University of West England visits the arms dealers!

Paper aeroplanes on grass with "drop steve, not bombs!" written on them

Paper aeroplanes for the demo against UWE’s Vice Chancellor Steve West

On Monday, students from over the country and local campaigners assembled at the University of West England campus for a day of action against military spending and repression of protest at the university.

United under a banner calling to ‘#reviewUWE’ in the glorious sunshine, the group marched through the campus, towards the Vice Chancellor Steve West’s office block, chanting ‘Drop fees, not bombs’. Once outside the fancy building (complete with private tennis court), everyone shared paper plane making skills for an action that the VC could not ignore. Dozens of paper aeroplanes, marked with slogans and requests to drop military investment, were thrown at the building and nestled in the windows, doors and cracks in the brick work. Meanwhile, people took turns voicing their concerns to the chancellor over a megaphone, to much applause and chanting.

Once sure that the VC had heard the message, the group crossed the road to the Bristol

People holding a '#reviewUWE' banner outside Thales offices

Students and local residents visit Thales offices near UWE.

Business Park which is home to many arms companies including Boeing, Babcock, Selex, Thales and QinetiQ. The protesters visited each company in turn, chanting and exposing which human rights abusing countries they export arms to.

The protest was called as a part of the Global Day of Action Against Military Spending (GDAMS) but had a deeper significance to the students at UWE. The demonstration on Monday called for an independent review of the 20th November’s ‘UWE arms fair’ protest. In November, a peaceful student protest against the DPRTE conference, hosted on the UWE campus, was repressed and several students were injured by delegates of the conference. Since then, student media has been silent on the matter and Steve West has ignored student’s concerns. Support the action by signing the petition that’s calling for a review.

Both UWE students and Bristol Against the Arms Trade members are planning ahead for the next move and are looking forward to what’s in store next. If you are local to Bristol and would like to join in please contact either bristolagainstarmstrade@gmail.com or uwe.better.together@riseup.net.

Essex University students say no to NATO

Essex University have invited Ulrich Pilster from NATO to talk about careers in the nuclear armed, Afghanistan-invading, Western business interests-defending organisation responsible for tens of thousands of civilian deaths in Afghanistan and three million refugees who have fled.

Students are demanding that the university withdraw the invite. It is irresponsible for a university which prides itself on its human rights work to give a platform to NATO and encourage their students to pursue a career with such a militaristic organisation.

Established in 1949 as a Western counter-power to the Soviet Union, the organisation commits members to treat an attack on one as an attack on all. This was used to justify the disastrous NATO invasion of Afghanistan, which has cost the lives of tens of thousands of civilians. Since member states aren’t often under attack, NATO has further justified its existence through “humanitarian intervention”. In 2011, this meant ‘intervening’ in Libya, including backing rebels that delivered collective punishment to whole villages for supposedly “supporting the Gaddafi regime”. Commentators pointed to Libya’s significant oil reserves as a deciding factor in defining this ‘humanitarian’ crisis as in need of intervention over others in less oil-rich areas.

NATO member states account for 70% of the world’s $1.75 trillion a year military spending. It is estimated that since 2006, the cost of the Afghanistan War to the UK alone amounts to at least £15m per day. A military alliance will only propagate military solutions: it will not look at what is really needed for human security. It will not decide to shift military spending to end austerity, relieve poverty, improve health, or tackle climate change.

Even the cost to the UK of hosting the NATO summit in Newport, Wales this September will be significant. Security bills for previous summits have been over £60 million, and the Chief Constable of Gwent has already said that 200 of the 300 police support units in the whole of the UK will be deployed. This allocation of resources is particularly galling in Newport, where £34 million of cuts to local services are planned by 2017.

A student from Essex comments:

We do not believe that a responsible University should be hosting such an event to promote an essentially obsolete and purely Military Organization, that’s only purpose is to justify destructive wars, that are orchestrated for the benefit of western elites, against the wishes of the population of its member states. We demand that the University cancels the event and that it no longer pursues ties with militaristic organizations. The University of Essex supposedly prides itself upon its prestigious human rights centre. The invitations of BAE [Systems] last year and the invitation of a NATO career path meeting directly contradict this.

The talk will be held at 2pm in the Government Common Room on the 15th March.

Please sign the petition to boot NATO off campus.

Visit the facebook page.

London universities’ £7.4m stake in the arms industry

The London Student has revealed that, in spite of ethical investment policy claims, London universities have over £7.4 million investing in arms trade company shares.

We can stop this. In 2007-9 Disarm UCL ran a successful campaign to pressure the university into dropping it’s shares in Cobham PLC. Student activism is an essential part of holding universities accountable.

If you’d like to get involved in our ethical investment campaign and stop investments like these, get in touch by e-mailing universities@caat.org.uk

Students in camouflage and mortar boards hold graduation certificates and fake guns in front of a 'ditch the arms shares' banner