Sadiq Khan should hit London arms fair with policing bill, say Greens

The Guardian 11 months ago

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has been urged to pass on the cost of policing the world’s biggest arms fair to its organisers, with more than 100 protesters arrested so far.

More than £1.1m was spent deploying police officers to counter protests at the last Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) fair in 2015, according to figures released to Siân Berry, the Green party’s London assembly member.

The number of police officer deployments for the 2015 event was 2,245, according to figures released after a separate Freedom of Information request. More is likely to have been spent on the unsuccessful attempt to prosecute demonstrators who blocked the highway before that year’s fair.

Jonathan Bartley, the co-leader of the Green party, said: “It’s astounding that the taxpayer is signing a blank cheque for policing an event where arms companies are set to rake in millions in sales to repressive regimes. The Metropolitan police have better things to do than defend the profit margins of arms dealers flogging their deadly products.

“The mayor should hit DSEI with the bill for policing the fair and make it clear they are not welcome to return. London is open – but not to arms dealers.”

This year the cost of policing DSEI, which comes to the ExCeL centre in Docklands, east London, every two years, is likely to be the highest ever, according to activists who say the police operation countering protests has been stepped up. Since protests began last week, 102 people have been arrested, mostly for obstructing the highway, the Met said on Wednesday.

Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), said policing had been “extremely heavy handed, very arrest-happy and totally inappropriate”.

DSEI is organised by Clarion Events, with extensive cooperation from the government. On Tuesday Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, defended Britain’s arms industry, which turned over £3bn in 2016, and said the government would continue to back it.

Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, and Ben Wallace, the security minister, were scheduled to address the event on Wednesday, with Harriett Baldwin, the minister for defence procurement, and Tobias Ellwood, the minister for veterans, speaking later this week. Their presence provoked criticism after it emerged that the UK government had failed to send any ministers to a UN event happening at the same time that is aimed at stopping the trade of illicit arms.

The chiefs of the defence staff are also set to speak at the event, which hosts delegations from a long list of countries that have been accused of war crimes and human rights abuses. The government’s Defence and Security Organisation has invited representatives of Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.

Tags: arms trade
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