Posts Tagged ‘arms dealers’

No To Arms Fair At Twickenham

Saturday, January 27th, 2024

No To Arms Fair At Twickenham: This Monday, 22nd January 2024, Richmond & Kingston Palestine Solidarity Campaign organised their third annual protest at Twickenham Rugby Stadium which was hosting the International Armoured Vehicles Fair for the third year in a row from 22-25th January. The arms fair claims to be the largest of its type in the world, attracting around a thousand delegates from over 40 nations,

I came to the bus stop outside Twickenham Station to find several people clearly on their way to the stadium, and found more on the bus when it arrived – the bus more or less emptied when we arrived at the stop in front of the stadium. We walked across the road and joined a hundred or so who had already come to protest.

I had to leave after around an hour for a meeting, and people were still arriving to the protest which had another couple of hours to run. This was a considerably larger protest than in the two previous years having become more important because many of the companies selling weapons inside are suppliers of weapons which are being used now to kill Palestinians in Gaza.

Richmond & Kingston Palestine Solidarity Campaign is an active local group campaigning for the rights of Palestinians, justice and freedom against Israeli occupation and apartheid. Their numbers at this protest were swelled by others who had come from other areas of London to tell the Rugby Football Union to stop hosting arms fairs. As well as the International Armoured Vehicles Fair this week they are also hosting the International Military Helicopter conference from 27th to 29th February 2024.

Many of the posters and placards at the protest called for an end to the Israeli genocide taking place in Gaza now, and there were others more specific to Twickenham, calling for fair play and an end to the promotion of killing by the Rugby authorities.

At the centre of the protest was a large poster with the heading ‘MERCHANTS OF DEATH’ naming companies taking part in the arms fair, including BAE Systems, Elbit Systems and Thales, with cartoons of arms dealers making vast profits from war. Most of the companies involved supply Israel with armoured vehicles and other weapons used in its devastating assault on Gaza and used to repress, terrorise, abduct and kill civilians and children in Palestine as well as in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere around the world. And as some posters and speakers reminded us, Israeli arms manufacturers proudly boast ‘OUR WEAPONS ARE FIELD-TESTED’ – on Palestinians in the killing fields of Gaza and the West Bank.

Standing around the poster were members of Richmond & Kingston PSC, holding up their hands in white gloves stained with fake blood, with one holding a Palestinian flag. Others held posters and banners, ‘CEASEFIRE NOW’, ‘WAR KILLS PEOPLE & PLANET’, ‘STOP BOMBING CHLDREN’

Shortly before I had to leave a group arrived carrying cloth bundles stained with red dye, representing the children killed by the Israeli attacks. A report by Save The Children from Ramallah on 11th January began with the following:

More than 10,000 children have been killed by Israeli airstrikes and ground operations in Gaza in nearly 100 days of violence, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, with thousands more missing, presumed buried under rubble, Save the Children said.

Save The Children

By now the number will be many more. As one poster stated: ‘TWICKENHAM DON’T SIDE WITH GENOCIDE’.

More pictures

Arms Fair, Chile & Syria – 2013

Monday, September 11th, 2023

Arms Fair, Chile & Syria – On Wednesday 11th September 2013 protests were continuing against the DSEi Arms Fair, with East London Against Arms Fair floating a wreath on the dock in Front of the ExCel Centre and protesters still occupying a camp at the East Gate. But it was also the 40th anniversary of the US backed coup in Chile, rather now overshadowed by later the 9/11 events, and Stop The War protested at the US Embassy against any military intervention in Syria.

Wreath for Victims of London Arms Fair – Royal Victoria Dock

Arms Fair, Chile & Syria

Protesters met at Royal Victoria Station for a procession around the Royal Victoria Dock organised by East London Against Arms Fair (ELAAF) to commemorate all those who will be killed by the weapons being sold at the DSEi arms fair taking place in the ExCel Centre on the dock, as well as those sold there at previous DSEi arms fairs.

