One arms event just wasn’t enough for Bristol Against the Arms Trade last week. Following the protest at the Defense Procurement in Cardiff, CEO of major arms company QinetiQ, was in Bristol speaking to students as part of UWE’s “Distinguished Address Series”
QinetiQ, 6th largest UK arms company, work mainly on military applications — weapons, guidance systems, military aircraft technology etc, branching out into surveillance & security technologies (including technologies considered for ID cards), and ‘energetic materials’ (i.e. explosives) among other areas. QinetiQ make a mint supplying arms to the beheading-regime in Saudi Arabia and run the UK Drones test centre at Aberporth in West Wales testing Israeli-developed drones that have killed hundreds in Gaza.
At a time when Bristol prepares to celebrate its Green Capital status in 2015, residents and UWE students were keen to show the business of death is not welcome in our city and staged a protest outside our City Hall where the event was being held. We engaged with the many passer-bys on the busy main street at rush hour, assisted by our couple of Grim Reapers and over 50 letters to the council were signed against the event being held in the council building.
As the demo was ending Bristol elected Mayor George Ferguson had the decency to come down to speak to us. Whilst refusing to give a concrete pledge to stop the council building being used for such talks in the future, Ferguson did admit to being “spiritually on your side” and welcomed a follow up conversation on turning Bristol’s “swords to ploughshares”. Bristol Against the Arms Trade have taken him up on this offer by writing a follow up letter requesting a meeting with him to turn his rhetoric into action.
Underneath it’s nondescript acronym, the DPRTE- or Defence Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportability exhibition- claims to be one of ‘the UK’s leading’ arms fairs. The event brings together a whole host of companies looking to find out what’s new in the world of warfare. In its own words, it ‘provides a unique promotional, educational and engagement platform’.
Last year the DPRTE arms fair took place at the University of West of England (UWE) in Bristol. Bristol Against the Arms Trade and students from UWE were of course there to greet them. Major entrances to the campus and the conference building were picketed, traffic chaos across the north Bristol fringe ensued, exhibitors and visitors to the event were delayed, and lectures at the University were cancelled.
After the vigorous protests against the 2013 arms fair, the embarrassed organisers chose not to hold the event in Bristol. The traffic chaos and walk of shame past shouts and placards seemed to have been enough to deter the organisers from returning to our city and 2014’s DPRTE was held in Cardiff last week.
We were, of course, there to greet them.
Major exhibitors of 2014 included our Bristol based friends BAE Systems, the world’s 3rd largest arms producer, who have a very special relationship with both the UK government and the Saudi dictatorship. We also saw Airbus, the 2nd largest arms producer in Europe, whose markets include the authoritarian regimes of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kazakhstan.
As delegates arrived at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena they were welcomed by a crowd of peace activists, Quakers, banners, intimidating photographers and a couple of Grim Reapers. Passers-by stopped to chat to about the event taking place in their city and were even treated to an amazing free breakfast courtesy of Food Not Bombs.
We’ve yet to find out where next year’s DPRTE will be held and whether our shouts were loud enough to kick the arms fair out of Cardiff as well as Bristol.
Wherever it is, we will of course be there to greet them.
Check out QinetiQ.com for their delightful defence and security products…
Drone warfare combines perpetual surveillance with arbitrary lethal attack, targeting some of the poorest communities on earth. Take action next week.
For events diary see http://childvictimsofwar.org.uk/ground-the-drones-week-4-11th-october/
Wales could see its biggest protests in a generation as 60 world leaders meet at the Celtic Manor in Newport for the NATO summit on 4th -5th September to plan their war on the world. Previous summits in Chicago and Strassbourg saw thousands protest war, austerity and global inequality.
From August 30th people will flock to South Wales for international actions including a weekend march and Counter Summit, week-long peace camp, and protests on the summit’s opening day.
NATO is the nuclear-armed military alliance binding Europe to US foreign policy, a foreign policy post-Iraq increasingly unpopular around the world. It is also the military alliance currently occupying Afghanistan.
War is the enemy of the poor. The world’s 85 richest people have as much as poorest 3.5 billion. The annual sum needed to end world hunger is $30 billion while the US Military’s budget is $530 billion per year.
Money into war is money out of our communities. In the UK, 500,000 people had to resort to food banks last year. While public services are slashed, one day of war in Afghanistan could fund 100,000 nurses.
This autumn the powerful will make their voices heard at the NATO summit. We must make sure that the voice of the millions around the world who need peace and justice is also heard.
The DPRTE event last November saw police brutality and surveillance against students on their own campus. This sparked us to set up this workshop for people across Bristol to gain the skills needed in legal observing.
Legal Observer Workshop
Sunday 6th April, 12-6pm
Kebele, Robertson Road
Bring lunch to share.
The workshop’s main aims will be:
1) A practical introduction to Legal Observing
2) An outline of Legal Support and Media coordination
3) Discussion on setting-up a local Legal Observer Network
4) Preparation for GDAMS Global Day of Action on Military Spending on Monday 14th April 2014 see http://demilitarize.org/ & http://demilitarize.org.uk/ and other future events in the Bristol area plus NATO at Newport in September
As a background it might be useful to familiarise yourself with some of these links:-
If you can’t make this workshop we’re hoping to book more in the future so stay in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org