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Stand with Quakers in France to stop the biggest arms fair of 2018

Sam Walton reflects on recent Quaker nonviolent resistance to the arms trade, as plans to disrupt the Eurosatory arms fair in Paris this June take shape.

Sam Walton (centre left) taking part in a previous Eurostatory demonstration. Photo: QCEA
Sam Walton (centre left) taking part in a previous Eurostatory demonstration. Photo: QCEA

As Quakers, we are known for our silent worship and quiet meeting houses. Yet our faith can appear in the strangest places: one of 2017's biggest Quaker meetings in the UK took place outside an arms fair.

Last September 200 Quakers settled in worship outside the world's largest arms fair in East London. One was 98; others were babes-in-arms. We worshipped at the entrance to the arms fair, blocking access. Over the sound of helicopters landing, police radios, protesters shouting, and trains passing overhead, a powerful stillness descended. Somehow it felt louder than the hubbub.

When police officers asked people to clear the road, some obliged. Others found that the spirit moved them... to stay put. Eight were serenely arrested. The road remained blocked by the meeting, with some Friends anxiously awaiting their turn, and others lost in deep in worship. As we rose after the meeting, one Friend voiced his regret at the police not getting around to arresting him.

DSEI is the name of the arms fair that many Quakers in Britain aim to shut down. It happens in London every two years. In the alternate years, Paris hosts a June arms fair of the same magnitude: Eurosatory. Quakers on the continent are as concerned about Eurosatory as we are about DSEI.

Join the action

Earlier this year I travelled to Paris to meet the Quaker group organising witness around the Eurosatory arms fair, called Stop Fuelling War. They met to think of creative ways to express our shared opposition to this trade in weapons of death.

Over the course of their gathering, they came up with a series of imaginative direct actions and events that will kick off from 9 June. There are workshops on positive peace, walks for peace, a fake auction of weapons, and opportunities for silent witness. I left Paris feeling renewed and excited about what is to come this summer.

June is fast approaching, and so too is the arms fair in Paris. If you are interested in travelling to stand in solidarity with our European neighbours in rejecting the arms trade, get in touch with stopfuellingwar@gmail.com. There will be support for those looking for accommodation, and there will be actions suited to all comers.

Whatever happens at the demonstrations this time, it will be rooted in the same deep conviction that peaceful resistance is the just response to war and profit.

Visit the Stop Fuelling War website and get involved