DSEI (Defence & Security Equipment International) is one of the world’s largest arms fairs. Hundreds of people got in the way of its set-up at London’s ExCeL Centre in September 2017.
Dabke-dancing, aerobics, a gig on a flatbed truck, abseilers dangling from a bridge, theatre, military veterans undertaking unofficial vehicle checks for banned weapons, Kurdish dancers and rebel clowns, religious gatherings, hip-hop artists, radical picnics, a critical mass of cyclists, conference workshops, Daleks, political choirs, and lots of people in arm-locks all blocked the entrances to the DSEI arms fair repeatedly over the course of a whole week.
As lorries and trucks transporting armoured vehicles, missiles, sniper rifles, tear gas and bullets attempted to get on site, people from around the world were there to put their bodies in the way.
From 4 to 11 September, rolling blockades disrupted the set up of the arms fair and forced the arms trade into the public eye.
Monday 4 September: Stop Arming Israel
The Stop Arming Israel day of action used creative activities to block the road, including Dabke dancing, a football game with giant balls, and live music and DJs playing late into the evening. Protesters heard how Israel markets its weapons as “battle-tested” on the Palestinian population. At the same time, they blocked a Sandcat vehicle from Israeli manufacturer Plasan from entering the fair.
Tuesday 5 September: No Faith in War
Faith groups came together for a day of peaceful nonviolent resistance and prayer, to say no to the arms trade and no to profiteering from war.
Protesters locked themselves together in arm tubes to block the road and had to be cut out before vehicles could get through. Abseilers came from above to block the road below them for many hours.
Wednesday 6 September: No to Nuclear & Arms to Renewables
Arms to Renewables actions showcased positive alternatives. Roads were blocked for hours at a time, with police taking six hours to cut some protesters out of their blockades.
Thursday 7 September: Free Movement for People Not Weapons
Many of the companies at DSEI directly profit from conflicts that drive people from their homes, as well as from deadly borders and the inhumane treatment of migrants.
The day of action was organised by migrant-led feminist and queer groups, and featured workshops, theatre and dance led by people on the front lines of military and border violence.
Veterans for Peace carried out citizen’s inspections of vehicles arriving at the Arms Fair to ensure that no weapons banned under the Geneva Conventions were being brought in.
Friday 8 September: Scholars and supervillains against the arm fair
Conference at the Gates moved academia out of the lecture theatre and onto the street, blurring the lines between activism and academia.
Meanwhile, striking Supervillains from all over the universe picketed the arms fair, to protest being put out of a job by human rights abusers from all over the planet.
Saturday 9 September: Festival of Resistance
Artists, performers and many others converged for a festival of resistance. Human rights campaigner Sayed, who left Bahrain after being beaten, tortured and jailed said,
There are decent people who will stand against war, and we are so proud to be part of this movement.
Sunday 10 September: International resistance
War Resisters’ International brought together people from around the world for a seminar which explored how the arms trade is international – and so is our resistance.
Kurdish solidarity protesters calling for the UK to Stop Arming Turkey held the road with speeches, dancing and singing.
Several public figures spoke out against DSEI.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he wants the arms fair banned. He said he is “opposed to London being used as a marketplace for the trade of weapons to those countries that contribute to human rights abuses.”
Co-leader of the Green Party, Jonathan Bartley, attended a day of protests. He told participants: “We can take people out of the industry of death and use their skills for a renewables revolution.”
Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall announced he would donate any profits made at his River Cottage outlets at ExCeL during DSEI to charity. He said “We do not want to profit from the spend of the arms trade.”
Caroline Lucas MP also supported the action: “Over 100 people have been arrested because of their actions, but I have no doubt that history will judge kindly those who peacefully put their bodies in the way of an an arms fair which sells weapons to some of the world’s most brutal dictatorships.”
Thank you to the hundreds of people who put their bodies in the way of the arms fair, and also to the many thousands of others who amplified the protests by signing petitions and by speaking out online and in their own communities.
Even more people helped in diverse ways in order to make the protests possible, from pet-sitting so others could protest, to making beautiful props or food for protesters, to sending messages of support.