Shropshire Star

Six people arrested after anti-arms fair protest at Telford International Centre

Six people have been arrested on suspicion of "aggravated trespass" after a protest which took place at Telford's International Centre today.

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Photo by Vladimir Morozov

Around a dozen anti-arms protesters blockaded the vehicle and pedestrian entrances to the centre at 8am, with activists chaining themselves together and to the fences.

It comes after a controversial defence convention, The Specialist Defence & Security Convention UK (SDSC-UK), got underway today and will run until tomorrow.

During the protest six people were arrested by West Mercia Police on suspicion of aggravated trespass.

Superintendent Nigel Webster said: “We respect the right to peaceful protest, however, where criminal offences are committed we will take action against those suspected of being involved.

“I would like to thank the local community for their understanding and co-operation as we respond to the protest.”

Opposition to Telford International Centre's hosting of the event came from individuals, faith groups, trade union branches, local and national charities, and environmental activists Extinction Rebellion (XR).

Previously the arms fair was held at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern under the name 3CDSE, but moved to Telford this year under the new name SDSC-UK after extensive protests.

Photo by Vladimir Morozov

Kris Welch, from Broseley, who blocked the entrance alongside XR protesters today, said: “I’m here today because I can’t sit back and watch as my town hosts this despicable event.

"Innocent civilians, including thousands of children, are being slaughtered right now in Gaza, Ukraine and elsewhere in the world by weapons sold at conventions just like this one.

"SDSC-UK is part of a global arms trade that has blood on its hands. Telford residents don’t want this arms fair in our town.

"We are disappointed that the Telford International Centre accepted the booking, putting profit before ethics.”

Sal Mager, a 57-year-old archivist from Shrewsbury, added: “The military-industrial sector will be the death of us. Militaries account for an estimated 5.5 per cent of global greenhouse emissions.

"But due to a loophole in the Paris Agreement, the world’s armed forces do not have to publish emissions figures and are excluded from COP emissions reductions targets.

Photo by Vladimir Morozov

"Meanwhile, countries on the frontline of the climate crisis face a huge rise in armed conflict as the planet overheats.

"The United Nations has described climate breakdown as a ‘threat multiplier’ that has the power to stoke tensions over increasingly scarce resources, from fresh water to arable land.”

The Telford International Centre’s decision to host the arms fair caused huge public outcry.

Last month, campaigners from Stop SDSC-UK presented a letter to the centre calling on them to cancel the event. It was signed by scores of individual signatories, as well as religious and community leaders, business people, and military veterans.

Exhibitors at the event include Ultra Electronics, which according to Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), makes navigation controls for Predator and Reaper drones – machines used by the US in “targeted killing” missions in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Campaigners have planned a peaceful day of action tomorrow, including a Quaker Meeting for worship, the laying of a white poppy wreath, a picnic and a citizens’ assembly to explore a non-violent future.

Photo by Vladimir Morozov

Ellis Brooks, a resident of Bridgnorth, said: “The global arms trade causes suffering that is hard to count, let alone imagine. It squanders resources and the carbon bootprint is making the future of the planet more perilous.

"The arms trade should be resisted everywhere, and right now that means this event on our doorsteps in Telford.”

Reverend Paul Cawthorne, former Central Telford curate and vicar of Hadnall, said: “There’s a big difference between planning for defending our own country and using government resources such as export insurance to encourage rich elites in poorer countries to spend more of their money on expensive arms.

"We’ve seen how many countries get into more debt that way by the profligacy of their elites and it’s usually the poorest that then suffer the most. It’s deeply immoral.”

Photo by Vladimir Morozov

A rough schedule of the day of action for November 2 has been published online at STOP-SDSC-UK.

Today’s protest will be followed tomorrow by a rally involving a coalition of groups including Extinction Rebellion, Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), Quakers from Telford, Wolverhampton, and Malvern; and representatives from trade union branches.

A spokesperson for Telford International Centre said: “The Specialist Defence & Security Convention is an established event which has the involvement of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and, whilst we respect the right of protest, this is a legitimate convention which has a right to be held.”

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