Arms Fair, Chile & Syria

The procession walked around the dockside led by a woman dressed in black carrying a white floral wreath with the message ‘REMEMBER VICTIMS OF THE ARMS TRADE.’

Arms Fair, Chile & Syria

Following here people marched behind the ELAAF banner with its dove of peace. Also there to record the procession were a class from the local primary school, many of whom took photographs on their tablets and interviewed some of those taking part.

Arms Fair, Chile & Syria

As well as ELAAF members there were also two Buddhist monks and some of the activists who have been occupying the roundabout at the East gate of the Arms Fair at ExCel since Sunday.

When the procession neared the end of the dockside path opposite the ExCel Centre it stopped and after a song against the arms fair the wreath was placed on the water in the dock.

As it floated away they held a two minute silence in memory of those killed by the arms from deals made at the previous fairs and those who will die from the weapons being sold at this DSEi fair. The event ended with another anti-war song, after which everyone dispersed.

More pictures on My London Diary at Wreath for Victims of London Arms Fair.

Occupation at DSEi Arms Fair Continues – Eastern Gateway Roundabout

Protesters were still occupying the roundabout at the eastern gate of the DSEi arms fair in East London, with around a dozen sleeping there most nights, and more visiting during the day.

Some protesters had been arrested earlier in the day after blocking the entrance to the arms fair for a short time.

While I was there the protesters were handing out leaflets to the few pedestrians who left by the eastern gate, and showing posters and banners to vehicles, including several coaches that were taking visitors from the ExCel centre.

More pictures at Occupation at DSEi Arms Fair Continues.

9/11 Protest at US Embassy – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

The date 9/11, though confusing for those of us who put day and month in a more logical order was etched into our memories in 2001. For those who launched the attacks it was probably the anniversary of the defeat of the armies of Islam at Vienna in 1643.

But in terms of rather more recent American history, September 11th 2013 was the 40th anniversary of the CIA-backed military coup in which the Chilean military, led by General Augusto Pinochet, seized power from the democratically elected government and murdered Chile’s President Salvador Allende to set up a US-backed military dictatorship.

It was the Chilean anniversary that brought protesters to the US Embassy to demand that the US should not attack Syria, though the embassy flag was at half-mast for the 2001 twin towers attack.

More pictures at 9/11 Protest at US Embassy.

Hiroshima, Arms Trade, Olympics & Green Jobs – 2009

Sunday, August 6th, 2023

Hiroshima, Arms Trade, Olympics & Green Jobs: August 6th is Hiroshima Day, and every year when I’m in London I try to get to the London memorial ceremony organised by London CND in Tavistock Square, and 2009 was no exception. But other events were also taking place that day, with a picket outside the offices of the company that organises the world’s largest arms fair and a rally to keep green jobs a wind turbine manufacturer. And between the last two I made a short visit to see what was happening to Stratford ahead of the Olympics.

London Remembers Hiroshima – Tavistock Square

Hiroshima, Arms Trade, Olympics & Green Jobs - 2009

The annual ceremony next next to the cherry tree planted there by the Mayor of Camden in 1967 to remember the victims of Hiroshima follows a similar pattern each year, though the speakers and singers change.

Hiroshima, Arms Trade, Olympics & Green Jobs - 2009

In 2009 events were introduced Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn and speakers included the then Mayor of Camden and who was followed by an number of others including Frank Dobson MP, Bruce Kent the Vice President of CND, sadly no longer with us and other peace campaigners.

Hiroshima, Arms Trade, Olympics & Green Jobs - 2009

Between some of the speeches there was music from socialist choirs. Raised Voices are a regular contributor and others have joined them in some years, in 2009 it was the Workers Music Association. Often a folk singer and poets contribute and at the end of the event people lay flowers at the base of the cherry tree before everyone sings together one or more of the protest songs including “Don’t you hear the H Bomb’s Thunder.”

