Solidarity with all students defending our right to protest

Masked protesters stand behind giant cardboard books and upturned bins

ulu protesters barricade the entrance to Senate House. Flickr@ Wasi Daniju

Campaign Against Arms Trade is very concerned to hear that student activists are currently facing attacks on their right to protest across the country.

In recent months, we’ve noted increasingly harsh responses from university authorities to protesting students. This academic term saw private security drag students from their own university building in Sheffield during a peaceful anti-arms demonstration. In Bristol, students were threatened with arrest for trespass on their own university when they staged a die-in at an arms industry conference. More widely, in Birmingham, there have been attempts to burden protesting students with outrageous university court costs and five students have been suspended from Sussex University with the threat of exclusion for protesting.

Increasingly, police have also been brought onto campuses as a response to peaceful demonstrations and direct actions. The trend of disproportionate measures by university management has been mirrored in police behaviour. Officers attempted to recruit student activist informants in Cambridge, and anti-arms campaigners at UWE were followed by Forward Intelligence Team officers after their action against the arms industry conference. Last night, students involved in the University of London occupation faced police violence and were issued with very severe bail conditions.

Protest and direct action are crucial and effective. Student groups are vital to challenging the arms industry’s presence on campus. This term alone, several arms company events have been cancelled across the UK as a result of student action. It is perhaps because of its effectiveness that the response to student protest is escalating. It is important that any attempts to repress our right to protest are stopped in their tracks.

And so, CAAT stands in solidarity with those student campaigners who are facing disproportionate responses to their activism, and are defending our right to protest. We send our best wishes to those injured or burnt out by the events at recent protests and encourage people to support their call for solidarity.

There’s a national day of action on Wednesday 11th December organised by ULU students in reaction to the severe policing of political protest, state austerity and the privatisation of education. Join the protest at ULU or find out where your local student demonstration is happening.

Links for local action and more information:
Green and Black Cross key advice – Very Important!
London Student article about ULU
The national demonstration facebook event
Occupy Sussex info page
Student strike event at Sussex
UWE anti-arms page, also organising an event for this
Defend Education Birmingham
Sheffield Strikes Back
Sheffield Fund Education Not War
Warwick Protect the Public University
Right to Protest – general information page

Police clashing with protesters

Protesters and police outside Euston Square Station
Photo Credit from LondonStudent.net

Arms Companies not welcome at UWE

Update: The protest was successful! The DPRTE conference has been moved away from the UWE campus. Well done to everyone who was involved for your hard work!

Students of the University of the West of England joined forces with Bristol Against the Arms Trade yesterday to protest and disrupt the DPRTE conference, hosted by the university in the UWE exhibition and conference centre. Attendees included Babcock International, BAE Systems, Chemring, DSTL, Raytheon and UK Trade Industry Defence and Security Organisation.

Members of Bristol Against the Arms Trade released this statement:

Companies attending today’s ‘Defence, Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportation’ Event were greeted this morning by queues trailing back along the A4174 as protesters blocked the UWE North Entrance. One gate was eventually locked and attendees forced to use other entrances. Later as they approached the building attendees were accompanied to the door of UWE’s Exhibition and Conference Centre by protesters just letting them know who would be attending the event; the likes of Raytheon (cluster bombs in Iraq, missiles in Gaza), Babcock (nuclear submarines), Chemring (teargas used in the Arab Spring) and our good friends BAE Systems. Crowds of protesters gathered at the entrance to ensure that UWE were suitably embarrassed to be holding the event and that those entering were told they weren’t welcome on the campus or in our city. Some UWE students peacefully enter arms conference and staged a die-in. They were threatened with arrest for trespassing on their own university.
The protest continued around campus letting students know what was being held at their space and banners held at each entrance. Arms dealers and the likes of these companies will be greeted by the same response at future events at UWE.
See:

https://www.facebook.com/NOWMDatUWE

Petition to stop UWE’s investment and support of the arms industry: https://www.change.org/petitions/calling-the-university-of-the-west-of-england-uwe-bristol-not-to-invest-itself-into-promote-support-or-enable-profit-making-from-of-through-wars-military-uses-of-research-military-networks-and-violent-approaches-towards-conflicts

