militarism and ecological collapse will look like – authoritarian governments using weapons to brutally suppress their own populations, states using open aggression to enable more overt resource grabs as essential resources become more scarce, increasingly deadly militarised borders enforced to meet the millions of desperate people driven from their homes by disasters…
And profiting from all of this, will be the arms trade…

The police continued to block people from the road into DSEI, hinting at the fact that they were protecting the “delivery” that was about to arrive. No prize for guessing what goods were being delivered to one of the world’s largest arms fairs.

As well as disrupting the resistance against #DSEI2021 this police line stopped local people from getting to work.

About half an hour later, activists started blocking the road to the East Gate of the ExCeL Centre by staging a sit-in.

The blockade continued for more than an hour, signifying the people’s determination to do anything and everything they can to put a stop to the DSEI arms fair on Monday.

Police aggression against both protesters and bystanders continued yesterday, resulting in at least one arrest at the East Gate protest camp in the morning, bringing the total number of arrests this week to 20. People have been camping outside this ExCeL Centre entrance since Monday, attempting to disrupt the setting up of DSEI.

Phoenix Media Co-op heard more details about the week’s policing from the protesters. Stop and searches increased throughout the week, with more than 30 people reporting harassment and intimidation tactics used by the police. They have been racially profiling people, an example of which is the “constant harassment of a person of colour who has been here all week, following him around, consistently asking him if he’s the leader.” Another person of colour was stopped and searched “for no reason and detained for an hour”. A random passer-by who was also a person of colour was also stopped and searched despite not being part of the protest.

There were reports of the police intimidating and harassing people by calling out their full names and addresses loudly and publicly, despite not having spoken to them personally.  One of those affected by this was a person wearing a hidden disabilities lanyard. One witness said:

The panic caused them to drop to the ground and cross their arms to protect themselves. The police responded to this peaceful movement with three police officers. This person was clearly in distress, and the police continued to sit on them for half an hour. Spectators told the police the person had a hidden disability but they ignored this. They then cut their bag off and arrested them.

A police officer (unrelated to the incident narrated in this report) was part of a team of officers who flanked activists to protect vehicles carrying arms.

Another example of police violence this week was when a car, with four activists who had deadlocked their necks to various parts of the car, was taken to the West Gate of the ExCeL Centre to try and block the road. One witness told us 15 police officers then picked up the car.

A police officer quickly opened the door despite knowing a person had their neck D-locked to the door. This person is now wearing a neck brace and sling.

The aggression did not stop there. Two days after this event another police officer “pushed her back from the road and two [officers] jumped on her despite seeing her in the neck brace and sling”. This despicable act caused her even further injury.

Despite these tactics, there are no signs of the resistance against DSEI abating. Today’s actions will symbolise “a festival of resistance” with bike rides (finger guns only), samba bands and even a Dalek lining up to intensify their attempts to stop one of the world’s largest arms fairs.

Join us and Stop the Arms Fair at the ExCeL Centre this weekend to show solidarity with those affected by war crimes.

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.

Featured image supplied to Phoenix Media Co-op, used with permission