Last year here on >Re:PHOTO I wrote the post Hiroshima Day – 6th August which looked at a number of these events from 2004 until 2017, with links to those in 2018, 2019 and 2o21.

More from 2009 in London Remembers Hiroshima.

Stop East London Arms Fair – Clarion Events, Hatton Garden

I left Tavistock Square in a hurry at the end of the ceremony to rush to Hatton Garden, where campaigners from ‘DISARM DSEi’ were picking the offices of Clarion Events in Hatton Garden, calling for an end to the Defence Systems & Equipment international (DSEi), the world’s largest arms fair, which Clarion are organising at ExCeL in East London next month.

The DSEi arms fair is a vast event, with over a thousand companies from 40 companies exhibiting and selling there lethal weapons. Among the buyers are those from repressive regimes around the world who will use them to keep control in their own countries. The arms trade results in millions of men, women and children being killed in conflicts around the world. According to UNICEF, in the ten years between 1986 and 96, two million children were killed in armed conflict and a further six million injured, many permanently disabled.

British companies are among those making high profits from equipment designed to kill people, and our High Street banks invest huge amounts in arms companies.

This was an entirely peaceful protest with a small group of people handing out leaflets to people passing by explaining to them what goes in an an office which appears to be for the diamond trade. Many stopped to talk with the protesters, surprised to find that our government backed and encouraged such activities. Government statistics show the UK’s global security exports as ranking third in the world, only behind the USA and China.

Although the only weapon carried by the campaigners was a small plastic boomeragn wielded by a young child, armed police watched them from across the road, together with other officers who took copious notes, although they seemed to show more interest in the four press photographers present, who were mainly just standing around talking to each other as there wasn’t a great deal to photograph. When the protesters left after an hour of picketing a police car drove slowly behind them as they walked to the pub.

More at Stop East London Arms Fair.

Olympic Site Update – August – Stratford Marsh,

Welcome to Hell’ says the graffiti at Hackney Wick – and it certainly looks like hell for photographers

I had a few hours to fill before the next event and had decided to go to Stratford to see how the area was being prepared for the Olympics in three years time. The actual site had been fenced off by an 11 mile long blue fence, but there were still some places where parts of the site could be viewed.

I went to Stratford and them walked along a part of the Northern Outfall Sewer which goes through one edge of the site. Part of this was completely closed to the public (and remained so for some years after the Olympics because of Crossrail work) but a public footpath remained as a narrow strip between temporary fencing north of the main line railway to Hackney Wick.

Security along this section was high, with security men roughly every 50 yards standing or sitting with very little to do, and the fencing made it impossible to get an unobstructed view. Later these temporary fences were replaced by impenetrable metal fencing and it became easier to take pictures. But on this occasion I could only really photograph the opposite side to the main part of the site where a lot of activity was taking place.

Even at Hackney Wick much of the Greenway was still fenced off, and I was pleased to come down into the Wick itself. Here I could photograph the stadium under construction from a distance, but rather more interesting was the graffiti on many buildings and walls facing the Lea Navigation.

Sadly much of this was cleaned up for the Olympics.

More at Olympic Update – August.

Rally For Vestas Jobs – Dept of Energy & Climate Change, Whitehall

I was back in Westminster outside for a rally outside the Department of Energy and Climate Change in Whitehall calling for the government to support wind turbine blade manufacturer Vestas based in Newport on the Isle of White.

It had started to rain before the rally started and was pouring by the time it finished, though those present listened intently to speeches from a Vestas worker, trade union speakers from the RMT, PCW and Billy Hayes of the Communications Workers Unions, as well as former Labour Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Meacher MP (top picture) and Green Party GLA member Jenny Jones, who arrived at the event by bicycle.

Vestas problems were very much Government-made and as I wrote a result of “its failure to put it’s money where its mouth is on green energy policies, relying on hot air rather than support for wind power and other alternative energies.

