A new edition of Defense Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) has passed. One of the biggest arms fair in the world that takes place in London , UK. This was the last DSEi to be organised by Reed Elsevier, as we reported on WPN No 7.
A week of action against DSEi took place between the 11th and the 14th of September mainly organised by Disarm DSEi and Campaign Against Arms Trade . The first of the week's protests, Monday 10 September, saw activists target the Mayfair Hotel, in central London, where multi-international delegates, political dignitaries and military officials from the weapons convention were residing. The protest didn't last long as protesters were chased away by the police, but a powerful sound system and around a dozen people giving out leaflets made passers by aware of what was happening at the Mayfair Hotel.
Next day, the 11th of September was the big day of actions against DSEi, as there were many activities planned for the same day. The morning started with a critical mass (bike ride) from central London to the Excel Centre , with around 60 colourful cyclist taking part on it. The ride met with a demonstration organised by CAAT that got as close as they could to the Excel Centre. The same day we saw the long awaited unveiling of the Space Hijackers tank. The Space Hijackers are a group of self-named "Anarchitects" who have been the perpetrators of many London “crimes”. The Space Hijackers had a surveillance for nearly 4 days of continues surveillance day and night, after the police discovered the secret location of the tank, which was actually an APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier), on the day of the action as the tank tried to leave, the police moved in, using a van to block the way. A stand-off ensued, protesters held the police van back, one rolling underneath the police van to halt it moving further, and the TSG (Tactical Support Group) blocked the highway for several hours. One Space Hijacker negotiated the proposed tank route with senior police officers. This went on for several hours. Finally the police allowed the tank to move on to the public highway, only to be halted then by a Transport Police Officer, who wanted to inspect the vehicle to make sure it was road-worthy. This was going to take, "at least another hour". But what the police didn't know, nor did most of the rest of the group, there was another tank. And in the three hours it took cheeking tank one, all the surveillance, all the technology and man-power over those last four days, as they surrounded tank one, tank two raced towards the weapons convention at the ExCel centre and was then auctioned off with a"no questions asked" contract clause.
On Thursday 13th it was the time for the delegates dinner, that two year ago had been very well confronted by a group of critical mass, this time it was protected by large numbers of police, protesters were only able to stay in a pen across the road from where the dinner was taking place. The demonstration was not successful in disrupting or at least "welcoming" the different delegates while they went in and out of the dinner.
After the week of action the evaluation was that in comparison with previous actions there were far less people participating and organising the actions against DSEi, some said it had to do with other events happening around the same time e.g. climate change camp, no borders camp. And that militarism and the arms trade is no longer on the agenda of activists.
If we really want to shut down DSEi, pressure needs to continue so no one wants to buy DSEi as Reed pulls out of it. And at the same time we need to continue putting militarism and the arms trade as a key struggle in the struggle for social change.
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