Eight out of nine defendants were found guilty of highway obstruction today in the first trial of people who took part in the mass disruption of British arms jamboree DSEI last September. The eight were told to pay costs of £180 each alongside various smaller surcharges.
Over 100 people were detained at the protests last year, which caused havoc as peace campaigners conducted lock-ons and die-ins in an effort to make life difficult for weapons dealers linked to some of the most violent regimes around.
Most were dropped, with a total of 46 cases are to be heard over the next few weeks, mostly for “obstruction of the highway.”
The Stop DSEI campaign, which lasted throughout the arms fair from September 4th-9th, saw the ExCeL centre in London besieged by colourful and peaceful events involving a wide variety of anti-war groups, led by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).
Most of the arrests were “planned,” meaning the protesters knew they would be detained and intended to defend themselves in court by arguing they were trying to deter greater (war) crimes, backed by CAAT. Exhibitors have previously been found to be promoting unlawful weapons, specifically in 2007, 2011 and 2013.
The fair attracts international arms dealers from countries including Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and UAE.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said ahead of the trial:
The policing at DSEI was totally inappropriate and very heavy-handed, with over 100 arrests for taking part in peaceful protests and direct action. The protesters rightly opposed the presence of human rights abusers and arms dealers. The way that the police behaved was bang out of order.
London is a global city, with thousands of residents who have fled the same regimes that were attending DSEI. The police should have been looking at the despots, dictatorships and torturers that were in attendance, not intimidating and criminalising those that stood up to them.
More trials are expected on January 17th-18th, also at Stratford Magistrates Court, with further cases being heard in February and March.
This article was updated to include cases tried later in the day.