Things are even worse now, with a government driven by lobbying from the oil industry granting licences for getting more oil from the North Sea. The Rosebank field west of Shetland will totally sink any hope of the UK meeting its promises on carbon emissions.

More pictures at Rally for Vestas Jobs.

G8 Protest Day 2 – 2013

Monday, June 12th, 2023

G8 Protest Day 2 – 2013: What a difference a day makes. The previous day police had raided the squat where many of the Stop G8 protesters had been staying, tazering many of those inside, injuring a man who was trying to climb down a ladder from a roof area, and finding little evidence of intended wrong-doing. They had done their utmost to prevent peaceful protest, searching hundreds on the streets and making 30 arrests, many following incidents where police had rushed in and forcefully grabbed protesters.

G8 Protest Day 2

The police actions had made the news headlines, not always in favour of the police actions. Many of those reporters who had been on the streets and seen what was happening shared some of my opinions over their heavy-handed and anti-democratic behaviour and some of this got through past the usual editorial pro-police line.

G8 Protest Day 2

Police too had failed to find any evidence that this would have been anything but a peaceful protest without their provocations, and perhaps the media were rather disappointed to realise that senior officers had before the event been lying to them, spreading unsupported rumours. And although some of the officers on the ground had clearly been enjoying being given the licence to have a go at the protesters, I think there were plenty who had been rather embarrassed.

G8 Protest Day 2

Whatever the reasons, the police acted very differently when the Stop G8 protests continued on their second day, touring the offices of arms company and holding peaceful protests against them.

G8 Protest Day 2

A group of protesters were dressed in black robes with ghost or skull masks and carrying mock scythes as well as a black banner with the message ‘Think we’re SCARY? You’ll find ‘ARMS DEALERS INSIDE‘. Others had changed into white plastic overalls suitable for what they said was a ‘weapons inspection.’

Others carried banners about arms companies including BAE where this tour began and Brighton-based EDO or to the continuing Campaign Against the Arms Trade protests over the huge DSEi arms fair held in London’s Docklands. BAE with offices in Carlton Gardens is the third largest arms company in the world and notable for several corruption cases – and they have been fined £48.7m by the US government for braking their military export laws.

Outside BAE and at each of further stops there were short speeches with details about the immoral (and sometimes illegal) activities of the company. After a little street theatre the protesters moved on peacefully. Occasionally where they were blocking roads the police came and politely asked them to let cars through, and the protesters obliged. They also at times tried to protect the protesters from traffic, but otherwise stood back and watched. Quite a few of the press who had turned up at the start soon left, seeing the event was proceeding peacefully.

The next stop was the offices of Thales, the world’s 11 largest arms company with a wide range of surveillance equipment, drones, armoured vehicles, missiles and more. From there they returned to Lockheed Martin where police had harassed them the previous day. On the other side of Piccadilly Circus in a street close to Leicester Square they protested outside the offices of Northrop Grumman UK, one of the world’s largest defence contractors and the largest builder of naval vessels.

A short distance further on at Strand they protested briefly at the officers of missile developer MBDA and then went to protest outside Charing Cross Police station where those arrested for protesting the previous day had been taken. The final stop on the tour was in Chandos Place, at the offices of QinetiQ, a major defence contractor which manufactures drones and armed robots used in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I left to go home. As I noted, “As yesterday, the intention of those taking part (or at least the vast majority) had been to have a visible and audible but peaceful protest which was a clear statement of their views, and today the police had not interfered with this.” But I don’t think this protest made the news.

More at G8 Protest Against Arms Dealers.

Arms Fair Protests Come To Central London

Tuesday, September 13th, 2022

On Tuesday 13th September 2011, protesters against the worlds largest arms fair being held at the Exel Centre in East London brought their protests to some of the companies selling arms and to key sites including Parliament Square and th National Gallery which was hosting a dinner for the arms traders and their customers, including representatives of many of the most repressive regimes around the world.

