Defendants demonstrate after trying to block arms fair
MORE than 30 peace protesters who disrupted the world’s biggest arm fair in London earlier this month appeared in court yesterday on charges of obstructing the highway.
Four pleaded guilty to the charges and were given conditional discharges, while the rest pleaded not guilty. Their cases were adjourned until October 4.
The activists had attempted to block weapons reaching the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair at Excel Centre in the Docklands where weapons are showcased to some of the world’s most despotic regimes.
This year’s exhibitors included companies that supply equipment for nuclear weapons. Among them were Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest arms firm and the main partner in a consortium which runs the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire — where warheads for Trident are produced.
In the week running up to the fair which took place from September 10 to 13, protesters chained themselves together, carried out religious ceremonies in the road and even dangled on ropes from bridges to prevent weapons being delivered to the death fair.
Police were accused at the time of being “arrest happy” after they detained 102 protesters including a 70-year-old Methodist minister.
Rev Enid Gordon said after her arrest: “I just think we shouldn’t be selling weapons to Israel … and particularly to Saudi Arabia. It’s obscene, it’s against God’s will. I feel this [protesting] is more of God’s will.”
Activists from religious, anti-arms and pro-Palestine group joined the seven-day action.
Ignoring the large-scale protests, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox defended the DSEI fair on the day of its opening, hailing the British arms export sector for its contribution to the country’s economy.
In 2016 Britain’s arms industry turned over £3 billion.