Fighting against the DSEi Arms Fair in East London

Image borrowed from

Every two years, the worlds largest arms fair happens in the Docklands in East London. Supported by the UK government, Clarion Events invite delegates from across the world to peruse the latest advances in the technology of death.

Countries at war with each other, tin pot dictators and global bullies rub shoulders with the worlds weapons manufacturers all under one roof in the ExCeL centre. This years fair welcomed delegations from Libya, China and Israel amongst others, who were entertained with cocktail evenings and exhibitions of rockets and machine guns.

Last time around the Space Hijackers aimed to get the fair in the press, after it turned out they were rather sheepish of any publicity. To that end we bought a tank, and then invited the press to a conference where we explained we would be auctioning the tank off to the highest bidder in middle of the volatile demonstrations just outside of the fair. If this happened to be an angry youth who ploughed it into innocent Police, delegates or public, we would take no responsibility, this was simply a business transaction. As you can imagine the Police soon pricked up their ears, and what followed was a tale of 24hour surveillance, decoy vehicles, gangster lock ups and lots of press.

This time around we wanted to not only increase the estimated £6million police budget, but also personally question and embarrass the delegates.

Step one was to simply follow on from our tank project. We decided, as the Police had confiscated our tank (it's a long story), to take the next logical step in our arms race and go looking to purchase a Helicopter. The Police hadn't taken our tanks seriously last time, and by the end of the fair, their faces were well and truly covered in egg. The London Lite had run a headline of "Anti-Arms protesters make fools of Police" whilst telling the tale of our decoy tank. We figured a chopper would certainly get their DSEi budget going skywards.

We printed up rather nice t-shirts and headed down to East London's Brick Lane Market to promote our cause. Alongside selling helicopter t-shirts to fund the Hijacker escapades we also spread the word about the fair. Giving out hundreds of leaflets and explaining all about the fair to the socialites of Shoreditch.

A trip to Climate Camp in London helped recruit people for the DSEi protests, and obviously tip off the eager ears of the Police again. Alas I don't think out tales of a protest chopper made us many friends in the Climate movement.

And so it came to the Delegates Dinner. Each year DSEi invites it's delegates (arms dealers and arms buyers) to a slap up meal in a five star hotel. Obviously being the shy retiring (death dealing) types that they are, the location is kept hush hush.

We decided to help publicise the fact that 900 Arms Fair delegates would be descending upon Park Lane for canapes and cluster munitions chit chat. So we proudly announced that our Helicopter would be landing slap bang in the middle of it. Let's see how they like being on the receiving end of an aerial attack?

Image borrowed from fotdmike

Turning up at the Hilton Hotel we found a scene of chaos, Disarm DSEi had blockaded the door with banners whilst security, press and police tustled with them. Delegates were dropped off by black cab and those horrible Addison Lee people carriers, then bundled through the chaos in their finest. A fitting welcome we thought.
Over head Police helicopters roamed the sky waiting for the Hijackers to appear on their radar.

Images borrowed from fotdmike

Our ground troops had a cunning plan up their sleeves too. With the money from t-shirt sales we had made bundles of golf sale style "ARMS DEALER DINNER PARTY " signs. Setting up on the pavements around the hotel we made up for the lack of advertising that Clarion Events had mustered for the dinner. Loudly explaining to everyone that the people getting out of the cars in their nice suits were arms dealers.

Images borrowed from fotdmike

We also had some lovely "ARMS DEALER " ones for a more personal approach. Dressed in our smart suits we walked up to the people carriers as the delegates got out, then helpfully walked them to the entrance with a handy sign above their heads.

Alas the Police seemed to get their knickers in a bit of a twist, and after wrestling and arresting a fair proportion of the courageous Disarm DSEi protesters, they turned their attention on us. The FIT teams and others started shoving Hijackers out of the way, then demanding that if we wanted to protest, we could only do so in the generously provided pen (a metal cage around the corner and behind a bush). As you can probably imagine we declined.

What followed was a game of cat and mouse with Hijackers splitting up and slipping through Police lines to further embarrass the delegates. Alas after being threatened with arrest too many times, we decided it was time for a swift drink.

A Police team came with us to the pub (which was nice of them) alas they didn't have a drink, instead just stood outside making notes on our clothes and writing down who we were talking to. Then trying to buy cameras to take photographs of us with but realising that the reason the shop door wouldn't open was because it was closed (never the sharpest tools in the box).

A quick bit of double bluffing and two of our agents (Bristly Pioneer & Spritely Monkey) slipped out of a second door in the pub and hopped in a cab back to the Hilton. Alas once being waved through the Police cordon and ushered to the door, the two big signs we were carrying gave us away and we were once again escorted back out of the area.

Then suddenly the noise came from above! In the distance and growing ever louder came the distinctive chop chop chop of a Helicopter approaching. Our faces lit up, and we pulled ear protectors and ping pong bats from our pockets to wave down the Hijacker "Death From Above" crew.

Obviously, as you can imagine the Police, well they panicked. Dropping all niceties of conversation with us, they ran around screaming into radios and looking at the sky. We approached the hotel forecourt to make space for a landing as the wild eyes of the commander tried to make sense of what was about to happen.
Ahhh, but then it was gone. The Helicopter flew straight over the hotel and away. With a look of relief and desperately trying to feign control the chief Policeman came over, and looked at the sky "One of ours!" he said "I knew it was all along". Of course you did officer.

Game Over.




Or so all of the other protesters thought, in fact it had only just began.

Around 10:30pm the Police wound down their operation and began to drive off in their collection of vehicles. However, just as we had predicted, at about 11pm all of the slightly tipsy arms dealers started to wander out of the hotel and into our waiting arms.

What followed was one of the most hilarious evenings of my life. We literally stood outside of the hotel, telling off arms dealers to their faces. In their inebriated state, they were in no state to debate.

"So tell me, what do you do"
"I don't have to justify myself to you"
"But you're an arms dealer aren't you?"
"I'm very proud of what I do"
"Making money from people killing each other?"
"I don't have to stand up for myself"
"Why don't you try?"
"No" (looks at floor)
"Come on, there must be something worthwhile about your job"
"Leave me alone, I don't have to justify my job" (goes red faced)
"God, you're pathetic, it's like a teacher telling off a school boy, come on defend yourself, don't just stand their looking at the floor"
"I'm getting a cab, you've got no argument"
"My argument is that you make money by selling weapons for people to kill with, and that's disgusting. All I'm asking you to do is tell me why you think that's a respectable thing to do"
"You wouldn't understand"
"Try me"
"Leave me alone, I don't have to answer questions"
"You are pathetic, look at yourself"

Yes, that was an actual conversation with an arms dealer. Some were a little more clear and less embarrassed.
"I make helmets, we only sell to the UK army, I just want to make things to protect people, why don't you let people know it's just a few of the people here who give the rest of us a bad name"
There you go, I promised we'd write it.

Yes there were a few people (well one) who seemed to have a defence, the rest alas were quite simply some of the most dangerous men (yes mostly white, upper class, men) in the world.

DSEi will be back in two years time, we hope you'll join us in harassing the dealers, pushing up the Police budget and attempting to get the thing shut down again.

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