Veteran peace and justice campaigner Sylvia Boyes, 72, from Keighley, was imprisoned on Wednesday by Leeds Magistrates Court for refusing to pay fines relating to a protest against the DSEi arms fair in 2013.
Sylvia, a committed Quaker, commented: “William Gladstone said that which is morally wrong can never be politically right. The UK has apologised for a number of historical crimes, like the slave trade, and I honestly and sincerely believe that what I was protesting against was in the same moral vein. The slave trade was held in place by the law of the land and the political establishment, just as the arms trade is today.”
DSEI (Defence & Security Equipment International) the world’s largest arms fair is held in London every 2 years. It brings together some of the world’s most deadly arms manufacturers with some of the most brutal dictators and human right abusers. Despite opposition from human rights and arms control advocates, the fair receives significant government backing. Philip Hammond, former Defence Secretary, described DSEI as “an excellent example of the opportunities that we can create when government and industry work together, hand-in-hand, with a shared objective.” Investigations have previously found arms such as cluster bombs, illegal in the UK and elsewhere, being openly promoted and an invite list which includes governments heavily criticised for human rights abuses against their own populations.
Sylvia’s unflinching dedication to opposing those who profit from repression and killing should be an inspiration to us all. It is down to us as citizens to challenge the use of our public money to promote the sale of weaponry that will be used to cause incalculable death and suffering the world over. The arms fair will be returning to London’s Docklands this September, and Sylvia has already pledged her intention to join the protests to try and shut it down. We’ll be joining her and hope you will be too.
This is not the first time Sylvia has found herself on the wrong side of the law, along with fellow grandmother Helen John, she was the first to be convicted under the UK’s anti-terror legislation a process recorded in the Disarming Grandmothers online documentary series. Sylvia will spend the next 14 days in New Hall Prison, Dial Wood Flockton, Wakefield WF4 4AX.
Our thoughts are with her.