Arms Fair Protest At Parliament, Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Arms Fair Protests Come To Central London
A queue with loaded baskets waits to pay at the arms fair supermarket opposite Parliament

Around 250 people came to protest against the DSEI arms fair which was opening that day in East London. Many were people who had been protesting at the site of the fair during the previous week. The fair is the largest in the world, a private event supported by the UK government, and despite government denials, many deals are made there for illegal arms and arms are sold to some of the worlds most repressive regimes who use them against their own civilians.

Arms Fair Protests Come To Central London

Many had come with posters and placards, but organisers CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade) came with fake arms to set up a supermarket where people could queue to buy riot gas, guided missiles, ammunition and other essentiaql supplies to keep their population down.

Arms Fair Protests Come To Central London - Bruce Kent
Bruce Kent with Riot Gas

People held up letters spelling out ‘THIS IS NOT OK’ and then other posters and banners.

There were some songs, and anti-drone protesters staged a die-in as targets.

The country’s only Green MP (and one of the most sensible in the House of Commons) came to speak.

Dr Zig’s ‘Bubbles Not Bombs’ -Thames Embankment, Tate Modern.

‘Kids need human rights NOT cluster bombs’

Those remarkable bubbers from Dr Zigs in Wales and made their “seriously HUGE bubbles” on the riverside walk outside Tate Modern, shouting “Bubbles not Bombs” as a child-friendly protest against the DSEi Arms Fair.

They say the DSEI fair is “where bad people the world over can come and buy the latest in guns, drones, warships etc.” and call for it to stop.

Dr Zig’s ‘Bubbles Not Bombs’ Protest

Secret Gardens of St John’s Wood

I just had time between protests to pop up to St John’s Wood and the Queens’s Terrace Café, where my show ‘Secret Gardens of St John’s Wood’ had been hung at the weekend when I had been too busy to be there. Jiro Osuga who had done the design and decoration and owner Mireille Galinou whose idea it had been had done a great job and it was ready for the opening.

Secret Gardens of St John’s Wood

Down the Drones Arms Fair Protest – Tower 42, Old Broad St

General Atomics ,makers of Predator and Reaper drones had their London office in Tower 42, still better known to many of us as the Nat West Tower, on Old Broad St Although there are wide areas of empty pavement most is land owned by Tower 42 and City police harassed protesters by ensuring they keep to the small area of public highway and then clearing them from most of it as they were then causing an obstruction.

There seemed to me to be no good reason why the police shold enforce the civil property rights of the estate owner which would not be harmed by a small incursion, nor harass the protesters on the public highway when others could easily walk by – as many always do – on the private land.

The protesters managed to chalk slogans and body outlines on the pavement, displayed banners, sang and handed out leaflets to passers by about the dangers of militarism but were not allowed to lie down on their target and invite passers by to ‘zap’ them with a Playstation controller in their game of ‘Remote Control Killer Robots’.

The US was then using around 48 Predator and Reaper drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the UK around 10 MQ-9 Reapers in Afghanistan, all controlled by pilots in an airforce base in Nevada. Various documents released by whistleblowers show that drone strike often take place on the basis of very limited and often unreliable evidence often killing innocent victims and any males in these countries who appear to be of military age and likely to be targets.

Using drones turns warfare for those ‘piloting’ them from a centre perhaps several thousands of miles from the battlefield into something very much like a computer game, removing any normal human inhibitions about the indiscriminate killing of others.

In the final few minutes police allowed three protesters to lie down on the pavement for a few seconds to enable photographers to take pictures.

Down the Drones City Arms Fair Protest

DSEi Protest at BAE Systems

I’m not sure if there were any police for the protest outside BAE Systems in Carlton House Terrace which was the final advertised protest of the day. Perhaps the police were acting on advice from one of their plain clothes operatives who had told them there would be no trouble at this event.

