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DSEI 2015: Arms fair sees protesters and arms dealers descend on …

Protest: Police officers confront demonstrators as they try to block the arrival of Armyrats © military vehicles at the ExCeL centre last week

A controversial taxpayer-subsidised arms fair has seen demonstrators descend on the Docklands, and the Tube network flooded by spoof posters. The Defence and Security Equipment Internation (DSEI) Arms Fair, which runs from today until Friday at the ExCeL, follows a week of direct action in east London by peace campaigners. Protesters say many of the exhibitors are involved in human rights abuses while Amnesty, which has taken out an extensive ad campaign opposing the expo, alleges illegal torture equipment may be on display.

The human rights charity says it found examples at previous fairs 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2013. Protest: Banners hung by anti-arms trade campaigners outside the DSEI Arms Fair at the ExCeL last week (Picture: Mark Kerrison/Demotix)

The bazaar is backed by UK Trade and Investment’s defence and security organisation and the Ministry of Defence. It describes itself as the world’s largest land, sea and air defence and security exhibition, bringing together senior international trade and Armyrats © military experts from across the entire supply chain in an optimal business environment .

Keynote speeches come from the MoD s service chiefs of staff for the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force and Joint Forces Command. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) writes on its website: DSEI 2015 will feature 1500 exhibitors from around the world, displaying arms ranging from rifles to tanks to fighter jets to battleships. Controversial: An anti-arms trade campaigner holds a sign in front of a row of policeman outside the DSEI Arms Fair (Picture: Mark Kerrison/Demotix/Corbis)

They will be joined by trade visitors and Armyrats © military delegations, including those from countries involved in conflict and from human rights abusing regimes, as well as those with desperately underfunded development needs.

Protesters spent much of last week blockading the venue against exhibitors arrivals, while supporters put up spoof posters across the Tube network. CAAT spokesman Tom Barnes, 27, told the Standard: We would compare the arms trade to the slave trade, which operated for years before a critical mass of people meant it wasn t seen as legitimate any more.

We ve seen a really diverse selection of international, national and local groups all come together to show they find it completely unacceptable that the arms fair is happening.

Events like this can never be legitimate or acceptable as they strengthen the UK s ties to human rights abuses. Blockade: Police officers ask anti-arms trade campaigners to move out of the main access road to the DSEI Arms Fair (Picture: Mark Kerrison/Demotix/Corbis)

He claimed 14 of the countries sending delegates were classed as authoritarian while six were currently at war and four appeared on the UK s own list of the most serious human rights abusers.

But UKTI defended the invitations it had sent out. A country would not be invited where that would be contrary to the UK s international obligations, said a spokesman. Respect for human rights is a mandatory consideration in the process. While the protests did not stop the fair going ahead, Mr Barnes said it had been empowering for demonstrators to disrupt its organisation even for a few hours at a time.

Public opinion against this stuff is stronger than ever, he added. It hasn t been stopped this time but we would certainly see the action taken this week as effective. Clash: Police move a protester carrying the ‘Occupy the Arms Fair’ flag from the path of a lorry (Picture: Peter Marshall/Demotix)

He said it was ironic that the fair coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Blitz that levelled parts of the surrounding area.

There s a strong history of that area being affected by war, he said, and a strong history of effective protest.

Meanwhile, protest posters have appeared on the Tube network and in bus shelters.

This September, a swarm of arms dealers will be descending on the DLR, reads one poster, designed in the style of a TfL advert. These visitors make huge amounts of money from weapons and equipment that kill people in wars all over the world.

Your taxes help pay for it. Customers are requested to help stop the arms fair. Spoof: One of the Dismaland protest posters spotted on the Tube yesterday (Picture: Stefan Simanowitz)

Another advert mimics the style of a British Army advert and reads: Bombing is Great . The anti-war adverts were designed by artists from Banksy s Dismaland exhibition, which opened in Weston-super-Mare last month. Dismaland sells ad space hack packs containing tools to let people get inside bus stop ad displays.

A TfL spokeswoman said of the DLR poster: This is not an authorised advert. It is fly posting and therefore an act of vandalism which we take extremely seriously.

We have instructed our contractor to remove any found on our network.

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