Christian-backed protesters seek to block 'world's biggest' arms fair

(Photo: Reuters / Olivia Harris)An anti-G8 protestor takes part in a demonstration against the arms trade in central London, June 12, 2013. The G8 met meet in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, in June. REUTERS/Olivia Harris (BRITAIN)

Protesters against the arms trade succeeded in a partial blockade of a the road to a UK military fair which will host the arms suppliers of the regime of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and other countries known for gross human rights' violations.

Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) which describes itself as the "world's largest fully integrated defence and security exhibition" has been the target of concerted nonviolent opposition for the past 10 years.

Three Church of England priests peacefully led dozens of worshippers into the road on the eastern approach to the Excel Centre in east London, where the arms fair was due to begin on September 10, the Ekklesia think tank reported.

"Part of the car park we've blocked is the 'outsize exhibitions' area for tanks and warships," reported one protester on Sunday, while another described stopping "a row of tanks" from entering.

London Catholic Worker and Christianity Uncut were among the groups using social media to report the first arrests of demonstrators.

The Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends) held a service outside DSEi in London, while other Christian groups organized an "exorcism" for the evil represented in selling arms to regimes that oppress their people with those weapons.

The UK government does not disclose who is invited to the arms fair in London, but research by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and others has revealed a panoply of human rights abusers.

"There are few limits to who is welcome: Assad's Russian arms suppliers and the companies supplying teargas to Turkey, Brazil and Bahrain are among the hundreds booked to attend," said CAAT on its website.

Christianity Uncut noted that "oppressive and aggressive regimes" such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Israel are expected to attend the fair.

It said the British government is subsidising DSEi with taxpayers' money despite having an austerity agenda.

At one point this afternoon (Sunday 8 September 2013), Ekklesia was told, both of the main entrances to the fair were blocked, effectively 'kettling' the exhibition.

Hundreds of occupy movement campaigners, peace and justice activists, Christians, trades unionists, humanists and others were involved in the protests Monday.

The protesting groups said they have formed a coalition which plans a week of action against the DSEi show.

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