arms trade

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Sarah Robinson

In early November over a hundred activists from several European countries blockaded the entrances at the annual conference of the European Defence Agency in Brussels where arms manufacturers were meeting European policy makers behind closed doors.

The conference was invite-only but the activists turned up without an invitation to let the arms dealers know that they were not welcome.

In the draft EU 2017 Budget presented on June 30th, the European Commission proposed to start funding the military research industry with EU public money through a Preparatory action on Defence research (PA) of 90 million EURO for 3 years (2017-2019). This proposal crossed the traditional red line that EU budget should only finance civil activities and purposes.

From 14th-20th November 2016, Auckland Peace Action – a grassroots group based in Auckland, New Zealand – disrupted a weapons expo and military conference held in their city with a 'Week of Peace', with activists blockading the entrances to the exhibition centre and meeting a visiting US warship with a peace flotilla. In 2015, the same expo was held in Wellington, where it faced similar resistance. The event links the arms industry with government agencies, and it's principle sponsor is Lockheed Martin.

On 16th and 17th November, over 500 arms dealers planned to meet for an annual gathering at the Viaduct Events Centre, and were met by a blockade of the entrances, with more than 100 people linking arms and disrupting several entrances to the building, despite violence from police and security. Aukland Peace Action estimated that only 130 delegates made it into the conference. The blockade included participants from a wide number of groups, including Pacific Panthers, No Pride in Prisons, Auckland Action Against Poverty, the Student Housing Action Group, Save Our Homes, Peace Action Wellington, the Quakers, Pax Christi, Racial Equity Aotearoa, Asians for Tino Rangatiratanga, the Health Sector Workers’ Network, Palestine Solidarity Network, West Papua Action Auckland, union members, climate activists, environmentalists, faith-based activists.

War Resisters' International sections Vredesactie and Agir pour la Paix were joined by activists from across Europe earlier this month in a blockade of the annual European Defence Agency conference being held in Brussels. Arms dealers were meeting with policy makers to lobby for subsidies and to push the European Union further down the road towards militarisation. Using lock-ons, human chains, ribbons and banners to stop the arms dealers from getting inside, protesters succeeded in causing major disruption to the conference and bringing greater public attention to an issue of growing concern.

See more photos here.

Every year - on 1st December - War Resisters' International and its members mark Prisoners for Peace Day, when we publicise the names and stories of those imprisoned for actions for peace. Many are conscientious objectors, in jail for refusing to join the military. Others have taken nonviolent actions to disrupt preparation for war. Supporters send cards and letters in solidarity.

A coalition of activists in the USA are preparing for protests against Urban Shield, a police training event and trade expo. Urban Shield brings together police departments from across the US and globally for intensive training " to learn how to better repress, criminalize, and militarize our communities." The event has been held annually in Alameda County since 2007, and recieves government funding.

The Eurosatory arms fair took place in Paris this month. The 'Defence and Security' fair, one of the largest in the world, takes place every two years. For many years, opposition to Eurosatory took the form of one woman, Yvonna Kressman, faithfully standing outside on her own, over decades. Gradually the word has spread, and this year campaigners from Germany, England, Belgium and the Netherlands joined French antimilitarists and others to make sure it wasn't “business as usual” for the arms trade. There was significantly more disruption, protest and awareness-raising than ever before.

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This week the Eurosatory arms fair is taking place in Paris. The 'Defence and Security' fair, one of the largest in the world, takes place every two years. For many years, opposition to Eurosatory took the form of one woman, Yvonna Kressman, faithfully standing outside on her own, over decades.

The 'Stop Blood Coal' campaign is run by PAX in the Netherlands, targetting the Drummond and Prodeco (the Colombian subsidiary of Switzerland-based Glencore) mining companies. The campaign aims to expose and challenge the links between paramilitary violence and coal mining in Colombia, support communities in their search for truth and reconciliation, and pressure European energy companies to take action against their suppliers accused of human rights abuses.

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