Once again, to the UK’s shame, the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair was held in London in September. However, this did not go unchallenged! Thousands came together to protest this arms fair taking place in the borough of Newham. There were themed days of ongoing protest with people occupying the road. People from CAAT, CND, Roots of Resistance, climate crisis activists and many other people campaigning in Scotland joined the week-long blockade protests to prevent the setting up of this fair of death and destruction.
Blog from Edinburgh CAAT activist and Quaker Phil Lucas: No Faith in War protest at DSEI
I took part in a road-blocking protest on September 3rd, the Tuesday of the DSEI set-up week. I travelled down to London on Monday morning for a preparation session in Friends House on Euston Road – making banners, learning songs, receiving advice on the legal aspects of demonstrations, on being arrested etc – then set off for Docklands early on Tuesday morning.
There were some fifty Quakers spread out across the dual carriageway outside the east gate of the Excel Centre when I arrived at about 8.30 am, with three youngish people lying across the road with their arms locked into drainpipes. The police had vans parked across the road further down and had started cutting the three free – a process which took more than an hour. More and more Quakers arrived; it was estimated that there were close to 400 there by the end of the morning. We sang songs and had a Quaker meeting for worship. Other than freeing, handcuffing and carrying away the three, the police did nothing so we were allowed to continue blocking the road. A group of about 30 Anglicans, including two in episcopal purple, paraded up to join the blockade and stood in a circle singing hymns and sharing prayers and mini-sermons. A small group of Catholics came too, as did about a dozen Buddhist nuns, who sat in a row and chanted.
Round about lunchtime, we saw some large lorries approaching the roundabout up the hill closer to the Centre, so some of us moved up to block that off. Four or five policemen tried to prevent us but we were too many for them and they gave up. The lorries had to reverse to the roundabout and go off. At 2 pm, we started our silence-based meetings for worship again – a large one across the dual carriageway, a smaller one by the roundabout. Shortly afterwards some 40 policemen marched up. An officer moved to the middle of the larger meeting and warned people to move or be arrested. He was told off for interrupting religious worship, politely apologised but said we were breaking the law and he was going to proceed. The arrests started. Some were marched away, some had to be carried. In all, I understand some 40 were arrested and that subsequently no charges were brought. I had an unavoidable commitment in East Lothian the following day and was there with the intention of not being arrested, so, when a policeman very politely asked me to step onto the pavement, I did so.
Phil Lucas, Edinburgh CAAT