Some years there is a protest or action, more often a few of the worst culprits simply find that their sign-up sheets, business cards or literature have mysteriously disappeared. This year, thanks to a few on-it individuals, we were a bit more organised!
Right from the start of the event, a few of us made a clear and visible presence outside. This was really useful considering the main group wasn't able to arrive until later.
A group of us made our way inside, then quickly transformed into costume mode, including skull masks, a coffin draped in a Palestinian flag, and large red placards in the shape of blood drops, which listed the numbers of people who have died in various wars and bombings.
After a slightly flustered start (at least on my part!) we got into position in front of BAe, our main target. Large piles of glossy literature vanished from their stall, leaving them with only branded pens and sweets. Meanwhile one or two of us addressed the growing (and curious) crowd, with rants about BAe and the arms trade.
The Town Hall security guards immediately began hassling us and asking us to leave.
As one of the more vocal people I was dragged out roughly in a hurry, but managed to hang on to the railings of the bannisters and thereby stop them from carrying me down the stairs. When the security guys realised how many people were watching they stopped being violent, calmed down (and this was presumably when they called the police).
They also stopped concentrating on watching me. Mistake! I quickly ran back inside, rejoining the others.
After disrupting the stall a while longer, this time with the security trying to reason with us rather than dragging people about, the cops arrived and started threatening arrest. The fair was less busy by this point, many of those around us seemed to there purely as spectators rather than queueing up for the BAe stall, and it didn't seem worth getting nicked for. So we slowly made our way out, and leafletted outside until the end of the event...
Considering how few of us there were we made a big impact. We directly disrupted the stall for around 30min (plus the ongoing effect of having their propaganda taken). It would have been better to have started earlier in the event. Perhaps we focused too much on trying to persuade the audience as well as disrupt the recruitment; many Oxford Uni engineering students just don't seem to give a shit, in which case the most persuasive message may be: get involved in this industry and you'll face physical resistance! It's hard to be sure which strategy is most effective.
But overall, not bad for 10 people, with no arrests and just a few bruises! Next year let's be there in bigger numbers!
Companies Attending 2010
Babcock International Group plc
BP International Ltd
The British Army
ESA - European Space Agency
Evotec (UK) Ltd
GL Garrad Hassan
J A Kemp & Co
Johnson Matthey plc
Mathys & Squire LLP
Merck-Millipore (Formerly known as BioAnaLab)
Mewburn Ellis LLP
Newtown Europe Ltd
PAREXEL International Ltd
Procter & Gamble
Sharp Laboratories of Europe Ltd