Christians ready to plead Not Guilty in arms trade trial
The following news release has just been issued:
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is among the people to have sent messages of support to five Christians who will appear in court tomorrow after disrupting the London arms fair.The five, who include a Methodist minister, will plead Not Guilty in Thames Magistrates’ Court at 9.30am tomorrow (24 September). They are charged under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
They insist they did nothing wrong when they blocked an entrance to the arms fair by kneeling in prayer. They were inspired by Jesus’ example of nonviolent direct action in the Jerusalem Temple, when he protested against the exploitation of the poor.
Their action ensured that entry to the arms fair from Custom House station was blocked for around 45 minutes on 10 September. Some arms dealers took a long route round while others were delayed as trains were slowed down on their way to the station.
Writing to the five, Dr Rowan Williams wished them well for the trial. He added:
“I am very grateful for those who have courageously drawn attention to the scandal of this situation, and to the wider question of the way governments support and subsidise the arms trade. Outrage about one kind of horrific and illegal weaponry will not be taken seriously unless it is part of a comprehensive willingness to tackle all forms of collusion with technologically advanced violence against human beings.”
The World Methodist Council, meeting in London while the arms fair was underway, also expressed support for “Christians and others engaged in peaceful protest against the arms fair”.
The five Christians include members of anti-capitalist network Christianity Uncut and the SPEAK Network. Another 25 people were arrested for other peaceful protests at the arms fair, including several Christians.
The five are James Clayton, 32, a community IT teacher from Bradford; Symon Hill, 36, a freelance writer and tutor from London; Chloe Skinner, 25, a PhD student from Sheffield; Chris Wood, 27, a vegan caterer from Birmingham; and Dan Woodhouse, 26, a student Methodist minister from Cambridge.
Two others who joined them to block the entrance, but who left before the arrests took place, were Angela Ditchfield, 34, a mother and community fundraiser from Cambridge and Dr Alison Parker, 30, a university lecturer from Bedford.
The London arms fair is known formally as Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi).
Chloe Skinner said:
“We have been deeply moved and encouraged by the messages of support we have received from people of several religions and none. Future generations will be unable to understand why arms dealers were allowed to sell weapons to dictators while those of us who tried to stop it ended up in the dock. This is a sign of that we live in a system with an inverted sense of morality.”
Notes to editors
- Christianity Uncut is an informal network of Christians campaigning against the UK government’s cuts agenda and the wider injustices of capitalism. We are inspired by Jesus, who took nonviolent direct action in the Jerusalem Temple in solidarity with people who are poor, marginalised and exploited. Please see http://www.christianityuncut.wordpress.com.
- Christianity Uncut is committed to active nonviolence, rejecting both violence and passivity. We reject verbal abuse and seek to act with a spirit of love for God and humanity rather than hatred towards those with whom we disagree.
- The London arms fair, known formally as Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi), took place at the Excel Centre in east London from Tuesday 10 until Friday 13 September 2013.
- The exit from Custom House DLR station leading to the Excel Centre was blocked from shortly before 9.00am until around 9.30am on Tuesday 10 September 2013. The five Christians to be arrested were detained in separate cells at Camden Police Station until around 4.00pm, when they were charged without being interviewed or offered a caution. None had been arrested before.
- Specifically Christian actions against the arms fair have included an act of worship and resistance, in the road leading into the Excel Centre, on Sunday 8 September. During this, three Church of England priests led an exorcism ceremony, praying for Jesus’ victory over the spirits of militarism and violence. Last month, six national Christian organisations said that nonviolent direct action would be a moral response to the London arms fair.