Midway through a week of inventive, determined actions organized by a broad UK coalition, dozens of activists have been arrested in London protesting the upcoming Defense & Security Equipment International, or DSEI, a massive, controversial, stomach-churning "high value, focused marketing opportunity" that brings together many of the world's most authoritarian, avidly-weapons-buying regimes with thousands of its biggest arms dealers. Billed as the world's largest arms fair, DSEI is slated to take place next week at East London's ExCeL Centre. According to the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade, past events have drawn military delegations from the oppressive likes of Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Bahrain, Egypt and Algeria to view gleaming wares from around the world; a favorite exhibitor is Israel, where firms like Plasan proudly advertise weapons as “field-proven,” or tested on Palestinians. In ads slamming the 2015 fair, Amnesty International charged the event offers "torture on your doorstep."
Thousands of activists are expected at this week's protests, organized by the Stop the Arms Fair Network and aimed at blocking the arrival of military equipment and the set-up of DSEI. Along with art and theater, each day features a themed action. At Stop Arming Israel, London Palestine Action displayed "No War Criminals Welcome Here" signs and set up small black coffins bearing pictures of Muslim children killed by Israeli weapons; at No Faith in War, stalwart Quakers - one was 96 - led other religious groups in meditation and rolling blockades of trucks; at Wednesday's No to Nuclear, Trident Ploughshares blocked entrances with "Trident Is Terror" banners, locked on to each other through plastic tubes police struggled to undo, and sang Pete Seeger songs. Others have done die-ins on roads leading to ExCel to block trucks, locked themselves to and under equipment on trucks, locked themselves to boxes inside backpacks that police couldn't open, and hung by ropes from bridges to block traffic, with signs denouncing Theresa May and a Ministry of Defense that continues to sponsor the profitable, reprehensible show. "Right now, UK fighter jets and bombs are playing a central role in the destruction of Yemen," noted CAAT's Andrew Smith. "What will be the next atrocity they are used in?”
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