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A day at DSEI

blip | 11.09.2007 21:04 | DSEi 2007 | Anti-militarism | London

Summary of a day of protest at DSEI

10:30, got to Bank station for the Critical Mass to DSEI. We left at about 11:00AM with maybe 30 to 40 people. There was a sound system at the front, and one at the back. We went via Whitechapel, Comercial road, The Isle of Dog and Canning Town all the way to Custom House.

The outreach on the mass was pretty good - I was at the back most of the time, so I could see all the bystanders looking at us, impressed by the sound systems, with anti-DSEI leaflets in their hands. This happened on quite a few streets where there was many bystanders who are not used to seeing critical mass cycle past them !

Once at custom house people milled around and stayed there. I went lurking around, but not much was happening - a few people lurking at the west gate and I saw a group of people (that I guess was ELAAF) marching and giving out leaflets to people.

I went back to custom house, and we all went to the local supportive cafe. From there we rode on (around 2PM or so) and went to the other side of the Excel center (ie. across the dock). The police tried to stop us getting there, but in vain - there were too many access points for them to stop us. We used the powerfull sound system to send messages across to the excel centre - many people in there were on the balcony and could see and (I guess) hear us, so this was a good way to address directly some of the arms dealers.

The police objected to the sound system being played so loud (not sure why), and we rode on to the west gate, where a real actual tank was waiting for us !!! We cycled around the roundabout for ages until we started to create a real congestion problem for all the dealers trying to leave the Excel centre by car. Slowly the police build up their numbers, brining in more and more vans, and eventually we were pushed behind the pen.

The Space Hijackers auctioned their tank, and there was some general milling around. I eventually left, and we reassembled at custom house. We could see streams of arms dealers going to take the trains - and with the powerfull sound system, could address them all -- telling them how they were murderes by proxy, telling them to change jobs, asking members of the public in the station to engage with them. There was no way they could not hear us nor get away, so this was a very successfull way of addressing them and challenging them directy; and quite a few of them heard us. I eventually left at about 6PM.



Delegates' serenade

12.09.2007 15:21

The DSEi deja vu thing is really powerful, me thinking 'Has it really been 2 years since I was last here participating a little ineffectually in protests, enjoying the company and the sunshine and trying not to engage with a creeping sense of powerlessness at the presence of something so big and so evil and so impregnable on the other side of the train tracks? (Though who knows, maybe inspiring the local kids to look at the world a little more questioningly bore some fruit I'll never be lucky enough to know about?)'

Anyway, back to 2007: starting out late didn't help, and so missing the march, and neither did losing my musical mates as they left the caff as I'd left my suit jacket behind. I ended up strumming the guitar and chatting to Securicor guards at the distant car entrance, one lamenting having to protect the arms fair, and agreeing that the system has a knack of forcing people to do what turns their stomach to pay the rent. He also requested a Madness song, on which point I was unable to satisfy him. Back at Custom House, feeling a little lonesome and disconsolate, I happened upon a gentleman whose name and BAe Systems logo were foolishly prominent, so I began to serenade him and the recipient of his phone call, his name somehow appearing in a rendition of 'War - What Is It Good For?)' (modified though to 'They say we must shop, to save our freedom, but lord knows there's got to be a better way'). I then sat next to BAe Brian on the train, gently running over the issues and letting the other passengers know the score. Opposite me was a man clutching a brochure for a company making underwater cameras very popular in the oil and gas trade. That got me going again. Best moment of the day: a guy behind me adding a 'Huh!' to the chorus of 'War' then getting off the train. In fact there were many appreciative nods or smiles from non-DSEi passengers, which now I remember them make the day seem much more positive.)

BAe man, to whom I had conversed but hardly struck up a rapport, wanted to shake hands as we left the train, to which I said 'I'm afraid I'm not able to do that'. (Was that the right thing?) Then I had a little platform serenade at Canning Town, enjoying the feeling of having broken through the fear factor of singing by myself amidst strangers and delegates. Ended up on a Jubilee Line train chatting to 2 well-oiled gents from a mine removal company who'd spent some of the day at the fair, then off at Waterloo to find a vacant busk spot and, having finished my apple, launched yet again into 'War', revelling in the lovely reverb and the chance to lay it down, as it were, about DSEi. Knocked out an 'Eyes on the Prize' ('whatever the weather, we've got to stick together'), sort of loitering near the buskspot rather than inhabiting it, then slipping into 'Masters of War' I saw 2 cops approaching, so wandered off still playing and harmonica-ing as too proud to stop completely. They collared me on the platform and booked me for busking. I said I thought busking meant soliciting money, which I wasn't (no one offered any either!), but they reckoned I was contravening byelaw 71 brackets something, probably something open-ended about annoying other passengers. They said they'd recommend a court appearance. But jeez, the acoustic was good!

The Carbon Town Cryer
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