Yes, it’s that time of year again – well that time every two years – when we come together to resist Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), one of the world’s largest arms fairs at the ExCeL centre in London. We’re looking forward to seeing old faces and meeting new ones as we gather to oppose the arms fair to make sure we say it loudly and clearly that arms dealers are not welcome.
Stop the Arms Fair (STAF) is coordinating the protests this year – and there’s an event packed fortnight, starting on 4th September, of things you can get involved with. A variety of groups are organising different themed days, and highlighting issues including arms sales to Israel, migrant justice, the climate crisis, policing and prisons and more.
DSEI intersects so many of the struggles and campaigns we’re all engaged with. But in case you’re not already convinced – here’s five reasons why you should all get involved with this year’s protests.
1. DSEI is a marketplace in death and destruction
The deals struck at DSEI will literally kill people. One of DSEI’s primary functions is as a networking event, with arms dealers given every opportunity to court delegates from human rights abusing regimes including representatives from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain and Qatar. War starts with the deals and contacts made at the ExCeL centre. Those attending DSEI like to pretend they don’t have blood on their hands. They do. And we need to make sure they know it!
2. Arms dealers make a killing twice from refugees
Weapons sold at DSEI will be used either to repress civilian populations or to wage war against other nations. The arms trade is one of the root causes of why people have to flee their homes, forcing them to make treacherous journeys to seek sanctuary. However, instead of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers, our government imprisons them on barges, locks them in camps, and harasses them. And it’s the same arms dealers, such as Thales, Airbus, Leonardo, and BAE Systems, that profit from the weapons that devastate people’s homelands, that then profit twice from selling the technology that’s used to repress people on our borders.
3. Global militarism is fuelling the climate crisis
We can’t tackle the climate crisis, without acknowledging, and taking action on, the levels of pollution caused by the world’s military. According to Scientists for Global Responsibility, the world’s militaries are responsible for about 5.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions with the US military cited as “the single largest institutional source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world”. And what we know is just scratching the surface given most countries don’t properly count the level of emissions as they don’t have to include armed forces in their reporting or reduction targets. This year, DSEI is attempting to greenwash the arms trade. But using the word sustainability lots of times does nothing to counteract the devastating impact the arms trade has on our climate.
4. Say no to militarised policing
It’s not just the armed forces that have weapons. The police do too. And the dealers at DSEI are on hand to sell global police forces everything they need to repress their populations. From tear gas, rubber bullets and riot gear to high tech surveillance, DSEI is your one stop shop for militarised policing. Since 2017, the UK has made millions from the sale of riot control equipment, including sales to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Hong Kong and Bahrain. Think this equipment isn’t deadly? Think again. Indiscriminate use of tear gas was blamed for the deaths of 135 people at a football match in Indonesia in 2022. In 2020, the UK sold tear gas to Indonesia.
Meanwhile the UK police will be on hand to make sure they protect the arms dealers from pesky protesters.
5. DSEI – a manifestation of global capitalism
DSEI is a manifestation of global capitalism – where lives and human rights don’t matter in the drive for profit. Arms dealers will never work towards peace, because peace doesn’t benefit their shareholders. Men – and it is mostly men – in suits make deals that will cause global misery. Top tier arms companies and delegates will sit and sip champagne while the world burns. Capitalism is evil. But DSEI, and the arms trade generally, is capitalism at its worst.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We, the people, can say no. We, the people, can resist. We, the people can say this isn’t being done in our name and we can and will take action against it.