From 13th-16th September, once again the ExCel Centre in London's Docklands will be the brokering ground for everything from battleships and attack helicopters to cluster bombs and machine guns. At DSEi 2003 there were 973 exhibitors selling their deadly wares to delegates from a third of the world’s countries.
There is nobody with even the slightest conscience who can be comfortable with the vast array of repressive regimes coming to browse and buy, nor the range of weapons technology. Really, if this one doesn't get you angry and outraged then all humanity has departed your soul.
In 2003 there were loads of blocades and other bits of direct action going off to make access to the fair difficult. This time we're going to do it again. See you down the front.
Disarm DSEi is co-ordinating protests, not just at the ExCel Centre but at numerous relevant places around the country too. There will be ample meeting and crash space in London.
2003's protests were notable for the first use of Jack Straw's new anti-terrorism laws. They were used as the pretext for stopping and searching the protesters.
To the untrained eye it looks like a harmless bag of sandwiches, but to the elite Metropolitan Police officer it turns out on further investigation to be, er, oh, a bag of sandwiches after all. Never mind, we'll take your personal details, fingerprint you, take a DNA sample for the database that will never be deleted, and release you without charge in the dead of night.
If, on the other hand, you carry a briefcase with a banker's draft to buy thousands of cluster bombs to be dropped on civilian residential areas then you are a legitimate business person and need protecting from those terrorists who would blocade your path.
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On a related tip, I got emailed a report of an action last Thursday outside the Hiatt's factory in Birmingham.
Hiatt's, as the home page of their website proudly declares, were founded in 1780 and made their initial money supplying handcuffs and shackles to the British government for colonial use. There was an equally lucrative contemporaneous market in slave-collars, but peculiarly their site omits that.
They kept on making leg-shackles until manufacture was banned 20 years ago. Since then they've got around it by making, wink wink, 'extra large handcuffs' whose buyer can easily make them into shackles by swapping the short chains for large ones.
And now it turns out they've been supplying the shackles for the forgotten hundreds being illegally held and tortured at Guantanamo Bay.
The protest was called by a local doctor who discovered that the Hiatt's company were supplying the Shackles and Hand-cuffs used on people being held without trial or any hope of justice at the US prison-camp in Guantanamo Bay.
Seize The Day arrived on a flat-bed truck to lead 20 orange-clad dancers in The Shackle Shuffle [MP3 here] before an audience of about 15 media, 2 coppers, and assorted local residents. Behind us, comedian Mark Thomas, in regulation Boiler Suit, held one end of a banner reading 'Tackle the Shakles - Call Hiatt 0121 357 4347'. After the song, Mark spoke passionately about the disgrace of the torture industry operating in our country.
He was followed by Abu Bakr, whose brother Omar Deghayes is currently on Hunger Strike with over 200 other victims of gratuitous American military detention. The hunger strike is now in it's 5th week, and if the prisoners demands for humane treatment are not met soon, innocent men like Omar will start to die from starvation. The realities of Guantanamo abuses were spelled out by UK Lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith, who represents many of the inmates, but is not permitted by the US authorities to tell the world everything which he has seen.
However thanks to the widespread reporting of this protest and the interest it generated through the BBC and the Guardian newspaper, the courageous and desperate struggle of the men and boys kidnapped by the Bush regime and deprived of their most basic human rights in the name of "defending democracy" is now in the news.
Public awareness of the Hunger Strike may make a difference for people like Omar Deghayes. Please take the time to read about his case - he needs us.
They all need us. Every 'Human Right' we now take for granted was once a Human victory. If we do not protect them now, we may live to wish that we had when the same treatment is meted out to us, or those we love, in the future.
I hope that people reading this will think of other ways to apply pressure on the UK and US government to end the 3 year nightmare of Guantanamo.
There are 3 issues:
1) The export by Hiatt's of shackles - their address and phone number are available, and MPs may also want to raise it in parliament;
2) The plight of Omar Deghayes, who faces execution if the UK government force him to return to Libya upon his release;
3) The restoration of Human Rights to all the detainees, so that the hunger strike can end.
The Hiatt's factory's address is:
Hiatt & Co Ltd
111 Baltimore Road
Their phone number is +44 (0)121 357 4347
Their fax number is (0)121 358 7768
Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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