Witness at DSEI: Practical Information

As our witness at DSEI approaches, we wanted to put some practical information together in one place.

What to Bring

In 2019, Maya produced this great little zine, to help remind us how to prepare for DSEI practically & spiritually: Things to bring to DSEI

Things to protest with:

  • Banners
  • T-shirts / tote bags
  • Instruments / noise makers (not for the vigil or walk of witness!)
  • Postcards about why we are witnessing (we can provide)

Things to stay comfortable: ( the forecast is for hot weather, so please be prepared.)

  • A hat and appropriate clothing for the weather (loose fitting layers are good)
  • Suncream
  • Water bottle & reusable coffee cup
  • Food (there may be some vegan food available for a donation, but it’s best to also bring a packed lunch)
  • Snacks to share
  • Something to sit on (e.g. foldable stool, cushion)

Things in your head and heart

  • Commitment to non-violence
  • Discernment and support from your Quaker Community
  • Trust in your buddy or affinity group
  • Knowledge of your legal rights
  • Solidarity with people affected by the arms trade


There will be stewards around and an information point to help you know where to go. The Excel site is very large – this map of the Excel gives an indication of where we will be – at the East Gate at No Faith in War on Thurs 7th and near the Western Terrace for the vigil on Mon 11th and the opening day of the arms fair on Tues 12th.

Telegram: on the day (and in the build up) we will be staying in contact via Telegram – a messaging app similar to WhatsApp (but more secure). If you’re already confident with apps, search for Telegram and download (the logo is a paper plane), then get in touch for the links to join:  hello@quaker-roots.org.uk .  If you’re not confident, staff will be around at Friends House, and stewards at the protest site, to give you a hand.

Food: Hot drinks will be available, please bring a reusable cup if you can. We hope that some vegan food will be available (for a donation if you can afford it).  However, it’s worth bringing a packed lunch, or being ready to get something from one of the shops near the Western Terrace.

Toilets There will be at least 2 standard portaloos and 1 accessible mobiloo at the site, perhaps more if funds can be raised.

Food, toilets and welfare / information tents have been organised by Stop the Arms Fair – if you can afford it, please consider donating towards their fundraiser.

Staying safe & well

At the protest site there will be a welfare tent available for No Faith in War on Thurs 7th Sept, and the opening day of the arms fair on Tues 12th Sept (this may still be at the East Gate on the 12th).  You can go there for some quiet space to clear your head, or for a friendly chat.  Members of the welfare team will also be looking out for people around the site and checking you’re OK.

If you want to get away from the protest site completely, the Garden Cafe on nearby Cundy Rd will be open 10am to 2pm.  Space will also be available at Friends House during the day on Thurs 7th, Mon 11th and Tues 12th to meet up with other Friends and have some quiet space.

We recommend having a buddy or buddies – a person or two who you will mutually check-in with and look out for each other.  If you’re travelling alone, come to Friends House to meet up with other Friends, form a small buddy group and travel over to the site together (the walk of witness will be leaving from Friends House too).

Bustcards will be available at the protest site and at Friends House – these have important information about who to call if you are arrested.  It’s worth everyone having one, just in case.  And you can read lots of information about knowing your rights on the Green & Black Cross website – we recommend starting with this guide to the key messages.


The Excel centre is on the Docklands Light Railway ‘Beckton’ line, which connects to central London at Tower Gateway, and to other DLR lines and the Jubilee line at Canning Town. Use the Prince Regent stop for No faith in War on 7th Sept, and Royal Victoria for the Vigil on Mon 11th and the opening day of the arms fair on Tues 12th. You can also take the Elizabeth line (Crossrail) to Custom House, and walk (or ride one DLR stop) to both locations.

If you’re planning to leave any bank cards with your name on behind (to avoid being identified) an Oyster card can be helpful (alternatively you can put tape over your name on a contactless card).

On Saturday 9th September, industrial action will affect Cross Country trains – this operator does not run direct services to/from London, but might affect a connection if you are travelling further that day. Check National Rail Enquiries for updates.


