ARMLESS FUN: DSEI Protests at Docklands, London
Report from SchNEWS, Friday 12th September 2003, Issue 422
"It is like any other trade exhibition. It is like the motor show
in Birmingham or exhibitions at Earls Court. This happens to be
for the defence industry." - Paul Beaver, spokesperson for DSEi
Now - while SchNEWS knows that cars can kill and aren't too good
for the environment we reckon that Apache fighter jets, landmines
and cluster bombs are just a tad more harmful to civilians.
is the sort of euphemistic blather coming from the suits this week
at Europe's biggest arms fair - Defence Systems and Equipment
International (DSEi pronounced 'dicey') - the place where state
terrorism is labelled 'defence', cluster bombs become 'cargo
ammunition' and bombs are creatively called 'air delivered
This week at the ExCel centre in east London the
supposed 'terrorist' regimes were welcomed alongside the 'good
guys' alike as 'clients' side by side, queuing up for weaponry.
Luckily there were over 2,000 tooled up coppers to hold back the
persistent direct action and blockades against the 'fair with the
scariest rides in town'.
To get an idea of what gets sold at the arms fair take cluster
bombs: they've got a bad name because they contain many bomblets
which often don't explode in the initial attack - just like
Already over 1,000 Iraqi kids have been
injured by cluster bomblets since the 'end' of the war on Iraq.
Doing a roaring trade in these is Israel Military Industries Ltd
who are still licking their lips after flogging loads of cluster
bombs to Britain before the war on Iraq.
Britain's largest arms
company, BAE Systems, bought over 20,000 rounds of Israeli cluster
weapons just before the Iraqi war.
Then the British army went on
to fire over 2,000 of these Israeli cluster bombs during the
battle for Basra. DSEi welcomed another sketchy Israeli weapons
producer, Rafael, who develop missile systems by testing them on
Their most infamous missile test was its
Gill Spike missile test, which they first tested on a civilian
home in Beit Jala in 2000.
Despite all the deceptive words and oppressive security a few
thousand protestors took part in a flood of guerrilla actions and
demonstrations over the four day arms fair.
spokesperson, Greg Pig Trotters, said their operation was "very
patient, very sensitive and very low key" - but this came as news
to the people of Newham - the borough where the ExCeL exhibition
centre is based - who witnessed the biggest ever police operation
in the area.
As one of the poorest boroughs in London, Newham
locals called for the arms fair to be cancelled and would prefer
the £1+ million spent on policing DSEito be channelled into
regenerating their neighbourhoods.
In the run-up to DSEi the death fair's organisers Spearhead had
their offices occupied while at the same time people in rubber
dinghys blocked DSEi warships.
On Saturday morning DSEi attempted
to sail 4 warships along the Thames to the ExCel Centre but, alas,
30 water-tight activists were there blocking the lock gates and
the swing bridge with good ol' D-locks.
There was a four hour
window in which the tide allowed entry into the docks so the last
2 ships had to abort their mission. During the week protesters
posing as arms dealers joined the hundreds of other dealers and
buyers on the trains to the ExCel Centre.
Three suited protesters
couldn't wait for the fair and started selling their wares on the
train: Announcing they had arms for sale they opened their brief
cases revealing dismembered Barbie dolls' arms.
Tuesday was declared a 'day of non-violent direct action' against
DSEi with a Campaign Against the Arms Trade march attracting about
This culminated in the 'Fluffy DSEi' action,
with the aim of blockading DSEi, where a crowd of about 1,000
protesters blocked the Connaught Bridge entrance to the fair.
the next few hours it was a game of cat 'n' mouse between agile
glittery protesters and stroppy cops as protesters blockaded
roundabout after roundabout, occupying a different main road every
time the cops threatened arrests.
Wednesday, the 'no rules direct action day', started with an
uncontrollable critical mass outside ExCel, and a protest at the
London office of Israeli weapons make Rafael by Palestinian
Solidarity group ISM.
Meanwhile the suits streamed into the
centre, many using the Docklands Light Rail (DLR), which was just
asking for some direct action to blockade it.
Over the course of
the day the transport police had their work cut out removing
locked-on protesters from the DLR carriages as loadspeakers at the
stations apologised for delays saying it was due to - wait for
it - 'passenger action'.
While entry to the conference by train was being derailed, another
sorted crew pushed a car out onto the road to block the eastern
entrance of the centre, which was the beginning of a several hour
blockade of the entrance.
Meanwhile the road outside the centre
was blocked at several points during the day.
Meanwhile six cunning activists had formed their own 'arms
company' - the Affinity Group - with their own official website
and business cards, and then applied for invitations to the death
They waltzed in, suited and accredited, and went on to
occupy two tanks, daubing them in 'Stop Death' banners before they
were chucked out by security.
Later in the day there was excitement at the Canning Town
roundabout when the flyover above was shut down with a banner as a
crowd stormed the roundabout until the robocops - tooled up and
outnumbering protesters - pushed the line back.
Then minutes later
like the cavalry coming over the hill, the sound of samba drums
and a flash of pink and silver saw the samba block take the
roundabout again, though again the sheer number of coppers stopped
anything lasting very long.
Meanwhile local rudeboys from the
nearby estate tucked in, egging on protesters and throwing eggs at
Other locals took part in the actions while many sat on
balconies shouting stuff like "Those coppers are denying you your
While some of the actions were inspirational and we caused serious
disruption at times, we didn't shut down DSEi. We needed more
people - what ever happened to the one million plus who marched
against the war on Iraq in February?
With 10,000 people in the
Docklands on Wednesday instead of 1,000 we could have kicked the
arms dealers out of London for good.
We need to take the
opportunity to kick the war-profiteering scumbags where it hurts,
and the weapon should be mass direct action.
At the next DSEi arms
fair in two years, it's up to us to make sure that the death fair
bites the bullet.
Crap Arrest of the Week
Plenty to choose from during the week of protests at DSEI. The
crappest include: For swimming in the Royal Docks; For paddling a
dinghy in the docks; For stealing your own bike... * The Legal
Defence & Monitoring Group urgently need to contact any witnesses
to arrests during the protests (including those with photos &
video). If you saw anything email firstname.lastname@example.org
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