Drag artists and queer protestors chain themselves to weapons to block London arms fair

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

On Thursday, queer protesters including military veterans and drag artists blocked the set up of an international arms fair at London’s ExCel centre.

Groups including the Campaign Against Arms Trade and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants blocked vehicles delivering weaponry for the arms fair next week.

The Defence & Security Equipment International 2017 (DSEI) will run from September 12 to 15 and has been heavily criticised for allegedly marketing weaponry to oppressive regimes.


Queer protestor at the march
(Photo: Lesbians and Gays support the Migrants)

Held every two years, the exhibition is one of the world’s largest arms fairs and features many major weapons manufacturers.

The event, established in 1976, is attended by military delegations from over twenty different countries.

Countries at the exhibition include Turkey and the UAE, which maintains the death penalty for homosexuality.

Some of these countries have been condemned for human rights violations by groups including Amnesty International.

The blockade on Thursday included military veterans and drag artists who engaged in creative forms of protest in addition to the physical blockade, including speeches, cabaret and even a picnic.


Police trying to move protestors
Two activists locking themselves into the road. (Photo: Lesbians and Gays support the Migrants)

Several protesters locked themselves onto the travelling equipment to prevent their movement into the ExCel centre.

The Metropolitan Police have confirmed to PinkNews that ten people were arrested for their involvement in the protests.

Related: Students are getting themselves arrested to support gay soldiers

In a statement, Sam Bjorn from Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants said: “Not only is Theresa May’s government busy attacking minorities in the UK from LGBT+ people to migrants and people of colour.

“This week they’re also engaged in selling weapons to some of the most repressive regimes in the world.”

This year’s event was criticised by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan who stated: “The Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair is not an event that I support. ExCeL is a commercial space for hire.

“I am opposed to London being used as a market place for the trade of weapons to those countries that contribute to human rights abuses.”

PinkNews has contacted Defence & Security Equipment International for comment.