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POLICE and protesters clashed in Liverpool today during a march and occupation against a much-criticised arms fair in the city.
Protesters were dragged from a road outside the city’s ACC exhibition and conference centre, with lines of police blocking a march by hundreds of campaigners.
The centre, owned by Liverpool City Council, is hosting the three-day AOC Europe Electronic Warfare arms fair.
The protest was organised by Liverpool Against the Arms Fair, which has united campaign groups including pensioners, arms-trade opponents, union branches, peace campaigners and others, who have staged demonstrations in the city in the weeks before the fair.
Raids by police before the protest failed to prevent two Palestine Action activists from reaching the venue’s roof and staging an occupation — exhibitors at the fair include firms supplying arms to Israel used in attacks on Gaza.
In a pre-emptive raid on Monday, police had arrested two Palestine Action activists in an hotel next to the centre for “conspiracy to commit criminal damage.”
But this morning’s occupiers evaded cordons of uniformed police and plain-clothes officers to reach the roof.
One occupier declared: “I am on the rooftop today to try and stop the Liverpool Arms Fair, where there are companies who test their weapons on Palestinian children — just blast them — and then describe them as ‘battlefield tested’ when it is not a battle: it is innocent children.”
Police have declared a dispersal zone over a wide area surrounding the centre, giving them extra powers to move protesters on or arrest them.
Greg Dropkin, co-ordinator for Liverpool Against the Arms Fair, which organised the march, told the Morning Star: “We got to the Pullman Hotel, next to the centre, and were met by a strong line of police. There was a bit off pushing and shoving. There were several hundred of us but not enough to get through.”
Some protesters sat down in the road but were dragged away by police.
“We were shouting support for the people on the roof,” Mr Dropkin said.
Merseyside Police said: “Our officers continue to ensure that disruption to residents, businesses and visitors is minimised.”
Liverpool City Council has been approached for comment.
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