A year of protest against the arms trade

We've been chasing arms dealers wherever they seek to do business. Now it's time to party!

We’ve been chasing arms dealers wherever they seek to do business. Now it’s time to party!

As 2013 draws to a close, it’s a good time to look back on the last year of campaigning against the arms trade and celebrate successes. When tackling the systems that perpetuate conflict, repression and inequality, change doesn’t come quickly, so it’s important to remind ourselves of our achievements along the way.

2013 was a brilliant year for anti-arms trade activism: Arms trade networking events were challenged wherever they took place; a wide range of groups took part in an amazing week of action against the world’s largest arms fair, and people took part in solidarity actions with communities impacted by conflict and state repression.

We’ve picked an action for each month of the year. Many more actions happened across the UK and the world, and it would be great to hear about them. Let us know your favourite action by adding it to the comments section below, or share it with us on Facebook or Twitter.

January: infiltrating an arms dealers dinner
Activists infiltrated a dinner at the Hilton in London, distributed leaflets and talked to guests, getting the year off to a great start.

Disarm Leeds used creativity and direct action to put the arms trade under pressure on campus.

Disarm Leeds used creativity and direct action to put the arms trade under pressure on campus.

February: Student action kicks off a year which sees arms companies retreat from campuses

February saw the first actions in a great campaign by Disarm Leeds which won a vote to ban BAE Systems from campus and urges the university to end any financial ties with the arms company. Just one of many impressive student actions against the arms trade this year.

March: Arms trade event in cathedral is cancelled
In 2012, Guildford Cathedral hosted an “exclusive networking dinner” for Security & Policing’s and it was booked again for 2013… Campaign Against Arms Trade got in touch with the Cathedral and raised concerns about the event. A week later, the Cathedral decided it was “not appropriate” for the event to go ahead. This was no doubted helped by the protest that took place when Church House hosted an arms trade event in 2012

April: International day of action against military spending
On 15 April, 155 actions in 124 cities and towns in 24 countries took place to mark the Global Day of Action against Military Spending. Actions included vigils, die-ins, marches, concerts, panel discussions and even a ‘pacific teletubbies’ video.

In London, activists delivered a performace of ‘Play the Budget Right’ outside parliament, getting participants to choose between funding public services like health and education, or trident.

May: No business as usual at BAE AGM
Protesters “completely overwhelmed” the Annual General Meeting of BAE Systems, the world’s third largest arms company.

June: Chasing arms companies out of the West End
During the G8, people went on a mission to find all the arms dealers in London. After meeting at BAE Systems, the 150 strong crowd paid a visit to Thales, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman UK, missile company MBDA and Qinetic.

Grim reapers join in the Stop G8 day of action against the arms trade

Grim reapers join in the Stop G8 day of action against the arms trade

July: Keeping arms dealers from their croissants
Activists disrupted a breakfast briefing for arms dealers, hosted by London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Activists managed to block the entrances for half an hour, when the event was only an hour long!

August: Burghfield summer disarmament camp
At the end of August, activists set up a disarmament camp at Burghfield atomic weapons establishment. The two week camp was organised by Trident Ploughshares and Action AWE and was an opportunity for people to share skills and plan for an international mass action on 2 September.

September: Week of action against DSEi
The world’s biggest arms fair took place in East London from 9-13 September and hosted 1500 arms companies and 30,000 arms buyers and sellers. The UK government’s invite list was a roll call of authoritarian regimes and human rights abusers. But the fair was challenged by daily direct action disrupting and blockading its business. Watch the video here.

Sunday's Occupy vs. the Arms Fair action blocked access at both entrances to the arms fair

Sunday’s Occupy vs. the Arms Fair action blocked access at both entrances to the arms fair

Several activists are facing trial for taking action at the arms fair. Follow the court cases and send them a message of support here.

October: Stop the Shipment was launched
A global campaign was launched to stop the flow of tear gas to Bahrain, after research and advocacy group Bahrain Watch published a leaked official document showing that the government may be planning to import 1.6 million tear gas canisters and 90,000 tear gas and sound grenades. Actions took place in London and South Korea.

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Meanwhile in Seoul, the ADEX arms fair was taking place but not without creative and bold actions taken by peace campaigners, some of it inspired by the actions that had taken place at DSEi less than two months earlier.

November: Arms dealers not welcome at UWE
Arms companies attempting to attend the ‘Defence, Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportation’ event were greeted by queues trailing back along the A4174 as protesters blocked the UWE North Entrance. One gate was eventually locked and attendees forced to use other entrances.

December: Wishing Lockheed Martin a Merry Christmas

Trident Ploughshares carol singers wish Lockheed Martin a Merry Christmas

Trident Ploughshares carol singers wish Lockheed Martin a Merry Christmas

Trident Ploughshares wished Lockheed Martin a merry christmas with carols and requested they use their skills for peace and not nuclear weapons.

It would be great to hear your stories and highlights of the year.

Here’s to feeling inspired and energised for taking on the arms trade in the new year!

Arms Dealers Haunted at the Tower

giant eyeballs amd a banner promising to watch gchq

Arms dealers heard from the head of GCHQ but protesters had their giant eyes on them!

Arms dealers arriving at the Tower of London for a swanky reception on Wednesday 6 November got a little bit more than they bargained for.

Instead of friendly stewards and helpful Beefeaters, they found a ribald collection of ghosts and ghouls. Zombies rubbed shoulders with scythe wielding “Deaths”, masked executioners discussed the finer points of law with a high court judge (always ending with, “Send them to the Tower!”). Even the Queen was there, the Tower being a Royal Palace and Fortress after all, passing judgement on the arms dealers.

