Stop the arms fair: Doing it for Hilly

Anna Botwright joined the 'Stop the Arms Fair' demonstration at the Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI) expo in 2015

Anna Botwright and a Friend hold a "Don't plough shares into swords" banner at the stop the Arms Fair Demonstration.
Anna Botwright (right) and a friend at the Stop the Arms Fair demonstation. photo credit: Sam Walton

Last year my daughter Hilary and I decided that we had to speak out against the dreadful trade in weapons and instruments of torture being openly perpetrated by this country. We determined to join the protest at London's ExCel Centre in September 2015 during the Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair.

To prepare, we went to a Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) conference in Manchester to become better informed. We were filled with enthusiasm for the cause! Sadly, my daughter would not realise her goal. After a long struggle with anorexia, Hilary died in May of heart failure.

Honouring Hilly's leading

I decided that I would honour Hilary's leading and was thrilled when my elder daughter said that she would accompany me, and thus it was that we made our somewhat tearful way from Yorkshire to London on September the 12th for the “Big Day of Action". Hilary would have loved the atmosphere and the task before us: to impede the transportation of goods (or bads) into the ExCel Centre. We felt both her presence and absence very strongly.

The day itself passed with many wonderful conversations with both activists and police, meeting old friends and new, a meeting for worship that strayed close to civil disobedience, the kindness of a local cafe in providing refreshment and a loo and above all the knowledge that we were demonstrating that this trade was abhorrent to us.

For the sake of truth

Not many people will have seen us, maybe a few bemused people about their Saturday business and passengers on the Docklands Light Railway, the police and security personnel guarding the gates but none will have been in doubt about our protest. The banners were explicit, funny, thought provoking and hard hitting. We held up a couple of lorries for several hours.

I remarked to a policeman who was wondering at, as he saw it , the futility of our protest, that while it was his job to arrest some people it was also the job of others to be arrested for the sake of truth. He replied along the lines of, 'fair enough' and I think moved a little kindler in our direction.

We returned to Yorkshire strengthened and encouraged, distressed and frustrated in nearly equal measure but so glad to have realised a goal in Hilary's name.

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