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London arms fair blockaded in day of action

Activists from across the UK began a week of action against the world's largest arms fair in London yesterday.

The DSEI Arms Fair will run from 15-18 September at London's ExCel Centre. As opposed to static protest, actions have been planned across the week in an attempt to disrupt the setting up of the event.

First implemented on 11 September 2001, DSEI's biannual arms fair has grown over the years despite widespread protest and unanimous votes by the local Newham Council in 2007 to condemn it. The last arms fair, held in 2013, hosted nine of the ten largest global arms manufacturers. In March 2015, the Telegraph reported that "cross-border arms sales" rose by more than 13 per cent last year to more than $64 billion.

DSEI expects more than 30,000 visitors and is hosting 1,500 international exhibitors from the "Defence and Security" fields. Amongst the "international pavilions" given floor space is the Israeli Pavilion against which the initial day of action was implemented under the "Stop Arming Israel" banner.

Activists from various grassroots movements and organisations gathered outside the ExCel Centre yesterday morning. Large numbers of police forces were also present in an attempt to prevent any disruption.

Despite the heavy police presence activists succeeded in blocking the two entrances to the site as lorries attempted to bring in military hardware. Quotes from Palestinian families who lost children during Israel's 2014 bombardment of Gaza were read out by speakers from on top of one of the blockaded lorries which itself was daubed with the words "Arms tested on children" by activists.

In July 2015, following a year-long review, the British government removed all remaining restrictions on weapon's export licenses to Israel despite admitting that the weapons may have been used in the 2014 bombardment of Gaza in which more than 2,260 Palestinians were killed.

One activist was arrested during the protests.

Images by MEMO Photographer Rich Wiles.

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