Arms Dealers feast while Yemen starves

I didn’t much enjoy taking pictures outside the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane in London’s Mayfair on a cold January night. The pavement is fairly narrow and fairly dark, and it was very crowded, with a lot of pushing and shoving, with some police getting rather more physical than the situation demanded.  And police took no notice when some of those attending the dinner assaulted the protesters. At least they hadn’t brought their weapons with them.

Of course we shouldn’t be selling arms to be used in Yemen. I’d be happier if we didn’t have one of the larger arms industries in the world, which despite claims about strong export controls is still happy to sell arms to countries where we have serious human rights concerns. We still sell them to over two thirds of the countries on that list – including Saudi Arabia, which is using them in Yemen.

Although it makes big money, the arms industry employs relatively few people – around 140,000 according to the industry body. There surely must be better ways to employ these workers, many who are highly skilled, than in making arms to kill people.

And it is obscene of the Aerospace, Defence and Security industry to hold a luxury dinner celebrating their activities causing death, starvation and devastation across the world. Since Saudi Arabia began its bombing of Yemen in 2015, the UK have continued to supply weapons costing almost £5 billion putting 14m Yemeni people – mainly uninvolved civilians – at risk of famine and starvation.

I arrived after the protest had started, a little earlier than advertised, and it seems that neither the hotel or the police had really prepared for the inevitable and widely advertised protest. Traffic was still flowing on the lane next to the pavement, putting protesters and passers-by at risk, and the barriers were perhaps poorly placed.

Police began handling demonstrators rather roughly, and at least one or two officers were clearly enjoying themselves doing so, while others were clearly trying to treat people carefully. There does need to be some system for officers to report rogue fellow officers and clean up the police. Policing is a difficult job and needs the support of those being policed and this is clearly eroded by the behaviour of some.

I wasn’t too badly treated by police, though as often one or two deliberately moved in front of me to prevent me getting a clear view of their colleagues and I did at times get pushed a little more roughly than necessary. But at one point I was knocked into the road by a protester who had been bodily thrown in my direction by police, but fortunately there was no traffic in the nearside lane at this point.

For obvious reasons I don’t have a picture of that incident, and others were blurred as I was pushed or people were rather rapidly moved. The pictures I took with flash were as expected rather better with subject movement, but even some of those were blurred.

More at Stop Arming Saudi while Yemen starves

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