BAE Systems is Britain’s largest manufacturing companies, formed in 1999 by the merger of British Aerospace with parts of Marconi Electronics and traces its history back to 1560 and the Royal Gunpowder Mills at Waltham Abbey, over the years having incorporated many of the famous names in UK industry, particular those involved in aviation and arms manufacture. It also has a US subsidiary, BAE Systems, Inc. The company was a nationalised industry from 1977 to 1981, with the UK government in 1985 selling its remaining shares except for one very special £1 share which it can use to prevent it becoming foreign-owned.

The company has been involved in a number of trade scandals, particularly over its deals with Saudi Arabia. Most recently in 2006 the Serious Fraud Office was forced by the Labour government to drop enquiries into bribery over an arms deal by BAE Systems with Saudi Arabia after a Saudi royal prince threatened cancellation of the order in 2006. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) obtained a High Court decision that this government action breached the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, but the government appealed and the law lords decided that national security should be an overriding principle and overturned the decision. So bribery, as well presumably as any other crime, is OK when it is in the national security interest.

The government’s decision to cancel the investigation was seen by most as an admission of BAE’s guilt in the matter, and they have also been under investigation for bribery in Chile, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, the Czech Republic and Qatar and possibly elsewhere.

BAE systems are one of the world’s largest arms companies, producing fighter aircraft, warships, missiles and tanks along with other weapons. They are also one of the companies that will profit hugely from the replacement of Trident nuclear missiles, a high-spending and potentially dangerous project with no military significance.

After some short speeches about BAE, almost all of those present laid flat on the pavement for a die-in before getting up and leaving. Although this was the last advertised protest for the day, a message bad been passed around that there would be an action at the National Gallery, which was hosting a dinner for those attending the DSEi arms fair.

DSEi Protest at BAE Systems

Arms Fair Fracas At National Gallery

After a day of peaceful demonstrations against the DSEi Arms Fair in London, a fracas developed as police attempted to clear the National Gallery steps while a peaceful protest continued below in the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square. Well over a hundred protesters had come to the National Gallery as it was closing to protest at a dinner being given there for those attending the DSEi arms fair, including representatives of many of the most repressive regimes around the world.

The protesters attempted to enter the Gallery as it was closing but were ushered out by security staff, and then began a peaceful protest on the steps of the gallery. Gallery staff asked protesters to leave the steps but some decided to stay and display banners there, while others continued to protest peacefully on the North Terrace in front of the gallery, displaying banners and holding a ‘die-in.

Eventually police got most of them moving slowly down the steps, though a few were still refusing to move. There was quite a lot of joking between some of the police and protesters and the atmosphere was generally friendly, although the protesters were not being very cooperative. Suddenly one of the protesters was seized and roughly carried away by police towards a nearby van. He did not appear to be formally arrested, and police would give no reason for his detention either to press, legal observers or protesters.

This changed the mood completely. Police reinforcements arrived and were able to force the protesters from the steps. There were a few incidents of what seemed thuggish violence towards both men and women. Some were arrested and dragged off to waiting vans; it was hard to be sure but their offence appeared to have been arguing and trying to protect themselves against police violence.

Meanwhile the protest continued peacefully on the North Terrace with a die-in and speakers explaining to the crowd that had gathered that the protest was calling for an end to UK arms sales to authoritarian regimes including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, both responsible for the ruthless suppression of people in the ‘Arab Spring’ as well as countries involved in major armed conflicts and human rights abuses. I think many were shocked to learn that the UK was playing such a major part in this killing of people around the world – not something our media often dwell on.

Arms Fair Fracas At National Gallery

DSEI Arms fair protest 2017

Sunday, September 5th, 2021

Police surround protesters who are stopping a lorry going into the arms fair

Tomorrow, Monday 6th September 2021 sees the beginning of the protests against DSEI 2021 Arms Fair taking place at the Excel Centre in East London. Protests there will continue until 17th September, the final day of the arms fair.

