RUNNING BATTLES with the police, teasing arms dealers, a mock arms seller offering prosthetic limbs for sale, and Globalise Resistance's pink and orange tank. The DSEi (Defence Systems Equipment international) or Docklands arms fair has been a memorable experience for activists and, presumably, also arms dealers.
The fair held every two years is the largest in Europe. Last time it occurred was September 2001. While thousands of other events throughout the world were cancelled after the attacks on the World Trade Centre, DSEi continued for four more days.
Tens of thousands of delegates are invited-Pakistan and India shop side by side, as do the US and Syria (number two on the US's terrorist list), and other human rights abusers such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Protests against the arms fair were organised by around 50 diverse organisations. A unity march was held in central London on Saturday.
After that events varied from a film festival, candlelit vigils, and non-violent direct action blockades to 'Storm the death fair'. Activists took advantage of the fact that arms dealers were using public transport. They took the opportunity to ask the dealers what weapons they were planning to buy-'baby-killing ones or just general mayhem and destruction causing ones?' Throughout the protests police detained activists freely.
Their use of the Terrorism Act (for which Liberty has taken them to court) and the fair in general received a lot of media attention, much negative. This is a considerable improvement on two years ago.
Anna Hoyles, London
MY FRIENDS and I attended the protests against the DSEi arms fair on 9 and 10 September. The oppressive, heavy-handed policing that I witnessed at the event didn't surprise me. I was however enthused and excited by the resilience and creativity shown by the diverse range of protesters. Last Wednesday was billed as the 'No rules day' of action to stop the death fair. Small affinity groups carried out lots of independent actions such as D-locking themselves to the DLR trains or climbing on top of the trains.
This meant that the DLR was shut down for a considerable part of the day. Many delegates had to rely on shuttle buses and cars to get to the fair, which meant the blockades of the roads were even more effective. Delegates found themselves walking or waiting around for transport, which provided us with the perfect opportunity to confront and shame them.
My friends and I were at Canning Town station during the blockades on the buses, and later on when Reclaim the Streets blockaded the roundabout. During both of these actions we witnessed some extremely aggressive policing. Some police officers completely lost control.
The vast majority of protesters were participating in peaceful acts of resistance. The fact that an estimated £1 million of taxpayers' money was squandered on policing to protect arms dealers and terrorists adds insult to injury.
Protesters witnessed an attack on their civil liberties and right to protest by the police using sections of the Terrorism Act to stop and search people. I am astounded at the contradictions of using these powers to protect those shopping for weapons against those campaigning for peace. Who would you say were the dangerous terrorists?
Jacky Foster, Brighton
Unite to win higher standards for all
SION REYNOLDS (Letters, 13 September) must work in an exceptionally wealthy school. Sion argues that teachers should not reject the workload agreement as it reduces our hours, and support staff can do the work instead. The workload agreement, which is now law, is a con.
Schools don't have the money to pay non-teachers the proper rates for the jobs teachers are no longer legally obliged to do. In Ealing, west London, Unison union officers are encouraging a boycott of these jobs until schools start paying the regraded pay levels that were negotiated last year. The alternative for schools working with restricted budgets is to cut teacher jobs in order to employ more non-teachers. This is now encouraged by an element of the latest change in the Statutory Teachers' Pay and Conditions document. This allows unqualified employees to do our jobs.
On both counts the NUT teachers' union was right to oppose these proposals when they were drafted. But now that they are law, ALL school staff in whichever union should unite to fight for proper funding. Don't let any Labour politician get away with propaganda about raising standards and improving working conditions. The only standards they are raising are ones of lying, cheating and theft.
Nick Grant, branch secretary Ealing NUT
It's a delusion
TONY BLAIR tells the TUC leaders one thing, then the press release says another. The 'Age of Spin' is not yet dead. For once, I agree with what the Holy One's press office says-'The idea of a left wing government as the alternative to a moderate and progressive one is the abiding delusion of 100 years of our party.' The Labour Party certainly is not and never has been a vehicle for a 'left wing' government.
Yet there are still those within the Labour Party who delude themselves that the left can 'reclaim' it. I always understood that if you want to move a wheelbarrow, you don't sit in it.
Frank Ward, secretary Caithness & Sutherland branch Scottish Socialist Party
Unions should back boycott
WHAT A pathetic decision by the TGWU union to reject the call for a boycott of Coca-Cola. The boycott was called for by trade unions in Colombia, South America, following evidence that Coca-Cola bottling companies hired right wing paramilitaries to kill union leaders. According to officials in Sinaltrainal, the beverage workers' trade union in Colombia, 'Everyone knows that Coca-Cola works with the paramilitaries.'
Eight Coca-Cola workers have been murdered in Colombia since 1996. But, according to the TGWU, allegations that Coca-Cola uses force to defeat demands for trade union rights 'have not been substantiated'! Coca-Cola is a brutal multinational that terrorises workers to make profits of over £3 billion last year. The Coke logo represents global capitalism across the globe. Every trade unionist should back the boycott of Coca-Cola, supported by the World Social Forum.
Colombian Coca-Cola workers will be touring Britain from 2 November in the run-up to the European Social Forum in Paris. We should use their visit to put pressure on British trade unions to build the boycott.
Tony Staunton, secretary Plymouth Trades Union Council
'Gang' tries to hijack our stall
THE LEVEL of paranoia and racism in the police was shown in Brick Lane, a predominantly Asian area of east London, recently. I was doing a Stop the War Coalition stall when two policemen asked if I had received a lot of signatures. They then spoke about so called 'Asian gangs' that had tried to 'hijack' the anti-war national demonstration.
They said that when you get lots of Morning Star and Socialist Worker sellers, Asian gangs use them as a cover for violence. The police wanted me to be their contact if any of these gangs turned up. I politely declined and they slunk away.
Martin Hayward, East London
SW helps you breathe easily
I thought that last week's issue was a particularly good copy of Socialist Worker. It was like oxygen after the media pollution that we get. I enclose £10 for the Socialist Worker Appeal to begin with. After some discussions with old Labour Party members, they really need the political clarity of Socialist Worker.
Dave Davis, Kent
Iraq resistance is no surprise
GEORGE BUSH plans to double the amount of money wasted daily in Iraq. The war criminal pleaded for other nations to help the US impose their 'security' upon the Iraqi people. Bush said he will ask the US Congress for $87 billion in military and 'reconstruction' spending for next year. That means the US has spent $150 billion.
The US spokespeople pretend to be shocked that there is resistance towards the soldiers. The Iraqi people's demand is very modest-Iraq.
Alex Montague, West London
Laughing at the bosses
SOCIALIST WORKER has requested anti-management jokes doing the rounds. Here's one popular in IT circles.
A man in a hot air balloon realised he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He shouted, 'Can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am.' The woman replied, 'You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.'
'You must be in information technology,' said the balloonist. 'I am,' replied the woman. 'How did you know?' 'Well,' answered the balloonist, 'Everything you said is technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information. I'm still lost. You've not been much help at all. In fact, you've delayed my trip.' The woman responded, 'You must be in management.' 'I am,' replied the balloonist. 'How did you know?' 'Well,' said the woman, 'you don't know where you are or where you're going.
'You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. 'You are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, it's my fault.'
Sasha Simic, East London