More than 100 people were arrested for peacefully protesting against the Defence & Security Equipment International arms fair (DSEI) in London last September.
The event is one of the biggest arms fairs in the world and attracted buyers from some of the world's most repressive regimes. Some protesters had charges dropped, but 43 activists will be tried at Stratford Magistrates Court over the coming weeks and months, for for 'obstruction of the highway'.
The defendants on trial tomorrow are: Matt Fawcett, Bryony Moore, Brigid-Mary Oates, Guillame Chome (all from Yorkshire CND), Angie Zelter, from Knighton in Wales, Margaret Bremner from Edinburgh, Randall Harford from Bristol, Barbara Cookson from Liverpool and Genny Scherer, from London.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "The policing at DSEI was totally inappropriate and very heavy-handed, with over 100 arrests for taking part in peaceful protests and direct action. The protesters rightly opposed the presence of human rights abusers and arms dealers. The way that the police behaved was bang out of order. London is a global city, with thousands of residents who have fled the same regimes that were attending DSEI. The police should have been looking at the despots, dictatorships and torturers that were in attendance, not intimidating and criminalising those that stood up to them."
Catholics, Quakers, Anglicans and others gathered in force at an hour-long silent vigil on the eve of the fair. Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi reminded those gathered that "this 'fair' first took place in London on 9/11/2001 - and same day as the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. Some might argue that this is where wars start - where the weapons and tools of war are traded."
Polling done prior to DSEI found that 76% of UK adults oppose arms exports to repressive regimes and 64% oppose government support for arms fairs that include representatives from governments with poor human rights records.
The guest list for DSEI featured all of the biggest arms companies in the world, as well as military delegations representing a range of human rights abusing regimes and dictatorships: including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Philippines, Turkey and Thailand. See: www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2017-09-04/8328/ f
Trials of the peace campaigners will take place on:
• 10-12, 17-18 and 24-25 January
• 01-02, 07-09, 14-16 and 21-23 February
• 07-08 March