A report by ICAHD Executive Committee member Patrick Darnes
8th September 2019
On the 2nd & 3rd September Deborah and myself joined the protests against the Government-backed Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) Arms Fair which takes place every two years and is currently located at the Excel Exhibition Centre in East London. We were both wearing ICAHD tee shirts
The week-long protest is designed to disrupt the setting up of the exhibition by blocking the entrance roads to the trucks bringing the exhibits of arms onto the site.
On Monday the first day we arrived early to find many tents camped on a public space close to the entrance road. The Mayor and Borough of Newham are very supportive. PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign) were responsible for organising the first day-Stop Arming Israel supported by War on Want and The Campaign against the Arms Trade. It was impressive, with mobile sound systems and a day of activities which included speeches, street theatre and Dabka dancing. There was a large Police presence trying to stop the protesters blocking the road, but despite this protesters managed to rush in front of approaching trucks, lay down on the road, make a lot of noise, some getting arrested and make our presence known, late into the night.
On Tuesday the Faith groups took the lead under the banner No Faith in War, headed by the Quakers and supported by Anglicans (including two Bishops), Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and others. Services took place on the road which was blocked for more than 3 hours. One Bishop when asked to move by Police, said “I think we will sing some more hymns thank you”, and continuing to wave Peace in Palestine placards.
The protests continued on a daily basis building up to a maximum number of protesters on Saturday. The Independent newspaper reported that The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told organisers of the world’s largest arms fair to move it out of London as protests mount over the “abhorrent” event. Almost 100 people have so far been arrested.