London arms fair protesters are ‘Not Guilty’ – but will the real criminals go to court?

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The protesters against the London arms fair are ‘Not guilty’ – but will the real criminals go to court?

By Symon Hill


The five protesters outside court with a banner that shows why people need to protest. © Andrew Dey

A headline on TV news last week said, Superglue protesters do not go to prison. I was one of the protesters and I’m happy to say we didn’t go to prison and we were found not guilty.

The judge found the five of us – Dan Woodhouse, Chris Wood, Chloe Skinner, James Clayton and me – ‘Not guilty’ of a crime. With others we blocked an entrance to the London arms fair last September by kneeling in prayer and singing hymns.

I’m now sending my best wishes to the other peaceful protesters, both Christian and others. They will be in court later this month for their own actions at the London arms fair. The arms fair is called in a very positive way the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi). The arms fair is held every two years in September in east London.

There was a very important moment in court when a policeman spoke for the prosecution. He was the policeman who arrested me and I can honestly say that he was a very nice person. But there was an amusing moment when he said that when he arrested me, I was ‘shouting loudly in a religious way’. Or as I call it, ‘praying’.

It was more important when this policeman also said the police at the arms fair were told about possible protests. But he said that no one told them about possible illegal actions by the people selling arms in the fair. And in fact that on the day we were arrested, two companies were thrown out of the fair for selling illegal torture equipment.

I don’t understand how this was a surprise for the police. Companies selling illegal arms were thrown out from the arms fair five times before. But each time this was only after the problem was talked about in Parliament or in the media. None of these companies were thrown out after positive action by the arms fair organizers or the police.

And the companies who sell torture equipment and bombs have never been arrested or taken to court. Only peaceful protesters are arrested at the arms fair.

So I was not surprised to hear a police officer saying that he and the other police were not told about possible illegal action in the arms fair. A video by the police was shown in court. You can hear us say we will move if the police question the companies who were selling arms. You can hear the Chief Inspector of police saying no to us. Chloe Skinner said that one police officer told her that talking to the arms companies was too important for her job.

This shows that the individual police officers may be good people but the police are at the arms fair to help the arms companies and not to follow the law.

Again we see that the British government is working together with the arms industry.

The judge did not say that protesting about the sale of torture equipment gave us a good reason not to move. But she freed us because we had the right to expect that the police would give us another warning before they arrested us.

Many people have asked me if the trial was stressful. Of course it was, but it was a lot easier because hundreds of people supported us. Many of them came to the court, others offered their prayers or sent messages via email, Twitter, Facebook or post. Two people wrote poems about us. I don’t feel I deserve all this, but it shows there are many different kinds of people who do not agree with selling arms.

It was very good to receive messages of support from Bahrain. In Bahrain people risk more than I have done to protest against the government. The government in Bahrain was invited to the London arms fair to buy weapons. This is a government that has often used its weapons against its own people.

I am very happy with the result of the trial. I am even happier because of the support we have received. But I will feel happier when the people who sell arms to dictators on the streets of London are in court.

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