In London, activists arrested taking nonviolent direct action against the DSEI arms fair have been in court in a series of trials. A large number of the defendants – mainly accused of obstruction of the highway – have been acquitted or had their cases dropped, successfully arguing that they were acting within their human rights to protest peacefully.
Many of the protesters acknowledged they were symbolically blocking the entrances to DSEI, but were arrested after just a few minutes of sitting down or “locking on” using arm tubes. In one case, which involved four Christian activists using concrete lock-on tubes to block one of the entrance roads to DSEI for a short time to turn it into a space for prayer and reflection, District Judge Hamilton described the activists actions as “reasonable”.
Over 100 people were arrested during the week of action against DSEI in September 2017, which saw thousands taking to the streets and roads around the Excel Centre in East London. Around half of those arrested had their cases dropped before going to court, but around 40 have been – or are expected to be – in court in recent months.
DSEI is one of the largest arms trade events in the world, with thousands of dealers attending to market equipment and services to militaries from all over the world. A number of trials are expected in the coming months. Follow @StopTheArmsFair on Twitter. If you're in London, you can help with court solidarity actions outside court – see this Facebook event for more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/502730703459477/
Fr Martin Newell called to court for non-payment of fines for an action in 2009
Fr Martin Newell – a Catholic priest and member of the Catholic Worker movement – has been called to court for non-payment of fines relating to a nonviolent action at DSEI in 2009, though he insists he has already been to prison to serve time for non-payment of these same fines. Martin will appear in Birmingham Magistrates Court on 28th February.
Martin was arrested with a fellow activist having poured “blood” over a sign outside DSEI, and fined £515 after being found guilty. Martin said: “I continued my conscientious objection to this trade in death by refusing to pay this fine. It was a long time ago, and I do not have proof, but it is my belief that I already served a short prison sentence for this fine, as I have for others in similar situations. However, I am willing to do the same again if necessary. I will not pay, it is a matter of conscience.”