Every day this week the ExCel Centre in London has seen demonstrations and blockades, as peace campaigners try to disrupt the set up of the world’s largest arms fair – Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI). This year was the first time a specific nuclear-themed day had been scheduled, inspired by the large numbers of nuclear weapons companies exhibiting at the fair.
The day was essentially two demonstrations – the first at the West gate to ExCel, with three incredible waves of blockaders from Trident Ploughshares, London Region CND and Faslane Peace Camp blocking the entrance for virtually the entire day. See a full account of the events at West gate. The second was our demonstration at East gate – here’s what happened…
East Gate closes to weapon deliveries
Yorkshire CND alongside our friends at Greater Manchester & District CND took responsibility for co-ordinating the blockade of the East Gate, which brought in peace activists from across the North. At 8.20AM we blocked all traffic into the East Gate, with a huge ‘Trident is Terrorism’ banner and four people attached to improvised ‘lock-on’ devices to prevent their removal. Alongside Yorkshire protesters locked to a suitcase filled with concrete, were two wonderful Belgian activists from Agir pour la Paix with a reinforced metal arm tube.
It was over two and a half hours before police cutting teams were able to finally clear the blockaders, all the while serenaded by our peace singers.
As soon as the road was cleared, waiting trucks were greeted by the sound of 50s calypso classic ‘Atomic Nightmare’ as protesters flooded into the road and began to dance. We managed three songs before large numbers of police were finally able to open the way again.
This was followed by a performance by ‘The Windpower not Firepower Circus’ aka Sheffield Creative Action for Peace (SCrAP) with street theatre in which they transformed a Trident Missile into a Wind turbine. Villains such as the CEO of BAe Systems and Theresa May were Boo’ed before the day was saved by ‘The Green Team’ (Hooray!)
We were joined on the East Gate by the ‘Arms to Renewables‘ group, who organised Wind Turbine prop making workshops, a performance by The Pop-up Poet and an appearance by Green Party Co-Leader Jonathan Bartley. In an excellent speech the Green’s Leader reaffirmed his party’s total opposition to Trident and the need to move engineering skills and investments away from armaments and into renewable energy technologies.
Further attempts to blockade the road at lunch time by dancing and slow walking resulted in one arrest for ‘obstructing the public highway’.
At 1.20pm two YCND campaigners were able to sneak past police and lock themselves to another suitcase full of concrete. They were joined in the road by a substantial crowd singing ‘All we are saying is give peace a chance’.
Police cutting teams were busy with the blockade on the West Gate, so we were able to successfully hold the road for over 2.5 hours again. As the two blockaders were being driven off in the police van they noticed that another campaigner had locked himself underneath one of the waiting arms trucks, continuing the blockade.
All in all, there were 8 arrests at the East gate and it was successfully shut down for a total of 5 – 6 hours over the course of the day. Working closely with the inspiring people blockading the West gate made both protests stronger.
We’d like to congratulate Campaign Against the Arms Trade and all the Stop the Arms Fair Coalition for bringing it all together throughout the week and to thank Green and Black Cross for providing such excellent legal support. The Arms Fair is scheduled to begin next week and there are still loads of upcoming events planned – there is still time to get involved.