Activists from the Stop the War Coalition and Drone Wars UK staged a dramatic protest outside the Defense and Security Equipment International (DSEI) conference in London. The protest, marked by the pouring of fake blood and oil at the conference entrance, smoke grenades, and banners with slogans such as “Stop Arming Israel” and “Drones Kill Children,” aimed to draw attention to what the activists claim is the complicity of drone manufacturers and arms dealers in human rights violations and war crimes committed by the Israeli occupation.
The DSEI conference, which is renowned as one of the world’s largest arms fairs, features hundreds of companies showcasing their latest weapons and military technology to buyers from around the globe. Notably, among this year’s exhibitors were several prominent drone manufacturers, including Elbit Systems, General Atomics, and Thales. The protesters said that these companies are involved in activities that lead to human rights abuses, particularly in Palestine, where drones have been implicated in the targeting of civilians and infrastructure.
Sarah Wilkinson, one of the protesters, passionately voiced her concerns: “We are here to expose the hypocrisy and the lies of the drone industry, which claims that drones are precision weapons that minimize collateral damage. The reality is that drones are indiscriminate killing machines that terrorize and traumatize entire populations. We are here to say that we do not want these weapons of mass destruction in our skies, and we do not want our government to support their proliferation and use.”
Sami Ahmed, another demonstrator, added, “We are here to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine, Yemen, Afghanistan, and other countries that have suffered from drone attacks. We are here to demand that the UK government stops arming Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other regimes that use drones to oppress and murder innocent people. We are here to call for an end to the drone wars, and for a peaceful and just world.”
This protest was just one of several actions planned throughout the week to disrupt the DSEI conference, which is scheduled to run from September 26 to September 29, 2023. Conference organizers have defended their event, describing it as a legitimate and lawful trade show that contributes to the UK’s economy and security.
As tensions rise between activists and the arms industry, the DSEI conference remains at the center of a contentious debate over the ethics and implications of the global arms trade and the use of drones in modern warfare.