08 September 2015, The Tablet

One arrested as protestors continue to blockade arms fair

A woman in her 20s is still in custody this morning after protestors disrupted preparations for the world’s leading arms fair, which starts next week at the Excel, in East London.

The woman in her 20s was arrested and held for criminal damage for allegedly daubing graffiti on a delivery truck as anti-war demonstrators formed blockades, chained themselves to a military vehicle trying to enter the Excel and ripped up copies of the exhibitors list for the Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI) fair, which starts on 15 September.

Protests are planned for today and the rest of the week by Stop the Arms Fair – a coalition of groups that includes Quakers, Catholic and Christian pressure groups as well as peace activists, student associations, trade unions, environmental campaigners and anti-poverty movements. This morning, Christian protestors A Litany for Resistance held a service in the road, while the London Catholic Workers held a funeral procession towards the centre.

“This arms fair brings together some of the world’s most repressive regimes and the companies that are fuelling the conflicts across the world," Sarah Reader, a campaigner outside the Excel told tablet.co.uk. "It is especially pertinent considering the current migrant crisis: we won’t house people but we are happy to let these people monger war.”

This year’s event is expected to be the biggest yet with more than 32,000 visitors and 1,500 exhibitors from 120 countries.

Protestors stop an armoured vehicle from entering the Excel on Monday

Since the bi-annual arms fair began in its present format in 2001 it has courted controversy with a number of exhibitors selling cluster bombs, which were eventually banned in 2007 – although two companies were thrown out for attempting to sell them in 2011.

Andrew Day, spokesman for Stop the Arms Fair, added: “DSEI exists for one purpose and one purpose only, that is to maximise arms sales for companies that profit from conflict. It is part of a foreign policy that is focused on conflict and aggression rather than human rights and democracy.

“A lot of the companies and regimes in attendance have been linked to grotesque human rights abuses, and events like DSEI only make them more likely in future. We want to shut down the arms fair and send a message of peace, not war.”

In 2013, five protestors were acquitted at trial after being arrested for aggravated trespass for kneeling and praying in front of the entrance to the fair.

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