A Call To Arms

It's that special time of the year again, when death-dealers descend on Newham to enjoy the 'Defence Systems and Equipment International exhibition'.
It's an arms fair.

In Newham of all places.

I'm always worried that the local gangs are going to storm the fair and loot it of some 'interesting' souvenirs. Then for the next couple of months I find myself dodging cruise missiles and landmines rather than the usual broken bottles, knives and dog turds…

Both the mayor of Newham, and the mayor of London want the exhibition to stop coming here – but it still comes, bringing with it massive disruption for the people of Newham.

So there will be lots of demonstrations (some have already taken place, such as a street party), but as the exhibition starts tomorrow we are expecting things to start warming up a bit. I haven't seen any soap-dodgers protesters yet, but I'm guessing that tomorrow will see the banner wielding population of Newham increase a thousand-fold. At the moment it seems that a lot of their tactics involve blocking various roads that control entry to the exhibition.

So far I have seen a veritable army of police arriving, shields at the ready (4,000 police taken from other duties to cover the event). Obviously this leaves the rest of London a bit short on policing. I've seen convoys of riot police making their way to the area, and this morning there appeared to be random vehicle checks.

On our part, the LAS have manned an extra ambulance or two for the duration of the exhibition. Sitting in the sun watching people shouting seems like an easy way of getting some overtime. We are also doing other things, but it's probably not a good idea to tell the world and his wife about it. I just hope that the exhibition organisers are paying for our services, after all, it's not like they are short of money.

It might be interesting to print out a spotters card of dictators, warlords and despots just to see how many you can catch turning up in unmarked limousines

I must admit I'm torn. I like the police, they are always helpful, they do a job that is remarkably difficult and when I've needed help they've always turned up and been very useful.


I really sympathise with the protesters, and if I wasn't working, then I'd probably be there amongst them waving a banner and trying not to get stood on by a police horse.

So I'll sit on the fence and say that they are both going to be a huge pain in the backside because they are both going to block roads, probably injure each other and will cause traffic jams when I'm planning on going home.

The philosophy of Reynolds – 'balance through the dislike of everyone'.

23 thoughts on “A Call To Arms”

  1. Its not only the 3billion made from the sales, its all the jobs that go with it , which i'm sure the familys of employees of arms makers are happy for.

  2. I don't think there's necessarily a tension between liking the police and sympathising with the demonstrators. Like lots and lots of my colleagues I (a policeman) am also disgusted with the immorality of the arms trade in general, and the double standards of this 'fair' in particular.The government wouldn't apply the same logic to the drugs trade as it does to arms sales – despite the fact that there are many parallels.

    I've been on many demonstrations (as a demonstrator, before joining the police), and have seen a fair bit of police brutality. 99.9% of the people I work with are as disgusted with that kind of thing as I am. Now that I'm in the police I see my role at a demonstration as allowing it to take place in as safe a way as possible – making sure that demonstrators can make their democratic voices heard. OK – this is an ideal, but I believe it is one to which the vast majority of my colleagues would subscribe.

  3. I'm shocked that this thing goes on every year! it's the first I've heard of it, the last international exhibition I went to was a computer thingy, does it work the same way with all the little despots wandering past the countless stands collecting free samples and playing with the latest gadgets? love the spotter card idea…and the philosophy :o)

  4. I think a big banner reading “Newham Welcomes the Scum of the Earth” would be appropriate!Good article in the (smaller new look) Grauniad today. Says we exported $4,700 million worth of arms in 2004 to 87 countries including Algeria, Iraq & Indonesia.

    It stinks.

    We should all be ashamed!

    As for doing “other things” I am, innevitably, intrigued!!


  5. I think it's a pity that the police are kitting up ready for a fight, because chances are they'll now find one. Of course not all the protesters will be peaceful and fun loving but 90+% of them will be and I bet they'll get caught up in any trouble.

  6. I have never heard of this exhibition either, obviously move in the wrong (right) circles. I was just feeling quite patriotic (about cricket, though heaven knows why as I am not really a fan) than read this and read statistics from Guardian and think we live in a mad mad world) however I loved the idea of the banner and the spotters card- Guess a sense of humour keeps us sane

  7. I wonder if they'll have the usual assortment of give-away key-rings and magnets at the booths. Hmmm . . . pondering the design possibilities of missile shaped Post-it Note pads.It's interesting that so little media/popular attention is given to the international sale of arms. Compare the humorous treatment the industry will be getting in this Fall's big release film Lord of War (you can find the trailer on http://www.imdb.com), compared to the dead-serious tone of The Constant Gardner. Not to say the War film might not have serious moments, or be enjoyable as a film in itself. I just find the marked contrast in artistic approach to less-than-ethical dealings in the developing world curious.

