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Michael Preston for Quakers in Britain
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Michael Preston for Quakers in Britain
World News

Quakers arrested at silent protest against London arms fair

by Donna Birrell

Six Quakers were among nine people arrested as they sat in silent protest outside an arms fair in east London yesterday (Friday).

Truckloads of military equipment arriving at the ExCel Centre were turned back as around 100 Quakers and others gathered and sang in the road and on the grass, despite a large police presence.

During silent worship, protestors were arrested and taken to the Fresh Wharf Custody Suite in Barking.

Thought to have been arrested under section 14 of the Public Order Act, the protestors were all released later that evening on pre-charge bail. 

The arms fair, run by Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), is to go ahead next week, despite opposition from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Nearly 3,000 defence and security suppliers are expected to attend the event.

Quakers attending the protests say they're driven by the belief that there is that of God in everyone, so killing or maiming people is not morally justifiable, even in times of war, and neither is the trade in arms.

A Quaker from Littlehampton, said: “If there was half as much investment in non-violent solutions, we wouldn’t need armaments at all.”

Another, from Hastings, said: “I’ve seen the receiving end of British weapons in the arms trade in Iraqi Kurdistan and the West Bank and it isn’t pretty.”

The Mayor of London has written previously to the organisers and ExCel, reminding them that London is home to thousands who have fled conflict and suffered as a result of weapons like those displayed and sold at DSEI.

Quakers believe conflict can be addressed through the creative use of peaceful methods including conflict prevention, diplomacy and peacebuilding, rather than the use of arms.


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