Listed roughly from most expensive to least expensive:

Hotels for the Excel Centre: The Excel is a conference centre, and so there are various chain hotels nearby, which will offer a comfortable room and easy access to the site.  Friends have previously used ‘Premier Inn Docklands’.

Hotels or hostels around London: Access to the Excel is via the Docklands Light Railway ‘Beckton’ line, so there may be cheaper options to stay near stops on the DLR or connecting lines.

Air BnB (or similar ‘holiday lets’) in Newham: In previous years some Friends have stayed in holiday lets in residential areas in Newham (the borough Excel is in), a walk or short DLR journey away. Note that there are ethical implications in using residential properties as holiday lets.

Stay with local Friends or meetings: we are looking to see if it is possible to stay with local Friends and/or on the floor of local meetings, perhaps for a small cost (under £10). If this is something you would be interested in, please get in touch and we see what can be arranged: hello@quaker-roots.org.uk

Camp at the protest site: some activists will be camping at the protest site, especially in the set-up week. You will need to bring your own tent and camping equipment.  Be aware that this is camping in a public area, not a private campsite.

Financial support

We understand that travel and accommodation can be expensive – Quakers have a long tradition of supporting Friends who are witnessing to our testimonies.  If you need financial support, please approach your local and/or area meeting in the first instance.  If you cannot raise sufficient funds from your meeting(s), get in touch with the Quaker Roots team who may be able to direct you towards other grants: hello@quaker-roots.org.uk

Could you help at DSEI?

Many thanks to those who have already indicated that they could help facilitate our witness at DSEI this September.  We wanted to offer a clearer idea of the different roles and what is involved.

For those who like to take in information a bit more visually, there is a summary of the key roles in our Volunteer Jamboard (a simple set of slides).  And if you’d like to chat about any of this, and meet others you might be volunteering alongside, please join our Volunteer Briefing on Tuesday 29th August.

Quaker Roots Roles

Quaker Roots are particularly organising volunteers for the No Faith in War day on Thurs 7th Sept, and the Walk of Witness on Mon 11th Sept. If you would like to help out on other days, we can put you in touch with Stop the Arms Fair who are helping coordinate actions.

Steward / helping at information point

  • Being friendly face as people arrive
  • Let people know when & where things are happening
  • Help Friends join Telegram group to get updates
  • Hand out bustcards, remind people of basic Know Your Rights info, point towards legal observers if needed
  • Have some postcards for members of the public who want to know what’s going on, engage them in conversation about DSEI
  • On Walk of Witness on 11th, help people stick to route, keep up with group

Pastoral friend / welfare

  • Potentially tense environment, people nervous about being there – talk to them, calm them, make them feel at ease
  • Reassurance, give space for people to talk or have some quiet
  • If people need to get away from the protest site altogether the Kitchen Garden café
  • Give out water and snacks, encourage people to check-in with their own needs.
  • If you are a qualified first aider – be on hand


  • Meetings for Worship – 7th Sept 9am, 1pm, 12th time TBC – uphold, explain at beginning, close at end, be aware that we may be continuing to worshipfully uphold people taking action
  • Epilogue 5pm on 7th – plan worship to provide sense of closure to the day (but action is ongoing through the week), can be a bit more programmed
  • General upholding of worshipful approach to protest across the 7th, atmosphere may be tense, secular activists may be unfamiliar with worshipful approach.
  • Uphold & respect other faith groups taking action in their own tradition.
  • On Walk of Witness on 11th uphold silent vigils (approx. 20 mins) at each stop

Creative actions

  • Singing – we have songs we’ve used in previous years, or bring your own. We can programme some times for singing, also can be useful to bring everyone together as led. BYM will organise amplification.
  • Banner making, t-shirts or tote-bag printing
  • If you have a craft you’re particularly into and can show people that’s great, otherwise just facilitate people.
  • Think about what’s needed in advance and liaise with Quaker Roots team to organise
  • Photos, videos or other ways to document the actions, we’ll put you in touch with team

Legal Support Roles

Legal observer

Legal observers are trained volunteers who support the legal rights of activists. They provide basic legal guidance and are independent witnesses of police behaviour at protests. Read more about what being a legal observer involves.