    By the way, I'm considering adopting your philosophical sign-off as my signature file. 😉



  8. 'Prepare for war, hope for peace'Plod are seriously being videoed by all sides these days, so they do have to be a bit less gung-ho.

    What happens is that those 10% 'kick off' because they feel that there is an army behind them – the police do their 'thang' and more people just get pulled in.

    I've been in a riot once or twice, from demonstrations, and you don't always have a choice about being in the middle of it.

    (I remember once demo where the people around me started chanting 'PC Blakelock, chop, chop, chop', which mortified me, and if the police had moved in, I would have been in the middle of a lot of very unpopular people)

  9. grrr at arms dealers and grrrrrrr at unwashed hippies…keep an eye out for the spacehijackers (spacehijackers.co.uk) who're sure to come up with an original way of making a point 😉

  10. we may complain about the arms fairs, but not as much as we moan when the armys SA-80 is said to jam and have problems leaving our soldiers in a mess or when we dont have the best equipment… The latest technology helps keep our boys (and girls now) alive. I for one would be interested in going and having a look if it wasnt industry only…having said that though I do think its crazy that the orginisers arent paying for the security for the situation they create.

  11. The weaponry doesn't bother me too much (apart from ethically nasty stuff like landmines), what bothers me more is the continued supply of nasty objects to nasty people.If you see what I mean.

    (And yes, I can see how all opinions are relative, but I don't care, mine is _the_ moral compass)

  12. I find it weird that they call it an “arms exhibition”. I just imagine a room full of old geezers persusing big guns, hearing the occasional “You could kill a camel load of people with one of those Herr Schniederhoffen”. “Ja, I vill haff 6000, danke”.The arms trade nets this country just on 3 billion a year, enough to keep the NHS running for about 3 weeks, roughly.

    I'd rather do the over time and the murder dealers sod off to a small island in the pacific.

  13. why would you be interested in going and having a look at weapons? They're designed to kill, maim, threaten and injure people, and unless you're planning to kill, maim, threaten and injure people (in the army or otherwise), then weapons are nothing whatsoever to do with you.

  14. Yes I agree, the inhumane stuff like landmines (which thank goodness have been removed from many countries arsenals, although not all of them yet) and cluster bombs that are just as bad I have problems with, as they cause suffering many years after their use.The reason I wouldnt mind having a look is from a technological perspective the technology used in many of the systems is often really cutting edge and has real world uses as well as some of the killing ones. And not all of the stuff there is for killing, and its not all being sold to dodgy dictators (although obviously some of that must go on and cant really be good for anyone) I would imagine non lethal systems are there too being exhibited for protection of people. Like stab/bullet proof vests, CS spray tasars etc and showcases of other non-lethal technology. Take for instance the Hawkeye system that we have seen in all the cricket lately. That was actually developed for tracking missiles. A frivolous example I accept but its not all doom and death.

    People are complaining about part of the things that happen at the event without even considering some of the other things. Granted the bad things are really bad and maybe to some people they cant see further than that, but how about a poster saying, “STOP SELLING ARMS TO DICTATORS AND BAD PEOPLE, but thanks for your stab vests that save emergency service workers every week, we like them

    Think it will happen?

    Mr anon from above

  15. Tracking systems, protective clothing and other technological advances are very important, and have their place at technology fairs and so on.However this is an arms fair. Dictionary.com defines arms as: A weapon, especially a firearm.

    And weapons, especially firearms, are used to kill, maim, threaten or injure.

  16. If that's the one by/on King George V dock, I had a small run-in with the police round there a couple of years ago.I was working on the Golden Hind (now safely back in Southwark) across the river on the Woolwich side, and one afternoon we took the lifeboat out for a spin, to check it was OK and to get used to using a motor considerably too big for the boat it was on.

    All of a sudden we got surrounded by heavily armed river police types. When they found out which ship we were on, though, they were suitably impressed and later on a whole gang of them turned up for a look round and a sneaky cup of tea whilst on duty.


  17. I worked at the site of this event many years ago and it really is nothing to get so worked up about. Have a look at the website to see which companies are taking part http://www.dsei.co.uk/exhibitor/exhibitor-list.aspx – you'll find that the majority sell radios, body armour, stretchers, mine-clearance technology, firefighting equipment, batteries, tents, education, etc. Nobody except the media and the protestors call this an 'arms fair'. That's not to say there won't be any weapons at all, but keep this in perspective. We have armed forces and so do our allies. We also have a big defence industry. In this country you can't just stroll into a shop and buy guns, etc. but there are plenty of countries where you can and I'm grateful that we're not one of those places – I'd much rather this sort of thing were confined to military circles.

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