DSEi 2013 features over 1,300 arms companies from around the world, displaying arms ranging from rifles to tanks to fighter jets to battleships. They will be joined by arms dealers, “trade visitors” and military delegations, including countries involved in conflict and from human rights abusing regimes, as well as those with desperately underfunded development needs.
Around one in three of the world’s military’s are likely to be at the arms fair. Adversaries will browse alongside each other for weapons to use against each other.
It will all take place in secret, behind heavily protected security fences and police lines – designed to allow arms dealers to trade their wares unhindered by transparency or public protest – and subsidised by the UK taxpayer.
As we arrived two trucks carrying military boats into the arms fair were being blockaded by activists to the sound of a Samba band. In the face of a large police presence the festival atmosphere was maintained throughout.
There were a number of comedy skits, street performances and a well-attended ‘die in’.
Joe Glenton spoke about VFP UK, pointing out that we and the other activists present shared a common cause of resisting the global trade in arms. He then read out our Statement of Purpose and encouraged everybody present to come and engage with us.
A young political hip hop artist named Severe then followed up Joe’s speech with his new (and very aptly named) tune ‘Western Henchmen’.
For the next hour people were picking out the VFP flag and approaching us to thank us for our presence and offer solidarity with our cause.
One of the most heartening trends of the day was that everyone we spoke to told us how affirming it was to have veterans alongside them in the struggle against the arms trade. A week of Protests and Actions against the Arms Fair can be found on Stop The Arms Fair website