Ludicrous prosecution against two anti-militarists collapses, and fires up campaign

Two anti-militarist activists faced trial in Cardiff on 6th January 2015. They were potentially facing prison sentences having been accused of disrupting the DPRTE arms fair in October 2014 by damaging the luxury suits and shoes of three delegates with red childrens’ play paint. The prosecution was pushed through in three months, but collapsed after being ridiculed by the judge for its sloppiness. The research done in solidarity with the defendants and the many groups and individuals who turned up to support on the day have propelled a young but promising campaign.

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Activists celebrate the prompt collapse of the ludicrous prosecution in front of Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, which hosts DPRTE since it was booted off UWE Bristol’s Exhibition and Conference Centre

Started in 2012 and initially planned as an annual event, Defence, Procurement, Research, Technology, Exportability (DPRTE) is a military business and arms trade event that has been widely promoted by the MoD and the military community as ‘the UK’s leading defence event’ for businesses ‘to gain your share of £160 Bn from the MoD’s 10 Year Equipment Plan’ including £11.4 Bn on weapons, £18.5 Bn on combat air, and £35.8 Bn on submarines and nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

The two first editions of DPRTE took place at the Exhibition and Conference Centre of the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), whose main campus is literally stuck between the MoD’s Procurement Centre and a business park replete with arms dealers. In 2013, anti-militarist campaigners targeted this event for the first time, and staged a protest that caused the event to move to Cardiff Motorpoint Arena.

However, on 8 October 2014, DPRTE 2014 was once again met with protests after groups including Stop NATO CymruAnarchist Action Network and South Wales Anarchists called to oppose it. The highlight of the day was when three delegates got their suits and shoes covered in washable red paint on their way in. Police immediately arrested two local activists for allegedly causing criminal damage to the delegates clothes. A video of these events has appeared on the web:

On the 6th January 2015, the same two activists were on trial at Cardiff Magistrates Court. The day started with a solidarity demonstration in front of the court. Several groups came out to support, including Food not Bombs CardiffAnarchist Action NetworkAfed BristolCor Cochion CaerdyddBristol Defendant SolidarityBristol Against the Arms TradedisarmUWE as well as South Wales Anarchists.

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Demonstration in solidarity with the anti-militarist activists builds up in front of Cardiff Magistrates Court before the beginning of the trial on 6 January 2015

As soon as the trial started, it became clear that the prosecutor had just been parachuted in and that he knew next to nothing about the three separate trials that had been scheduled for the day. Having realised that none of the arms dealers and organisers who had alleged criminal damage had bothered to show up, he tried to amend the charges on the spot to cover criminal damage not to the arms dealers’ luxury suits, but to police uniforms (via indirect paint transfer during the arrests). However, after calling such a swap of charges “ludicrous” and trying to help the prosecutor scrape together a case, the judge said that the CPS’s lack of preparation was a matter of “considerable consternation”.

The morning was lost waiting for the prosecutor who shuttled back and forth between the court room and his witnesses (only policemen) lined up in the hall. When he finally returned to the court room, he had little to say to the judge anyway. The case was adjourned for lunch and on our return, we immediately learnt that the charges were dropped. Most of the ensuing debate focused on whether the judge would allow the refund of witnesses’ travel expenses (which he ultimately did), and overlooked the fact that the incompetent prosecution had probably wasted thousands of pounds of public money.

This unexpected victory prevented the defendants from sharing new research gathered by their solidarity group. This ongoing research starts to offer an in-depth look into DPRTE, especially its role in facilitating military imports and exports, and its academic collaborations. The research also supported the legal case by exposing the role of DPRTE 2014 in the ongoing war waged by Israeli forces against Palestinians.

Considerable credibility issues had also been identified with respect to aspects of the police evidence, not least from officer Neville Bradbury, who had previously been sanctioned for gross misconduct for “plying an under age and ‘vulnerable’ suspect with cider before taking his confession for burglaries he didn’t commit”.

Last but not least, we found out that Cardiff Motorpoint Arena hosts several arms dealers including Babcock Training and Education, Babcock International Group, and VT Group.

Despite its self-congratulating statements, DPRTE seems to be only a partial success. Organisers struggled to achieve the level of corporate sponsorship they had hoped for at last years’ event. Moreover, initially planned as an annual event, the organisers have decided not to run it in 2015; the next DPRTE is planned for March 2016.

This nascent campaign may already be at a turning point, shifting from reactive protests against DPRTE events, to pro-active interventions on our own terms against DPRTE and the various organisations that enable it.

