IMC Features | 14.09.2007 18:41 | DSEi 2007
The 4th Defence Systems & Equipment International (DSEi) to be held at the ExCeL Centre in London's Docklands was the focus of a concerted campaign in response to the callout for a Week of Action".
Some actions took place in advance of the opening, with Army recruitment adverts subvertised in Oxford, and a lock-on and weapons inspection at MSI in Norwich by Norfolk Campaign Against the Arms Trade. Actions on the previous day included a picket of a defence conference in Central London, and an action at AWE Aldermaston.
On the opening day, Tuesday 11th September, the security cordon around DSEi, was breached shortly after 7.30am , when a group of about 20 activists ran into the car park. Later a solidarity blockade of BAE took place in Manchester. About 80 people joined a CAAT march and rally, and about 50 cyclists arrived at Custom House DLR station from a critical mass style ride that left Bank tube station mid-morning. Two people were arrested after 'rivers of blood' were poured onto the ramparts of the Arms Fair venue.
Space Hijackers managed to get a tank and sound system to the main entrance of ExCeL, after diverting the police with a decoy tank. They auctioned off the tank and invited the 200 strong crowd to a party against the arms fair to let the fair's delegates know what they think about their murderous business.
On Thursday evening, the arms dealers attended the 'Dinner of Death' held at the Dorchester Hotel. A heavily policed but noisy picket took place , whilst a Critical Mass ride of about 50 cyclists was prevented from reaching the hotel. Earlier in the day, the Princess of Wales fountain was dyed blood red to commemorate victims of cluster bombs, and in Downing Street a protest took place where a pensioner and legal observer were arrested.
Prior to the opening of the Arms Fair, organisers Reed-Elsevier who described it as "the fastest-growing defence show in the world", announced that they would be ditching the show after sustained campaigning by many groups. Campaigners included the the editorial board of Reed published medical journal The Lancet who maintained that supporting arms fairs was not compatible with medical ethics. This was followed by the announcement of the impending closure of the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), a government department whose sole purpose is to support arms sales.
Despite the shoddy reputation of the arms trade, and the recent scandals surrounding it, London Metropolitan Police were unambiguous in their support for it. They mounted an extensive operation, rumoured to have cost about £4m, and attempted to thwart the peaceful protests in every way possible. This included the use of pens at every possible opportunity, stalking activists, aggressive filming and frequent usage of stop and search.
Intense police activity outside the rampART Social Centre saw several arrests, and the hassling of people attending a Queer activist bingo session! Most of the activists arrested in the ExCeL carpark were charged with aggravated trespass, an offence which involves disrupting 'lawful activity'! Should the charges proceed, the defendants will be able to request fairly extensive disclosure of the arms fair's activities, as previous DSEis have had banned goods on offer. The arrested were given stringent bail conditions which included not entering Newham or Westminster, and not associating with each other.
Gwyn was then charged with trespassing on the DLR Station and refusing to leave the area. She was offered bail, but on the condition that she would not travel on the DLR until her court appearance. When she refused this condition, Gwyn was transferred to Forest Gate Police Station and held overnight to appear before Stratford Magistrates on 14/9/07. I urge everyone to please support her at Stratford Magistrates' Court on 04/10/2007 for the pre-trial review and 05/11/2007 for the trial.