Protesters from Campaign Against Arms Trade and Stop the Arms Fair were saying no to arms dealing in creative fashion!

Watching over proceedings were giant eyeballs, their lidless gaze meeting the cold eyes of weapons traders. The reason for these was because of the main speaker of the evening. Sir Iain Robert Lobban KCMG CB, Director of GCHQ was giving a talk. His organisation is responsible for electronic eavesdropping on emails, texts, even phone calls. His eyes are on all of us, so it seemed right that giant eyes should be on him!

Ghosts and ghouls praised the security guards ushering arms dealers speedily into the Tower with calls of “Quite right too”, “Send them to the Tower” and “Send them to the Traitors’ gate!”.

The serious point is that the Royal Palaces are important public institutions, containing priceless national treasures, and should not be acting as a backdrop for weapons deals. And the people making those deals should not be able to enjoy entertainment in these important spaces without challenge. It’s this message that successfully brought an end to the National Gallery’s support for arms dealers. Now campaigners want to challenge other cultural institutions too.

So, the point was made, in a creative but clear fashion.

Let’s hope the next time arms dealers come to the Tower, it is not to enjoy drinks or dinner in lavish surroundings. Rather that they have realised the error of their ways and sent themselves to the Tower of London in penance!

The best kind of protest is one where you’ve already won…

activists celebrate outside the savile club

We were there to greet them, but where were the arms dealers? Turns out direct action at the last arms dealers’ breakfast at the Savile Club was enough to put them off!

In July, the Chamber of Commerce hosted a Defence Breakfast at the Savile Club in Mayfair.

The event promised to help arms dealers “…expand your network of contacts and promote your business…”. It is part of a series of gatherings which let arms dealers meet with each other and their customers, often buyers from repressive regimes.

A group of activists turned up and blocked the entrances, keeping the arms dealers from their croissants and seriously disrupting the opportunity for shmoozying.

This morning the Savile Club was due to host the arms dealers again. At £72 a head, the Security Breakfast Briefing promised to offer more than your average pastries. With a keynote speaker set to offer help to “identify and develop security export opportunities in key markets overseas and maximise the security legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games”, we thought we’d point out that “security” means just the opposite when you export to repressive governments like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Colombia.

So a group of us made our way to the Savile Club at 8am to interrupt proceedings (challenging the stereotype that activists don’t get out of bed early in the process!). As we got into position to effectively shut the event down, we discovered the booking had been cancelled and the event had been moved!

Apparently they hadn’t enjoyed our intervention at the Savile Club and decided to move the event to a secret location. It seems the arms dealers are on the run. The arms industry will continue to try to legitimise itself by hosting extravagant events at different institutions, but wherever it pops up, we will be there to stop it.

Video report: Week of Action 2013

This short film shows some of the creative and inspiring direct actions that challenged and disrupted the 2013 DSEi arms fair.

DSEi plans to return in 2015 but we aim to shut it down for good. Get involved and help step up the pressure.

Challenging the arms fair on the ground and in the media

‘End Drone Terror Killing’ – Protest at Aberporth

A banner reads 'Murder by remote control'

Over 100 people took action to challenge drones in Wales during the arms fair in London

CND Cymru have sent this report of the impressive action in Wales challenging drones, which were prominent at the arms fair in London.

Over 100 people of all ages met with bright banners and placards, at the entrance to Parc Aberporth on Monday September 9th. They were there to protest against the part that Wales is playing in the development of ‘remote killing machines’ or drones. They had come from far and wide because they understood that drones, operated in the same way as computer war games, make war more dangerous and more likely.

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A sneaky visit beyond the security fences of the arms fair

A leaflet left on a chair

An ‘end product’ card, left to remind arms dealers of the consequences of their business

An anonymous report of another action to challenge the arms fair has emerged…

Excel East

My handbag stuffed with gruesome cards. My mission to remind the arms dealers of the human costs of their work. My disguise: grey jacket, white blouse, fake badge.

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Arms fair challenged with daily direct action

See photos of many of the week’s actions here.

A key event for the international arms trade took place in London from 9-13 Sept: the DSEi arms fair which hosted 1500 arms companies and 30,000 arms buyers and sellers. The UK government’s invite list was a roll call of authoritarian regimes and human rights abusers. But the fair was challenged by daily direct action disrupting and blockading its business. A few highlights below…

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Colombia and its Military Suppliers at DSEi

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    (Riot police in Bogota, Colombia- photograph by Oneris Rico)

The last six months were apparently the bloodiest on record for human rights workers in war-torn Colombia, a country which has been ravaged by internal conflict for nearly half a century. The national watchdog group ‘Somos Defensores’ reports that thirty-sevehuman rights workers were killed between January and June this year, and the killings show no sign of abating.

In spite of this, Colombia has been invited by the British government to attend the DSEi arms fair in London this September, as it was in 2011. Some of its biggest military suppliers will be exhibiting there too.

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Send a message to the arms dealers

taxi-signOn Tuesday 10 September, we’ll be welcoming arms dealers as they arrive at London City Airport for the first day of the Arms Fair.

If you were going to be greeting them by holding up a sign – of the kind taxi drivers use – what would it say? How would you tell them where to go, or where to get off?

Please, no obscenities …the fact that arms dealers are in town is obscene enough.

Let us know what you’d say, in < 10 words, and we will put the best ones into action!

Leave a message here or tweet using #stopdsei #meetandgreet