Did you know there’s a biannual fair in London to promote weapons, and even instruments of torture? No? Most people are not aware of this event, despite its scale.
It attracts global organisations and world leaders in its field to promote the latest and most highly sophisticated weapons technology. In fact, The Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition is one of the world’s biggest arm’s fairs. Approximately 30,0000 buyers and sellers of weapons attend this exhibition, including parties from both sides of conflict and countries with appalling human rights records. They are there to buy and sell weapons. Britain is a world leader in defence equipment and it’s one of our main industries – hence why it all happens here in London.
Melanie Strickland is a very committed and passionate anti-DSEI activist and I spoke with her to find out more about DSEI and to learn why we should care about it going on, on our doorstep. One of the most shocking facts she informs me of is that every year since 2003, undercover researchers/journalists have found cluster munitions/bombs being promoted at the fair. A journalist even found one company promoting torture equipment in its brochure. Once this particular journalist made this discovery and drew attention to it, he was intimidated by security and not allowed to continue taking photos. Most shockingly, the promotional material included the statement “As used on the famous Nelson Mandela”.
Melanie points out a harsh reality: “these instruments are used for killing and maiming our brothers and sisters in other countries, if we had been born in those countries it could be us”. This is why we cannot accept an event such as DSEI continuing without as much resistance as possible. Melanie has demonstrated incredible commitment to the cause. In 2013, she got arrested taking direct action against DSEI. Along with several other women, she stopped a lorry driving into the venue by climbing underneath it and sitting there, so the truck couldn’t move forward.
The focus of campaigning against the arms fair is to take away the “legitimacy” of an event such as this and to raise awareness. There are couple of great organisations for people who want to get involved: “Campaign Against Arms Trade” and “Stop The Arms Fair” coalition, which organise demonstrations and mobilisations.
The next DSEI event is coming up very soon, on the 15th-18th September 2015. Melanie implores, “if you care about people, if you care about the environment”, then please get involved.
By Lauren Bray
If you want to get involved in the week of action leading up to the DSEI arms fair, then take a look at Stop The Arms Fair’s planned events for September 7-12th 2015. These are:
Monday: Stop Arming Israel
Tuesday: No Faith in War
Wednesday: Stop the Arms Fair: Arms to Renewables
Thursday: Welfare not Warfare
Friday: Freedom of Movement for People, Not Weapons
Saturday: Big Day of Action