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Reform Magazine | April 26, 2017

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Editorial: The arms fair five

steve_tomkinsI had some genial musings for you this month on the subject of cycling, but they can wait. Sometimes you come across something that strikes you as so perfectly, obviously wrong, your main reaction is bewilderment. Really? How can this have happened? Surely the world isn’t like that. What? No…

I have been following the trial that we report on in News, just there across the page, of the five Christians arrested for prayerful, peaceful protest outside the London arms fair in September. The arms fair five, if you will.

The thing I found shocking about it is that exhibitors at the arms fair were found to be selling illegal torture equipment – for the sixth time. As on each previous occasion since 2003, the companies selling them were removed, but – as one of the acquitted protesters, Symon Hill, has written elsewhere – only after exposure in parliament or the media, never proactively by the organisers. No legal action has been taken against the traders in illegal weapons or their hosts, only against protesters.

Really? That can’t be right, can it? The police treating peaceful protest by citizens as criminal, and criminal activity by big business as legal. Protecting the powerful and violent against the peaceful. Shielding weapons from prayers.

The protesters have said that the police were decent people who treated them well, but while the police had been briefed to expect protest, they were told nothing about law-breaking by arms dealers, despite the dealers̕ track record. It’s almost as if the British establishment were colluding in the sale of illegal torture equipment – as if there were more to be gained by the state from silencing protest than from enforcing the law.

I may be on my own in feeling unusually indignant about this. But if not, you might be interested that I asked Symon what we can do to support their cause and he had no end of suggestions: Write to your MP or local paper; mention it in the church newsletter; join the Campaign Against the Arms Trade; take part in their day of prayer on 7 September; sign petitions and find out about many local demonstrations at www.caat.org.uk.

In the words of Walter Wink: “The Powers are good. The Powers are fallen. The Powers must be redeemed.” Next month, cycling.

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This article was published in the March 2014 edition of  Reform.

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