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Tom Armstrong | 11.07.2003 13:36 | DSEi 2003 | Anti-militarism | London

Between 6-12 September, one of the world's largest weapons and arms fairs, Defence Systems Equipment International (DSEi) will take place at the ExCeL Centre in London's Docklands. In parallel a coalition of over 30 groups are organising a week of events against the arms trade, including a two day counter conference, film screenings and exhibitions, vigils, protests and direct action against the arms fair itself. Further explanation of DSEi.

Two years ago up to one thousand campaigners demonstrated outside the Docklands arms fair with a carnival style 'Fiesta of Life Against Death' - see Indymedia coverage | archive (1), (2), (3) | SchNEWS (1), (2) | Squall. That day would prove to be more significant than anyone could have imagined, with the date being 11th September 2001. This year the arms fair will be open for business on the anniversary of the Sept 11th attacks, with the counter mobilisation running from 6th - 12th September, (which also coincides with the WTO Meeting in Cancun, Mexico 10th-14th). Campaigners are also calling for a boycott of the ExCeL centre where the DSEi exibition is taking place. There is also going to be a weekend of anti-DSEi events in London taking place on July 26-27, and a "counter conference" is being planned as part of the Disarm DSEi week of actions.

There are also plans for demonstrations at the RAF Fairford Air Tattoo that is taking place between 15-20 July. The event "provides western military powers with the chance to flaunt their power" and "an opportunity for arms companies to advertise their wares" (see Fairford Peace Watch).

For more information and background see:
Disarm DSEi Campaign
Campaign Against the Arms Trade
Recent SchNEWS on UK Arms Industry


What is DSEi?

Defence Systems Equipment International (DSEi 2003) is an arms fair, sponsored by the British government. It will host arms buyers from all over the world, including countries on Amnesty International's list of human rights abusers, and others who should be!

Also shopping at this huge arms fair will be delegates representing some of the poorest countries in Africa and Asia. Rich Western governments, including America, Britain, France and Italy, and their weapons companies, will try to get them to buy expensive weapons instead of spending money on education, development and medicine.

The last DSEi exhibition took place over 11th September 2001, the day of the attacks on New York and Washington in America. While many businesses around the world closed, the arms fair stayed open. For three more days, countries including America, Israel and 14 different Arab nations continued to shop, side-by-side, for weapons to attack each other with!
The arms trade, of which DSEi 2003 is an important part, is an international political business made up of multinational companies which make products that kill and maim for profit. These companies play a leading role in the unjust global economic system which causes poverty and abuse of human rights around the world.

Civilians made up 90 percent of all war casualties during the 1990s. Wars continue today only thanks to the arms trade. Due to globalisation, the arms companies operate above the law, outside of trade agreements, and firmly in favour only of the rich and powerful.

The arms business in the UK harms local communities. The London borough of Newham, where DSEi is taking place, is one of the poorest in the country. The people of Newham do not want this fair for weapons of death to come into their community. They want better education, housing, health, job creation and living wages as a minimal starting point.

The British government spends millions subsidising the arms trade, while people are too poor to eat healthily, their schools are bursting, their hospitals are run down.

What is being planned?

London, 6-12th September 2003.

Most international protest has centred around government institutions. DSEi 2003 is a chance to directly tackle companies and government ministers while they are actually trading in arms.

Disarm DSEi is co-ordinating a week long festival of action, protest and resistance against the arms fair and the unjust global system which supports it. We are planning a full year ahead, to make it the biggest ever festival against the arms trade.

A number of vigils, demonstrations and actions will be arranged against the arms fair, the companies that exhibit there, the buyers and the governments that pay for the whole show. Participants are also encouraged to plan their own actions and demonstrations. Information on the arms fair, arms companies in London, and other players in the trade will be available.

For more information, check out and

Meanwhile, there are mobilsations taking place for the RAF Fairford International Air Tattoo over the weekend of 17-20 July. There is expected to be a great deal of protesting at this event, as this very base was a major focal point for many of the anti-war demostrations, and many of the bombs dropped on Iraq were from planes based at Fairford.

Waitrose supermarkets have been criticised for supporting the event by selling tickets for the Tattoo and protest letters are being sent to Classic FM for advertising the event.


Tom Armstrong
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