UWE released two statements in response:

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor for the University of the West of England, insisted the exhibition “is not an arms fair”. He said: “The exhibitors at this conference do not have any form of munitions, weaponry, artillery or hazardous military equipment on site. It is not University policy to support arms fairs. The conference and exhibition focuses on helping the management of procurement projects for the defence industry, a key sector in the British economy.”

University spokesman, Keith Hicks commented, “It is our policy not to support arms fairs. This is not an arms fair. This is a conference that promotes project management of large procurement projects and supply chain management. The University is also not a sponsor of the conference or involved besides the rental of the space.

To which the protesters expertly responded with:

Although Keith Hicks and Steve West are keen to assert that DPRTE is not an arms fair, they have either been naively sucked in by the arms industry’s misleading jargon, or are knowingly complicit in covering up the university’s vested interest in the arms trade.

The statement that it “promotes project management of large procurement projects and supply chain management” is true, but meaningless because it avoids saying what is being procured, and what the chain is supplying – a quick look at their website show that they themselves promote it as a “defence showcase”. Our concern is not that there were “munitions, weaponry, artillery or hazardous military equipment on site”, we were not concerned about being blown up or shot at on campus that day. Our concern is that companies producing such products, and other less obvious items, were meeting to continue ‘business as usual’, that networking at these events is a crucial step in the supply chain of products that end up facilitating and fueling war and destruction.

The DPRTE event invites corporations to network, share knowledge and “showcase the latest technologies”. The list of attending companies includes BAE (the world’s 3rd largest arms company) Raytheon (cluster bombs, guided bomb systems, tomahawks and other military equipment used in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon) Roke Manor Research (who produced tear gas used in the Arab spring) and Babcock (who refurbished the UK’s nuclear submarine). Many smaller companies, who may not yet be producing weapons, are clearly attending in the hope of increasing their chances of getting profitable contracts.

Keith may be right in stating that UWE is not a sponsor of this conference – however, UWE has consistently showed its support of the arms industry – in March UWE sponsored the president of Boeing to give a talk; UWE has invited arms companies such as Airbus, Babcock and Boeing to its careers fairs and UWE’s engineering department is proud to play an “important part” in developing the global market of aerospace technology, and boasts “increasing activity” in Unmaned Aerial Vehicles (drones).

UWE’s willingness to rent it’s facilities to this event are yet another indication of its involvement in the arms trade and lack of ethical conscience. UWE students are starting to ask questions about their university’s relationship with the ams industry, and despite UWE’s attempts to keep this hidden, there is a growing student movement taking action.

We wish to send our best wishes and solidarity to those who were at the protest and to those who were later harassed by a police FIT team in response to this action.

Sheffield protesters injured by security

Students from the Fund Education Not War group at Sheffield University were dragged from the Octagon Centre where they were protesting the companies Augusta Westland, Airbus, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, Thales and Ultra Electronics who were exhibiting at the university’s engineering careers fair. Some of the students were injured as a result.

 

Fund Education Not War released this statement about the event:

On Tuesday 5th November the Fund Education, Not War campaign and a number of other groups on campus will be holding a protest at the Engineering Careers Fair. We are protesting the presence of a variety of companies, all of whom are directly involved in the production and sale of arms. These companies are: Augusta Westland, manufacturers of military helicopters; Airbus, whose military business unit produces planes for military transport; BAE Systems, responsible for “developing some of the most technologically advanced defence, security and aerospace systems on earth”, and selling them to some of the most repressive and anti-democratic regimes in the world; Rolls-Royce, producers of military jet engines, with ‘50,000 engines in service with 500 airlines, 2,400 corporate and utility operators and more than 100 armed forces’; and Thales, and Ultra Electronics, both of whom manufacture essential components for military drones.

