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Stop the Arms Fair launches with protest against weapon sales to Israel

TEN days of resistance against the world’s biggest arms fair started in London today with a rally demanding an end to weapons sales to Israel. 

A coalition of groups under the banner Stop the Arms Fair launched two weeks of actions against the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) event taking place at the Excel centre in London’s Docklands. 

The biennial event attracts 1,600 exhibitors selling weapons from sniper rifles and tanks to combat aircraft and warships, with prospective buyers from some of the world’s most repressive regimes. 

In previous years protesters have tried to stop lorries carrying weapons and equipment to the fair by blockading roads and dangling from bridges. It is expected similar actions will be taking place this year. The event is heavily policed — operation costs in 2019 totalled over £2.5 million and involving 5,609 officers. 

Stop the Arms Fair told the Morning Star that there appears to be an even bigger police presence this year, with a marquee set up nearby the centre intended for officers to sleep overnight.

“The amount of protesters to police: the ratio is just ridiculous,” Amber from Stop the Arms Fair said. 

Amber, who did not want to give her surname, said the event, being held amid the pandemic, showed that the British government is “prioritising making money from murder.”

“The government has been privatising our NHS and they’ve been still increasing the amount of money in our military and increasing exports of arms abroad,” she said. “It just shows a complete lack of perspective on what should be our priorities.” 

She added that the actions connected with the fair will also seek to highlight the defence industry’s contribution to the climate emergency. “The UK government, over 50 per cent of their effect on climate change is from the arms trade. This is huge. 

“We’re being told that we have two decades before the shit really hits the fan — and yet they are still prioritising an industry that causes the murder of innocent civilians, sells weapons to human rights-abusing countries and massively damages our environment.”

Other actions include a day of solidarity with Afghanistan on Tuesday with speakers from the Stop the War and groups representing Afghan migrants in Britain.

Activities, protests and actions will also be held later this week to draw attention to the militarisation of borders against migrants and refugees.

 

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