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This morning, 26 April, Vince Cable's speech to hundreds of representatives of the arms industry was disrupted when a protester took the stage. Shouting "Stop", Sam Walton a Quaker aged 26, ran on stage and began to deliver his own speech.
He opened with the words: "I am here today to give voice to the people... whose lives you are ruining.” He was able to speak for nearly a minute, and urged the audience to seek alternative employment at the local job centre, before he was man-handled out of the conference room by the Business Development Manager and the Head of Events Planning.
Cable's speech was to open proceedings at the UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) Symposium. UKTI DSO, a government unit which exists to help arms sales around the world, hosts the event to outline its commitment to arms companies. The guest list at the Riverbank Park Plaza Hotel today included UK ministers from the Foreign Office, MoD and DFID, tens of civil servants, members of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, representatives of the Brazilian Embassy and directors of weapons companies.
Earlier, Richard Paniguian, the head of UKTI DSO, reassured the arms industry they had support at the highest levels of government, using David Cameron's recent trip to Asia accompanied by arms companies as an example of how the Prime Minister was “unequivocal in lending the full weight of his support to our mission.”
Sam Walton, the peace campaigner who delivered his own speech on stage, explained his actions:
“The conference was totally surreal – lots of talk about exports and trade but none of the consequences of flogging arms all over the world. I told everyone in there to head down to the job centre because what they are doing is totally wrong. Our government has no business using taxpayers' money to prop up arms companies at a time when education and health services are being cut.”
1. Sam Walton is a member of the Stop the Arms Fair coalition, which exists to end one of the world's largest weapons fairs, DSEI, which takes place in London biannually. The DSEi arms fair is co-organised by UKTI DSO and was among the sponsors for today's event. More info on Stop the Arms Fair: http://www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk/
2. Footage of his impromptu “speech” can be found here: http://youtu.be/0KFenHHzS_8
3. UKTI DSO is the subject of a campaign by Campaign Against Arms Trade, which draws attention to the vastly disproportionate support the arms industry enjoys from UKTI. Despite representing only 1.5% of UK exports, over half the sector-specific staff at UKTI are dedicated to its “Defence & Security Organisation”. More info on the campaign here: http://www.caat.org.uk/issues/ukti/
4. Despite ongoing repression in response to the Arab Spring, UKTI DSO continues to promote weapons sales to repressive regimes. It invited Bahrain and Egypt to attend the DSEi arms fair in September 2011: http://www.caat.org.uk/issues/armsfairs/dsei/buyers.php It has engaged in further trade missions to repressive regimes in 2012: http://www.caat.org.uk/press/archive.php?url=20111229prs
5. The UKTI DSO event page for its symposium, showing a ticket price of £399, is here: http://www.ukti.gov.uk/es_es/investintheuk/event/278920.html?null
Stop the Arms Fair