Our primary focus is on Thales and Ultra Electronics, due to their current complicity in the Obama regime’s extrajudicial murder of thousands of civilians in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and more broadly in the Middle East, using unmanned drones. Added to this, Thales continued to supply the Mubarak regime with lethal weapons even as world watched them being turned on peaceful protesters in Tahrir Square. Fund Education, Not War protested their presence at Careers Fairs in March yet the University has seen fit to invite them back to the Octagon again this academic year.

In October 2012, the Students’ Union passed a referendum to implement a policy which states unilateral opposition to the involvement of the arms trade in the Union and University. The policy mandates the Students’ Union to resolve to declare opposition to the University’s dealings with all arms companies, and lobby the University to end all dealings them, including in careers fairs and in advertising. Full policy: http://www.shef.ac.uk/union/you-run-us/policies/current/index.php#educationnotwar

Over 50% of Thales’ total sales come from selling defence and military equipment around the world, including countries that committed major human rights concerns, such as Saudi Arabia. Thales is a major manufacturer of drones: unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles whose use is becoming increasingly common. These drones have assisted strikes outside conflict areas and have helped caus many civilian casualties. Ultimate Electronics are proud to announce that they have been “the supplier of the controls that fly the Predator [drone] since its inception.” As such they are equally complicit in the mass murder waged by the USA, without any remit, over the last few years in the name of ‘the war on terror’. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism recently published a list of children who have been murdered by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, two countries which are not conflict zones and as such should not be subject to attack by these machines – not only has this happened, but the fatalities of innocent children have resulted. The full list can be found here, and includes names of entire families who were murdered by drones: http://droneswatch.org/2013/01/20/list-of-children-killed-by-drone-strikes-in-pakistan-and-yemen/ The University of Edinburgh have set a precedent recently in divesting all shares in Ultimate Electronics – we commend this action and urge our university to do the same.

The University prides itself on being a values-led organisation; however, its continued liaison with arms companies responsible for the murder of innocents around the world throws this claim into serious disrepute. In light of continued refusal by the Careers Service to stop inviting arms companies to its careers fairs, Fund Education Not War will be holding a peaceful protest highlighting the grim reality that stands behind the friendly front of the Thales stall at the fair, naming each recorded child victim of a drone attack. This will emphasise the ruined lives and devastation that the machines which this company builds, have caused.

Fund Education Not War calls on the University to follow the lead of others such as UCL and St Andrews and end its links with the arms trade. We call for the promotion of ethical alternatives to jobs with arms companies and want to dispel the myth that they are a good source of graduate recruitment and “needed” at our careers fairs: the arms industry accounts for fewer than 3% of jobs taken by engineering and science graduates, and whilst the defence market worldwide is worth a trillion dollars annually, jobs in green industry and the environment are worth at least eight times as much. The arms trade is a declining industry in Britain with many jobs increasingly sourced outside of the country; the University should move with the times and listen to the opinions of students and act on policies that are democratically implemented by the Students’ Union.

Our University should also be responsible within the wider community for the companies it chooses to liase with, and this means not inviting arms companies to its careers fairs. By the time you have finished reading this statement, at least one person will have been killed as a result of armed conflict around the world.

More information can be found on ForgeToday
Send solidarity messages to the group to show the university that we support them.

Action at Bristol

group of students standing in a grand university hall. Security guard in hi-vis jacket clearly visible standing by them.

Bristol students disrupt their careers fair ’13

Students at Bristol university disrupted their Careers Fair to protest the attendance of BAE Systems, Thales and EADS. Here’s their press release:

On the 22nd and 23rd of October a group of Bristol students took action against the presence of arms companies at careers fairs organised by Bristol university. This action took place at the University of Bristol’s engineering careers fair in the Wills memorial building. Across both days, we ran a stall to provide information that otherwise would not be given. The protest, organised by Bristol Left in association with Bristol Friends of Palestine society, culminated in a mass ‘die in’ on the final day of the fair (photos included).

