Exposing the arms expo

Summoned by conscience, concerned Quakers from Southern Marches Area Meeting joined members of the public from various walks of life to protest the Defence and Security Expo held at the Hereford Courtyard Theatre.

Protesters stand outside the arms expo in Hereford next to their words "Armed with Love" chalked on the floor
Protesters outside the arms fair. Photo: Jim Wood

Summoned by conscience, concerned members of the public from various walks of life decided to act together to protest the Defence and Security Expo held at the Hereford Courtyard Theatre on the first of February.

Witnessing against the arms trade

Quakers have long witnessed against the arms trade. "We have to take responsibility in our own countries for the trade in weapons, which will continue unless we intensify our actions against it," wrote Jo Vallentine in 1991. The UK remains one of the world's main arms exporters, with weapons and security equipment reaching countries with some of the worst humanitarian and human rights records.

The Herefordshire Defence and Security Expo was the first of its kind to be hosted in the county. Organised by Skylon Park, Harrison Clark Rickerbys solicitors, and the University of Wolverhampton, the expo was a forum where Herefordshire businesses in the defence and security sector would receive national exposure. Attendees included members of the Ministry of Defence, Department for International Trade, and businesses related to defence such as leading arms companies QinetiQ and Ultra Electronics.

Responding to the expo

The ad hoc group of protesters planned a multi-dimensional response that would voice their concerns with the strength of their convictions but in a manner that was respectful and peaceful.

Messages of peace were written in chalk on sidewalks in front of the Courtyard Theatre to greet the exhibitors and attendees to the expo as they arrived in the morning. Then a group of about 15, including a few with placards, gathered in front of the theatre. Positioning themselves beside a reconnaissance vehicle called the Jackal, demonstrators chanted and called slogans which stressed their support of the Courtyard as an arts and entertainment venue but protested the Herefordshire Defence and Security Expo being held there.

Protesters held a silent vigil before departing.

Share your story