Category Archives: arms trade

“We did not want to take this action, but were compelled to do so”

Supporters outside court

After the not guilty verdict, outside Burnley Magistrates Court

This afternoon, (26 October) Reverend Daniel Woodhouse and Sam Walton, a Quaker activist from London, were found not guilty at Burnley Magistrates Court, following their arrest for trying to disarm Typhoon fighter jets at BAE Systems’ site in Warton, Lancashire on 29 January 2017.

Their aim had been to stop the jets, which had Saudi markings painted on them, from going to Saudi Arabia where they would be used to support the ongoing bombing of Yemen. Sam and Daniel successfully argued that their intention was to save innocent lives and prevent war crimes, by physically disabling the warplanes.

The two campaigners broke in via a fence on the perimeter of the site, and got within five feet of the warplanes before being stopped by BAE security.

The court heard evidence about the scale of the brutal bombardment, and the many serious accusations of war crimes that have been made against the Royal Saudi Air Force.

In delivering comments on his judgement District Judge James Clarke said: “They were impressive and eloquent men who held strong views about what they were doing and what they wanted to achieve. They impressed me as being natural in their delivery and honest throughout their evidence…”

“I heard about their belief of BAE’s role in the supply of aircraft to Saudi Arabia. I heard about their beliefs regarding the events in Yemen, that they include the death of civilians and the destruction of civilian property, and the basis for their belief that this amounted to war crimes…”

“However, having considered in full the defence under sec 5 Criminal Damage Act 1971, I find the defendants not guilty.”

Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £3.8 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including:

  • £2.6 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)    

  • £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)    

  • £572,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks)    

In a joint statement, Sam and Daniel said: “We did not want to take this action, but were compelled to do so in order to stop the UK government’s complicity in the destruction of Yemen. Thousands of people have been killed in the brutal bombardment, while companies like BAE Systems have profited every step of the way.

This vindication from the Courts is further evidence of the hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy that underpins so much of UK foreign policy. It is time for the government to stop putting arms company profits ahead of human rights. We do not regret taking action, and would do it again in a heartbeat. The only thing we regret is that we were not able to finish the job.”

Christians arrested at arms fair protest

Yesterday morning (5th September) members of Christian peace groups, Put Down the Sword and the London Catholic Worker, were arrested after successfully blocking the service road leading to the Excel Centre, using arm tubes.

The activists intention was to create a prayer space for faith groups to gather and witness against the arms trade. The blockade formed the basis of a prayer space decorated with prayer flags and banners.

Following this action there were other actions in which members of Put Down the Sword abseiled from the bridge and Quakers blocked the road with a massive were arrested. Altogether peace activists held the road for [xx] hours while faith groups from the Quakers, Pax Christi, Wake Up, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship said prayers and bore witness. There was a bring and share lunch for all faiths.

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The names of the those taking part in the direct action are Chris Cole, (53) of Oxford, and Nora Ziegler (26) Joanna Frew (38) and Henrietta Cullinan (56) all from London.

Chris Cole [53] says,

At a time when war has become so normalised that it has faded into the background, its more important than ever that we say a clear and simple ‘no more war preparations ‘.

Joanna Frew [38] writes,

‘Like Theresa May, I am a vicar’s daughter. But unlike Theresa May, I see the principles of the Christian faith as an active commitment to non-violence. Jesus risked ridicule, imprisonment, torture and, ultimately, a political death sentence to teach us radical non-violence and peacemaking.

The arms fair, supported by Theresa May’s government, contributes to war, violence and oppression in countries where conflict and suffering is beyond imaginable, such as Yemen, Bahrain and Israel-Palestine. DSEi also helps the border security industry to push equipment and ideas that deal with migration as a crime that needs to be stopped. The Bible is full of examples of welcoming the stranger and providing hospitality. We are here to say that this is the kind of welcome we want to see, not one for dictators and murderous regimes.’

For further information on the protests see:

Stop the Arms Fair https://www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk

For further information on the two groups see:

London Catholic Worker http://www.londoncatholicworker.org

Put Down the Sword https://putdownthesword.wordpress.com

Christians disrupt military conference

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Christian campaigners have disrupted an arms industry-funded event at Church House Westminster just as Defence Secretary Michael Fallon is due to speak.

A few minutes ago, they blockaded the main entrance to the building, insisting that a Christian venue should not be hosting the annual Land Warfare Conference.

Senior army officers and arms industry personnel are now clustered around the steps and unable to get through the doorway. It is unclear whether Fallon’s speech, due at 9.00am, will go ahead as planned.

The conference is organised by a pro-military thinktank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), and sponsored by arms companies including Airbus Defence and L3.

Along with the small number of Christians blocking the doorway, others are standing by offering support, with banners declaring “Evict the arms dealers”, “Anglicans against arms” and quoting Jesus’ words, “All who take up the sword will die by the sword”.

The Christians blocking the entrance say they have taken nonviolent direct action after five years of attempting to engage with the Church House authorities, who have repeatedly ignored letters, refused to hold meetings and even blocked polite critics on social media.

Christian author Symon Hill is one of those blockading the entrance. Before the protest, he said:

“I am not taking this action lightly. Church House have consistently refused to listen or talk with us, ignored the points we have raised and even given misleading statements to the media. As those with power refuse to listen, we have taken nonviolent direct action, putting our bodies in the way of the evil that is going on at Church House today.”

Eve Waterside, a member of the Church of England living in Oxford, is also taking part. She explained:

“Jesus lived a life of active nonviolence. We are called to follow his example, however fallibly. A leading Christian conference centre is being used to plan large-scale violence, funded by companies that arm some of the world’s most oppressive regimes. I am sad and angry to see the church of which I am part profiting from war and the arms trade.”

Church House claim that Church House Westminster (the conferencing wing of Church House) is a separate business. However, it is a wholly owned subsidiary business of Church House Corporation, whose president is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.