No Faith In War’ protesters block the road by abseiling down from a bridge

I hope to be able to be there and photograph some of the protests, as I have in several previous years. The more dedicated activists will be staying at a protest camp close to the fair, but I will only visit the site for a few hours, making my way across London and then back home – a journey of roughly and hour and a half each way.

Women hold the London WILPF banner in front of a line of coffins on the blocked road

The Arms Fair is certainly one of the largest in the world, and attracts both buyers and sellers from many countries including some of the world’s most repressive regimes. Although the government claims to restrict the sale of British made weapons and equipment to some of the more reprehensible dictators, in practice these controls are ineffectual and somehow don’t seem to apply to some of our largest business clients.

These limited restrictions of course do not apply to those foreign nations and companies who have many stalls inside the fair and can do whatever business they like. In recent years this has been shown to include selling weapons that are outlawed by international agreements.

The protests are organised by the Campaign Against Arms Trade, CAAT, though many other groups also take part. You can find details of the events on their web site. The big day of action, Tank the Arms Fair, is on Tues 14th September, the first day of the fair.

The pictures here come from 2017, the last time I was able to photograph some of the protests. The fair – which the London Mayor and the local council have clearly stated their opposition – takes place every two years. I missed the 2019 protests as I was in Cumbria.

You will find much more about the protests and many more pictures from 2017 on My London Diary at these links:

Wreath for victims of the arms trade
#Arming The World
DSEI East Gate blocked
Festival of Resistance – DSEI West Gate
DSEI Festival Morning at the East Gate
Protest picnic & checkpoint at DSEI
Protesters block DSEI arms fair entrances
No Faith in War DSEI Arms Fair protest

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Merchants of Death

Thursday, November 28th, 2019

At the end of the month that this protest tour took place, the UK government issued its UK Defence & Security Export Statistics for 2018. These revealed that UK arms sales in 2018 amounted to £14bn, making the UK the world’s second biggest arms exporters, with around half the sales of the USA. Britain had 19% – almost a fifth of global arms sales – well ahead in 2018 of competitors Russia at 14% and France with 9%.

Most UK sales are to the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE in particular purchasing large quantities of UK arms. Over the 10 year period covered by the report, the Middle East accounted for 60% of UK arms sales, though in 2018 it was around 77%. One factor in that increase was the war in Yemen.

According to CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade),

The UK has licensed over £4.7 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the bombing began in March 2015.

The weapon categories include approximately:
£2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
£1.9 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)

UK weapons used in Yemen include Typhoon and Tornado aircraft and ALARM missiles from BAE systems, Paveway bombs from Raytheon, PGM500 bombs and Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles from MBDA as well as UK-made cluster bombs which were exported from the UK in the 1980s. There are more details about the companies currently exporting arms to Saudi Arabia on the CAAT site.

As well as protesting, CAAT took the government to court over British-made arms being used in Yemen, and on 20th June 2019 the Court of Appeal ruled that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen was unlawful. The government are fighting this decision, taking it to the Supreme Court but had to apologise in September for “inadvertantly” breaking the ban over two export licences.

I joined the tour late after being held up by overcrowding led to a slow queue to get into the tube station and then down to the platforms due to Pride, and the crowds around Lower Regent Street made it impossible for the tour to visit the offices of Lockheed Martin. But I was present for the visits to G4S, Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, as well as for the speeches about Lockheed Martin – with each company being presented with a ‘blue plaque’ for their sins.

The highlight of the tour was the stop outside Buckingham Palace, where the plaque (complete with spelling mistake) was simply for their support of King Hamad in his violent repression of the people of Bahrain. But in the speeches we heard how the Royal Family played an important role with their visits backing arms sales around the world. Prince Andrew has been in the news recently for other reasons, but here was singled out for his services, in arms sales to corrupt regimes. Since it wasn’t possible to approach Buckingham Palace more closely, the blue plaque for the palace was left on the Victoria Monument facing it.

More from the tour at London’s Sinister Arms Trade

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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