For more info on how to get involved email: stopnatocymru [at] riseup [dot] net

Anti Militarist Court Solidarity – 6th January

6th Jan 2015
Time: 9:15am
Date: Tuesday 6th January 2015
Location: Cardiff Magistrates
Court Address: Fitzalan Road, Cardiff CF24 0RZ

Court solidarity demonstration to support two much-loved people who are facing excessively harsh charges for allegedly seeking to disrupt the DPRTE arms fair in Cardiff last year (the same one we booted off campus). They stand accused of damaging the luxury goods of arms dealers with childrens play paint. There will be a short solidarity demonstration outside the court from 9:15am on Monday 6th January 2015. Antimilitarist banners and well-wishers welcome. Afterwards some of us will be supporting the defendants from the public gallery.

URGENT WITNESS APPEAL: ***********************

Were you present at the protest against DPRTE Arms Fair at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena in October 2014? Even if you think you didn’t see anything you may be able to provide useful defence evidence as to the nature of the day. If you think you may be able to help please email: bristoldefendantsolidarity@riseup.net

UWE’s new Deputy Vice-Chancellor comes from the military

On 17 November 2014, the university posted the news that “UWE has appointed Helen Lloyd Wildman as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer”.

UWE proudly exposes the career of Lloyd Wildman. In particular, the university highlights that “Before joining the higher education sector, Helen completed officer training at The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and professional training with the Royal Army Educational Corps. She spent 23 years in the Army and Ministry of Defence, in a variety of roles, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.”

“She has also held posts as Research Director at the MOD, Head of PR for the British Forces in Germany and HR Manager at the Army Personnel Centre in Glasgow.”

“She spent five months in Afghanistan at the outset of operations in 2001 where she was Spokesperson for the International Security and Assistance Force, overseeing press officers from 19 different countries and co-ordinating the media strategy.”

Bloodhound SSC: is a project inspiring students to work for the military sustainable?

Bloodhound SSC is an engineering project that aims to break the 1000mph World Land Speed Record with a rocket-propelled car. Since starting in 2008, the project has been widely praised for its ambition and technology. However, an interview given by the project’s Senior Design Engineer in April this year suggests that the project was only set up to address a skill shortage within the military. Besides that UWE is heavily involved to serve the military, drawing on the recently published “Arms to Renewables” report by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), UWE student highlights broader implications for employability and sustainability.

Read more on UWESU’s newspaper.

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Despite its military origins and rationale, Bloodhound’s glossy image is rarely associated with the military. This is one of the few pictures where this is visible. From left: the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Team, Defence Minister Philip Dunne, driver Wing Commander Andy Green and Bloodhound Director Richard Noble pose with a model of the Bloodhound SSC [Picture: Sergeant Adrian Harlen RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012] // Credit: Bloodhound SSC website

Photo report of #reviewUWE and #GDAMS day of action at UWE Bristol

We had a fun and instructive walk around campus this afternoon.
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This little action also already proved quite effective since UWESU, the Deputy Clerk to the Board of Governors and the Editor of the student newspaper stopped ignoring us, and all got in touch shortly before or after the action!

We’ll be posting more updates about this campaign soon but, for the time being, we’ve put together a short photo report of the afternoon. Please join our next coordination meeting this coming Thursday (17 April) at 5:30 in Core24 at UWE Frenchay if you want to get involved. Please also don’t forget to sign the petition if you haven’t done this already.

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Students and supporters gather at UWE’s bus station at Frenchay. Some students came from as far as Portsmouth for this day of action!

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In the corridors of UWE’s Frenchay campus.

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On the way to the Farmhouse, the office of UWE’s Vice-Chancellor and the building where UWE’s Board of Governors meet.

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Activist arms factory: today we’re making paper airplanes.

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Those paper airplanes are to bombard the farmhouse with messages and requests to hold an independent review.

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This may seem small but this is the first time ever that there is a student protest at the doorstep of the Vice-Chancellor’s office (not that there aren’t many reasons to do so!)

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Trying to communicate with UWE’s Vice-Chancellor (who ignored our open letter) by aiming our paper airplanes at one opened window (which they soon closed).

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The Farmhouse: bombarded

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A message from UWE students and their supporters for UWE’s Vice-Chancellor and the university’s Board of Governors

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Inside the entrance of Thales

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We were followed by the police who were more gentle than last November.

If you haven’t already, please consider signing, sharing and promoting our petition to #reviewUWE. To be continued …