Shopping for tear gas

August 19, 2013
British made tear gas used in Egypt
British made tear gas used in Egypt- photo by Omar Robert Hamilton

It was great (and surprising?) to see the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, criticising the Met officer for using CS gas on protesters at a UK Uncut action last year. Whilst the IPCC is notoriously ineffectual at challenging police behaviour, it managed to publicly challenge the use of CS gas on this occasion.

But what of the CS gas being used to repress popular uprisings in Turkey, Brazil and Bahrain? This ‘non-lethal force’ has led to people losing eyes, brain damage and death.

As is often the case, when something happens in the UK, it’s an outrage, but the conflict and violence that take place elsewhere, facilitated or directly caused by the British government, don’t go beyond a news story on the Guardian or another death toll statistic.

The Bahraini government announced that it will use force to crackdown on democracy activists planning to mark the day of independence from British rule.. Yet rather than condemning the violent repression of civil society, the UK government remains firmly committed to encouraging weapons sales to Bahrain. Only last week, David Cameron met with King Hamad to discuss the sale of Typhoon fighter aircraft. It’s not surprising that David Cameron remains silent on human rights issues when there’s a massive weapons deal involved.

This example is a recurring one, where you have human rights on one hand; you have UK military priorities on the other. Nowhere is it more obvious than the world’s biggest arms fair that is taking place this September.

The British government has invited arms companies and regimes using weapons against civil society to come together at the Excel Centre in East London.

The weapons companies whose tear gas has been used against civilians in countries including Egypt and Turkey are just some of the things you will be able to browse at the Excel. Rows of colourful canisters will be displayed in a sterile environment so foreign delegates and military personnel can browse and decide which are the best models for crowd control.

The weapons being marketed at DSEI will be used to suppress civil unrest, fuel ethnic conflict and perpetuate wars. If we cry out when violence or repression happens in the UK, how can we allow arms companies to flog their wares in London as if it were another sales convention?

Stand in solidarity with communities resisting state repression and the arms trade, and reject the UK government’s complicity in it.

Occupy vs the arms fair

When: 8 September 2013, 12 noon
Where: Near the ExCeL Centre, which hosts the arms fair. The meeting point will be announced on Saturday 7 September at 12 noon in the following ways:

What to bring: Friends, banners, music, food, fun, water, costumes, drums…
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