DSEI 2015 report: Two weeks of action against one of the world’s largest arms fairs

What became a fortnight of actions against the DSEI arms fair has recently come to a close.

DSEI (“Defence Security Equipment International“) is one of the world’s largest arms fairs and takes part every two years in East London.

This year’s DSEI was scheduled for 15th-18th September, but a call to action to disrupt the setup of the event in the preceding week was issued by Stop the Arms Fair. From the first day anti-militarists continually conducted various actions to block the road and prevent large lorries destined for the event, including many carrying armoured vehicles and tanks.

The mobilisation opened with a day against Israeli apartheid. People blockaded access by holding the ground in front of the main entrance, jumping on the back of lorries and at one stage locking onto one with an arm tube. One person was arrested for alleged criminal damage of an armoured jeep. The first day also saw the establishment of an onsite camp and infospace at the front (East) entrance which lasted until the end of the arms fair. The week of action continued to disrupt the setup in similar ways and others that included pouring red paint across the entrance and breaching security to get inside the exhibition hall. There were No Borders actions, not just because of how wars create refugees but also the large amount of border security and surveillance equipment promoted at the arms fair.

The STAF week to disrupt DSEI’s setup culminated in a mass demo on the Saturday. People blockaded the front (East) gate of the fair with their bodies and three people locked on together with arm tubes that were so effective it took five hours for them to eventually be removed, with the cops having to use industrial grade angle grinders. At the rear (West) entrance the inner perimeter fence was blockaded by bike riders that had arrived in a critical mass. These people were then defended at the rear by individuals from Disarm DSEI who locked themselves by the neck to the Heras fencing which formed the outer perimeter, preventing any lorries from making deliveries for several hours, until MOD police arrived and the blockaders were cut off – one being arrested with a remaining D-⁠lock still attached to their neck.

With the setup over (despite persistent disruption), the actual fair kicked off the following week, opening its doors to the arms dealers. A series of attempts to breach security and/or disrupt the event continued.

A secret luxury arms dealers dinner at the Cutty Sark was discovered and picketed.

Kurdish activists and supporters demonstrated against repression in Kurdistan by the Turkish government (who came to buy and sell weapons at the event), curtailing the DSEI waterborne demonstrations and later confronting arms fair delegates as they sought to leave the event.

On the last day of DSEI an Anarchist hacker collective ‘Information Liberation Front’ (ILF) leaked documents to the Indymedia UK website, which show that they were able to gain access to Hacking Team’s company EZONE account on the DSEI arms fair’s website and register a fake exhibitor at the fair. They issued a communique stating “Hacking Team are war criminals, DSEI are war criminals, their security is shit…”.

The mobilisation against DSEI arms fair 2015 was drawn from a truly diverse mixture of groups but worked constructively towards a common goal of blockading and disrupting the arms fair. This year represented an increased shift away from the symbolic to the profoundly practical, with a diversity of blockading and disruption tactics employed.

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