Richard’s story

In this post Richard, from Horsham in West Meeting in Sussex, explains why he is joining Roots of Resistance in taking action against the DSEI arms fair.

For a number of years prior to becoming a Quaker I was the senior writer and editor for all print communications produced in support of the Army’s recruitment efforts and was a freelance, also employed on the Army campaign prior to this. The period of time during which I was involved spanned the decision to go into Iraq, the London bombings in which my friend was killed, the slow and terrible realisation that Saddam Hussein had not had weapons of mass destruction and, finally, the privatisation of Army recruiting which I also worked on.

At some point in the middle of this, I wandered into a Meeting in Richmond and found that I had space to sit and think and, later on, to articulate my growing sense of unease at what I found myself doing. My marriage collapsed, I resigned from the company who had the Army account, my life fell apart, then started being remade and a couple of years ago I formally became a Quaker, completing what I had started some years previously.

My decision to get involved with the campaign against DESI surprised me. I’m not a natural protester and, indeed, have never been on a protest at all. When it comes to my politics, I’m probably a small ‘c’ conservative and I can’t imagine a time when I’ll ever describe myself as a radical. I’m also not a pacifist, although I have considerable respect for people who are. The friend who died in the July bombings was Jewish and her parents would have been killed had this country been invaded in the Second World War. Both my grandparents fought and, standing in the concentration camp at Majdanek a few years ago, with all its many and manifest horrors, I was grateful that they did.

But I do feel that I have a fairly strong moral compass that tells me when something is wrong. The campaign I was involved with to recruit soldiers under 18 was wrong, and selling arms to anyone with enough money is also wrong. And so here I am.

215 days until the start of DSEI

RoR’s action team are planning away, in preparation for what we hope to be the largest gathering of Quakers at an arms fair to date. Our plans are focused on inclusivity, as our presence will be formed of people with lots of experience of protest and none, engaging with our shared action in in different ways. We will all be there together in solidarity, upholding each other, and driven by the same call of love in our hearts to stop the evil that begins at DSEI Arms Fair.  

This blog will share reflections of those who have acted before, and those who are being driven to do so in 2019. We will hear of conviction and passion as well as hesitancies and concerns, through which we hope to encourage, uphold and mobilise.

And to kick us off with eight months to go, we hear from Sam, who at this point 2 years ago began mobilizing in Hull to join the 2017 protests…

“In Dec 2016, after a couple of days of celebration, having been found with “no case to answer” along with four other Quakers who blockaded AWE Burghfield last year, I set my sights on DSEI 2017. I had nine months ahead of me and so set about organising.

I emailed everyone I knew in Hull who might be vaguely interested and organised a gathering. A group came together and by the end of the meeting there was a tangible sense of commitment in the room. We decided we would try and get some minibuses to transport people down from Hull to DSEI and so set about fundraising and awareness raising.

Over 9 months we raised £1500, put on two gigs, including a bespoke performance called ‘White Feathers Against the Wind’, had a film showing of Shadow World with Andrew Feinstein coming up to answer questions afterwards, and in the end got over 30 people commit to coming down to DSEI (none of whom had heard of it before).

Three of us from Hull also took part in direct actions. I ended up hanging from a bridge on the No Faith in War day, holding a banner saying “DSEI is State Terrorism”. As always, the process of being involved in direct actions is an intense one, but I left with new and deepened friendships, memories, and lots of lessons learnt.

All of us from Hull were disappointed that the turnout for the stopDSEI protests, while growing, was still so small. Upon return we are already exploring how we can swell those numbers for 2019, to make sure that DSEI 2019 is the last ever DSEI. There is still so much work to do!”