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Part of the non violent gathering blocking the entry to the ExCel Centre (photo: Hastings Quakers).

Part of the non violent gathering blocking the entry to the ExCel Centre (photo: Hastings Quakers).

Hastings Quakers arrested as arms fair set-up delayed

Hastings Quakers were among a large number of protesters arrested during a day of non violent action against one of the world’s largest arms fairs in London,as the local group report.

Ten Quakers from Hastings and Rye joined other Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist campaigners from across the country during the No Faith in War day on 3 September. They were there for a day of nonviolent resistance against the setting-up of the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair.  For nine hours they together brought to a halt the set-up in London of one of the world’s largest arms fairs.

As around 700 people of faith were kneeling, standing or sitting in the road leading to the ExCel Centre, a senior police officer broke the stillness of the Quaker meeting for worship. He ordered them to move. Around 50 people, including two Quakers from Hastings, were subsequently arrested.

David Barry, one of the local Quakers arrested, said: “I was born in 1946 and, living in London, saw the aftermath of war as a child. Food was rationed, manufactured goods were in short supply or unavailable, bombed-out houses were everywhere and most kids in my school class had lost at least one member of their extended family due to the war.  Despite this I constantly heard that we had won the war!

Hastings Quakers display their banner (photo: Hastings Quakers).

Hastings Quakers display their banner (photo: Hastings Quakers).

“At the age of eight I watched two kids arguing in a school playground until one hit the other and they ended up fighting. I thought fighting added nothing to either kid’s argument; I realised the difference between these kids and international war was only a matter of scale. I then became a pacifist and have been for 66 years”.

Against all war

Oliver Robertson, head of Witness and Worship for Quakers in Britain, explained: “Quakers are against all war and preparations for war. Deliberate killing of others denies their humanity and the arms trade, by seeking to profit from killing, is deeply immoral.

“As part of our witness to peace, we held meetings for worship on the road leading to the arms fair venue at the ExCel Centre. This was interrupted by a police announcement that we would be arrested if we did not move out of the road.

“Quakers spoke to police officers, including the inspector in charge, explaining that this was not just ‘quiet time’ but a holy gathering. Police should behave the same way they would during a Catholic mass or Muslim prayers towards Mecca. To their credit, the inspector apologised for this and offered to take that as a learning point for the future.”

 

Photos and a video of the day of action can be seen here.

Posted 19:02 Wednesday, Sep 11, 2019 In: Campaigns

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