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Police crack down on arms fair activists

Campaigners pack mass London demo

Peace activists sang hymns amid a police kettle in London yesterday as they blockaded the gates of a state-sponsored arms fair.

Hundreds of demonstrators thronged the gates of London’s Excel Centre as arms dealers preparing for this week’s DSEI arms expo shuttled in display models by the lorry-load.

Police had arrested more than half a dozen people when the Morning Star went to press, including a Christian priest and three protesters who had locked themselves together in the middle of the road with padlocks and plastic tubing.

Occupy London activist Daniel Ashman had earlier told the Morning Star that he did not expect police to cite emergency services access in order to break the blockade — a tactic used last month against anti-fracking demonstrators at Cuadrilla’s drilling site in Balcombe, West Sussex.

“They’re very aware of the kind of implications of health and safety when you’re selling guns and drones,” he said.

Campaign Against Arms Trade director Kaye Stearman said the blockade had forced several lorries and a trailer carrying a gunship to turn back, before dozens of police pushed protesters back from the site’s west gate.

Visiting Bahraini MP Jalal Fairooz was among those gathered at the gates who blamed Britain’s arms industry for fuelling the Khalifa regime’s violence in his country.

“There have been so many killings of innocent protesters — Bahrain police are firing tear gas canisters directly at the heads and bodies of peaceful protesters,” he said.

“Peaceful protesters have been killed by arms that have been bought here, in the main from the arms fair.”

Infiltrators at the event have repeatedly found vendors selling items that breach Britain’s own export rules.

In 2011 exhibitors Pakistan Ordinance Factory and Pakistan’s Defence Export Promotion Organisation were caught advertising cluster bombs banned under an international treaty — despite the fact that both exhibitors had been caught promoting cluster bombs at the previous event in 2009.


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