Around 200 people took part in a silent candle lit vigil on Monday evening in front of the Excel Centre in Docklands where the DSEI Arms Fair has now opened. Quakers, Pax Christi, Christian CND, Buddhists and other faith groups were among the peace organisations joining this event. Daniel Jakopovich campaigns worker from from the Quakers and Theresa Allessandro director of Pax Christi spoke briefly at start of the gathering. As darkness fell, candles illuminated the darkness.
Thousands of peaceful protesters converged on the arms fair every day last week and there were at least 116 arrests. Each day actions focussed on a different theme - including the impact of weapons on the environment, destruction of communities and forced migration. A conference was held at the gates, and there were performances of music, dance and drama.
Across London, artists have been exhibiting work and speaking out against DSEI in an art exhibition called 'Art the Arms Fair. The artists include Sir Anish Kapoor, Shepard Fairey (Obama HOPE poster), Zehra Doğan, Ralph Ziman, undercover arms-fair artist Jill Gibbon, and Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson.
A satirical advertisement campaign opposing the DSEI arms fair has also appeared across east London, featuring work by the street artist and subvertiser Hogre and installed by Special Patrol Group.
In addition, community artists and activists are also speaking out. Peckham's Bradfield Youth Club are exhibiting their powerful and interactive sculpture which remembers young Londoners lost to knife crime and offers solidarity with young victims of armed violence around the world.
The first Art the Arms Fair event took place in 2017, to coincide with the previous DSEI arms fair. It included an original art piece from Banksy which was sold for £205,000.
Sir Anish Kapoor said: "I support Art the Arms Fair in their mission to challenge the multibillion pound business that is the arms trade with its conscience free sale of barbaric weaponry to all corners. The human, environmental and spiritual cost of this vile trade is a shameful legacy that we all carry. We must therefore stand up and oppose this trade and all who profit from the violence sadness and destruction it brings."
Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to work to stop the event from being held in London again. He tweeted: 'Like so many Londoners and campaigners, I am appalled that the world's largest arms fair - #DSEI - is taking place in our city. We'll continue to do everything in our power to prevent it from taking place in our capital again. #StopDSEI.'
Art from Art the Arms Fair will be sold or auctioned to support the work of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and others working to challenge the arms trade. The auction will take place at 7pm on Friday 13 September at AMP Studios. See more details on the link below.
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