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Quakers arrested during silent prayers outside world's largest arms fair

  • Cato Peddar

Image: Michael Preston, Quakers in Britain

Image: Michael Preston, Quakers in Britain

Nine people, including six Quakers, were arrested as they sat in silent protest outside the DSEI Arms Fair in east London yesterday, 8 September.

Truckloads of military equipment arriving at the ExCel Centre were turned back as around 100 Quakers and others gathered and sang in the road and on the grass, despite a large police presence.

During silent worship, protestors were arrested and taken to the Fresh Wharf Custody Suite in Barking.

Thought to have been arrested under section 14 of the Public Order Act, the protestors were all released later that evening on pre-charge bail.

The huge DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International) arms fair is to go ahead next week, despite appalled opposition from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Nearly 3,000 defence and security suppliers are attending the arms fair alongside representatives of human-rights abusing nations.

Quakers attending the protests are driven by the belief that there is that of God in everyone, so killing or maiming people is not morally justifiable, even in times of war, and neither is the trade in arms.

One, from Littlehampton, said: "If there was half as much investment in non-violent solutions, we wouldn't need armaments at all."

Another, from Hastings, said: "I've seen the receiving end of British weapons in the arms trade in Iraqi Kurdistan and the West Bank and it isn't pretty."

The Mayor of London has written previously to the organisers and ExCel, reminding them that London is home to thousands who have fled conflict and suffered as a result of weapons like those displayed and sold at DSEI.

The UK is one of the biggest exporters of arms globally, including to repressive regimes and those suspected of violating international humanitarian law. It has sold billions of pounds worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, which has waged war in Yemen killing many civilians and creating a humanitarian crisis.

Quakers believe conflict can be addressed through the creative use of peaceful methods including conflict prevention, diplomacy and peacebuilding, rather than the use of arms.


Quakers in Britain:

Further Quaker events:

Monday, 11 September. Vigil on eve of DSEI, silent, candlelit, 7-8pm in Royal Victoria Square

Tuesday, 12 September. Silent Quaker Meeting for Worship on opening day of DSEI 10.30-11, Main entrance to Excel Centre, Royal Victoria Dock. Part of day of action for Migrant Justice.


Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network

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