You need to be trained to do this role – if you already are, pease get in touch.  If you’d like to train, Green & Black Cross are running training sessions on 19th & 27th August (you need to attend both, and have already attended a Know Your Rights session). Register to receive the details.

Police Station Support

It is so important that we support arrestees, which includes meeting people at the police station when they’re released. Read more about what Police Station Support involves.

This would be an especially useful role for London-based Friends (you don’t need to have been at the protest to help with this role). Call outs for police station support during the DSEI arms fair protests will happen in a Signal group [sorry to involve another messaging app!]. If you would be willing and able to support in this way, please contact Dixie Wills at Quaker Peace & Social Witness: peace@quaker.org.uk

Briefing for volunteers – Tues 29th Aug 7:00pm

This session will be an opportunity to:

  • Find out more about what these roles involve,
  • Ask questions, and decide what’s right for you,
  • Meet other people who will be volunteering alongside you,
  • Let us know your availability and preferences.

Find out more and register to receive the Zoom details.

Let us know if you would like to volunteer, but can’t make this session – we can send you information on the roles and be in touch about how to get involved. hello@quaker-roots.org.uk

Keeping each other safe around the police

Thinking about how we respond to authority can bring up difficult questions and strong feelings for many of us.

On 1st August, we held a session looking at the three key reasons why we are asked not to talk to the police during our actions, which centre around keeping each other safe:

  • To act consistently and in consensus with other groups taking action;
  • To avoid giving away information to intelligence gatherers;
  • To stand in solidarity with those who are disproportionately targeted by police violence.

Many thanks to those who participated, reflecting and listen to one another in the spirit of Advices and Queries 17:

Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.

Friends gathered in small groups to discuss the question ‘why are we asked not to talk to the police during our actions?’  (And similarly why Quaker Roots and Stop the Arms Fair are not planning to engage the police beforehand). Here are some thoughts that arose:

Acting consistently with others

  • Making sure everyone is on the same page
  • Need to decide the level of risk we’re prepared to take – but not just making a decision on your own behalf – what we say and do affects others
  • Acting together helps strengthen our right to protest

The role of the police

  • Police are constantly information gathering
  • They’ve got a job to do, which is in tension with our right to protest
  • Can we trust the police? Be wary of appearance of friendliness, which may hide an agenda
  • Having these discussions can make us challenge our own compliance
  • Someone from BYM will be available to be a liaison on the day – they will know in advance what they’re going to say and not say


  • Solidarity with others – disproportionately affected by police violence
  • Level of risk is not equal for everyone
  • In particular: people of colour, young men, Muslims, trans people, people with insecure immigration status, are at greater risk
  • Avoid division between ourselves as ‘good’ protesters, and others as ‘bad’ protesters

Helpful approaches we might take:

  • Try not to seek engagement
  • Be polite but step away
  • Use each other’s names less – call each other Friend
  • Use the power of silence
  • Understand the context – might be different to everyday situation
  • Have a degree of suspicion, without letting it change us

Thanks to everyone for their helpful thoughts and challenging questions.  Hannah Brock-Womack wrote a helpful blog ahead of our actions in 2021, which remains a useful reflection on these issues:

Trying to be salt and light: interacting with the police at protests

Know Your Rights

Quaker Roots take our position on interacting with the police in line with Green & Black Cross’ (GBC) key advice for protesting.

  • No Comment
  • No Personal Details
  • Under What Power?
  • No Duty Solicitor
  • No Caution

If you’ve not attended one before, GBC are offering three online Know Your Rights training sessions in August. At Quaker Roots we recommend these sessions for those joining our actions at DSEI, especially if you have questions or are feeling unsure about recent changes to protest law.

Read more and register on the GBC website.

Maintaining Hope

Finally, we ended the session by remembering that the police are not the primary reason we will be witnessing at DSEI.  We recalled the powerful testimony of our speakers at the Human Cost of War event.  And we concluded with some helpful words written by Rebecca Solnit, on the power of hope:

“Hope is not happiness or confidence or inner peace; it’s a commitment to search for possibilities.”