We, as a collective of Bristol students, believe that the arms trade is a deadly and corrupt business. It supports conflict and human rights abusing regimes while squandering valuable resources. Further, it is hideously corrupt; BAE Systems, Thales, and EADS, all present at the fairs, have been variously investigated by the German police, the French finance ministry, the Serious Fraud Office, and the FBI in relation to insider trading on stock markets, bribery, corporate espionage, and general corruption.

By taking this action we hope to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the arms trade; moreover we consider the unchallenged presence of those who have a vested interest in unending conflict to be deeply wrong. Hopefully, this is the first step in removing these corporations from university space for good.

Across the two days of the fair we talked to students and handed out around 1000 leaflets in an attempt to engage and inform students on the damage that arms companies are responsible for. The ‘die in’ involved a large group of us entering the careers fair and simultaneously simulating death en masse in front of the BAE Systems stall. This form of protest was specifically chosen as it is peaceful and disruption to other stalls is minimal.

Well done to everyone involved!

If you’d like to disrupt a careers fair near you, check out our Ban BAE page or e-mail us at universities@caat.org.uk

Leeds Vote to Kick BAE Off Campus

Man putting BAE logo in waste basketAfter an excellent campaign by Leeds University student group Let’s Disarm Leedsstudents voted Yes in a referendum on whether they wanted to end their university’s links with BAE Systems, the world’s third biggest arms manufacturer. This victory mandates the Students’ Union to lobby the University to do three things in particular: to stop inviting BAE to careers fairs and recruitment talks; to sell any shares they might have in BAE and to reject any future research money from the company. As part of the campaign, Let’s Disarm Leeds got students to write why they wanted BAE off campus and took photographs which you can see here . They also received statements of support from university societies, both at Leeds and other universities and even from former South African MP Andrew Feinstein. This vote follows on from one earlier in the year, when students in Sheffield overwhelmingly voted against the arms trade, showing yet again that students nationwide don’t want arms dealers on campus. Both groups of students are now beginning the difficult task of negotiating with University management.

Student day of action a big success!

On Wednesday 6 March, six months before the DSEi arms fair is due to return to London, students and other activists across the UK took action against arms companies at their universities and in their communities, sending a strong message that their business will not go unchallenged.

Warwick

Weapons out of Warwick took non-violent direct action against the arms trade on their doorstep with an occupation of the reception of General Dynamics. A statement was read out over the intercom and General Dynamics leaflets were replaced with anti arms-trade leaflets.

Students stand inside General Dynamics with "arms trade equals death trade" banner Continue reading

Theatrical protest against arms companies at University of Lancaster

Anti arms-trade students protested today at Lancaster campus against the presence of arms companies at the University Career Opportunities Fair.

BAE Systems was specifically targeted by groups of students, who handed out fliers and used fake blood to protest their attendance at the Fair.

Student protesters gather with banner reading 'Careers in Killing'

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BAE kicked off Essex campus!

Protesters with banner reading 'Ban BAE: Careers in Killing'

Students have campaigned for years against arms company recruitment

Essex Careers Centre has cancelled BAE’s attendance of its Careers Fair following student protest.

After finding out that BAE Systems were planning to attend the 29 October fair, students quickly mobilised to stop them. They wrote a statement expressing their opposition to BAE’s attendance and sent it to every department at the university. They contacted the other organisations attending the fair, asking them to express their opposition and to threaten to pull out if BAE attended. A protest was also planned for the day of the fair.

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Activists protest arms companies at the London Graduate Fair

Activists challenged the presence of arms company Raytheon UK at the London Graduate Fair this week. The protesters gathered to call on the organisers of the fair to stop promoting arms companies at their events. They also distributed leaflets to those waiting to enter, to inform them about the devastating work of Raytheon UK.

Protesters stand next to London Graduate Fair billboard

Photo credit: Shahin Shahablou

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