From CAAT: Arms Companies not welcome at UWE

This article was posted with several pictures on the website of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) Universities Network on 21 November 2013 (http://universities.caat.org.uk/arms-companies-not-welcome-at-uwe/).

Students of the University of the West of England joined forces with Bristol Against the Arms Trade yesterday to protest and disrupt the DPRTE conference, hosted by the university in the UWE exhibition and conference centre. Attendees included Babcock International, BAE Systems, Chemring, DSTL, Raytheon and UK Trade Industry Defence and Security Organisation.

Members of Bristol Against the Arms Trade released this statement:

Companies attending today’s ‘Defence, Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportation’ Event were greeted this morning by queues trailing back along the A4174 as protesters blocked the UWE North Entrance. One gate was eventually locked and attendees forced to use other entrances. Later as they approached the building attendees were accompanied to the door of UWE’s Exhibition and Conference Centre by protesters just letting them know who would be attending the event; the likes of Raytheon (cluster bombs in Iraq, missiles in Gaza), Babcock (nuclear submarines), Chemring (teargas used in the Arab Spring) and our good friends BAE Systems. Crowds of protesters gathered at the entrance to ensure that UWE were suitably embarrassed to be holding the event and that those entering were told they weren’t welcome on the campus or in our city. Some UWE students peacefully enter arms conference and staged a die-in. They were threatened with arrest for trespassing on their own university.
The protest continued around campus letting students know what was being held at their space and banners held at each entrance. Arms dealers and the likes of these companies will be greeted by the same response at future events at UWE.
See:

https://www.facebook.com/NOWMDatUWE

Petition to stop UWE’s investment and support of the arms industry: https://www.change.org/petitions/calling-the-university-of-the-west-of-england-uwe-bristol-not-to-invest-itself-into-promote-support-or-enable-profit-making-from-of-through-wars-military-uses-of-research-military-networks-and-violent-approaches-towards-conflicts

UWE released two statements in response:

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor for the University of the West of England, insisted the exhibition “is not an arms fair”. He said: “The exhibitors at this conference do not have any form of munitions, weaponry, artillery or hazardous military equipment on site. It is not University policy to support arms fairs. The conference and exhibition focuses on helping the management of procurement projects for the defence industry, a key sector in the British economy.”

University spokesman, Keith Hicks commented, “It is our policy not to support arms fairs. This is not an arms fair. This is a conference that promotes project management of large procurement projects and supply chain management. The University is also not a sponsor of the conference or involved besides the rental of the space.

To which the protesters expertly responded with:

Although Keith Hicks and Steve West are keen to assert that DPRTE is not an arms fair, they have either been naively sucked in by the arms industry’s misleading jargon, or are knowingly complicit in covering up the university’s vested interest in the arms trade.

The statement that it “promotes project management of large procurement projects and supply chain management” is true, but meaningless because it avoids saying what is being procured, and what the chain is supplying – a quick look at their website show that they themselves promote it as a “defence showcase”. Our concern is not that there were “munitions, weaponry, artillery or hazardous military equipment on site”, we were not concerned about being blown up or shot at on campus that day. Our concern is that companies producing such products, and other less obvious items, were meeting to continue ‘business as usual’, that networking at these events is a crucial step in the supply chain of products that end up facilitating and fueling war and destruction.

The DPRTE event invites corporations to network, share knowledge and “showcase the latest technologies”. The list of attending companies includes BAE (the world’s 3rd largest arms company) Raytheon (cluster bombs, guided bomb systems, tomahawks and other military equipment used in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon) Roke Manor Research (who produced tear gas used in the Arab spring) and Babcock (who refurbished the UK’s nuclear submarine). Many smaller companies, who may not yet be producing weapons, are clearly attending in the hope of increasing their chances of getting profitable contracts.

Keith may be right in stating that UWE is not a sponsor of this conference – however, UWE has consistently showed its support of the arms industry – in March UWE sponsored the president of Boeing to give a talk; UWE has invited arms companies such as Airbus, Babcock and Boeing to its careers fairs and UWE’s engineering department is proud to play an “important part” in developing the global market of aerospace technology, and boasts “increasing activity” in Unmaned Aerial Vehicles (drones).

UWE’s willingness to rent it’s facilities to this event are yet another indication of its involvement in the arms trade and lack of ethical conscience. UWE students are starting to ask questions about their university’s relationship with the ams industry, and despite UWE’s attempts to keep this hidden, there is a growing student movement taking action.

We wish to send our best wishes and solidarity to those who were at the protest and to those who were later harassed by a police FIT team in response to this action.

From UWE’s newspaper: Students Stage ‘Impeccable’ Protest

This article was posted in the WesternEye, “UWE’s independent student newspaper”,  (http://www.westerneye.net/news/2013/11/students-stage-impeccable-protest/). The WesternEye was the only crew of journalists who were on site. Read our crude press review to see how they fit it in the bigger picture of media coverage.

——

Students Stage ‘Impeccable’ Protest

FLAG AT HALF MAST: A DARK DAY AS UWE HOSTS CONTROVERSIAL EVENT. By George Gill.

PROTEST

© Western Eye 2013

The Western Eye will be publishing a full review of the day’s events, from both inside and outside the ECC, later this week. In the meantime, continue to watch the Western Eye website for further news regarding UWE’s ‘arms fair.’

The UWE ‘arms fair’ was held today, Wednesday 20th November. It was largely unaffected (although embarrassed) by students’ and activists’ attempts to disrupt proceedings. The event centred on procurement, research, technology, supply-chain management and the exhibition of ‘products’ (no live munitions were present).

UK Export Finance and UK Export Licensing, from UK Trade and Investment were also on the agenda discussing how the UK government, tax-payer funded, underwrites contracts for deals with unstable countries. (More forthcoming in the Western Eye, both in print and online).

 

Speakers and delegates exhibited their ‘products’ and discussed the difficulty of exporting them to countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and about two dozen further countries which were described as ‘risky.’

The protesters staged a road blockade on Filton Avenue, the four-lane A-road outside the North Entrance. An irritated student, told the Western Eye: “I’ve been waiting for the Megabus for an hour and half because of the protest.” Students broke in to the ECC building early in the day, employing loud noise as a technique to disturb the conference.

Watch the video on ‘NO WMDs at UWE: Kick The Arms Trade Off Campus’ Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=689123157773246.

Reportedly, up to 50 people were involved a road blockade which resulted in delays for numerous delegates. Police reacted swiftly to move the protesters on as it is illegal to block a public highway. The protesters then moved on to block the entrance to the ECC.

 

@MikeFCampbell

@MikeFCampbell

One woman, in her 20s, was arrested at the demonstration for allegedly assaulting a police officer outside the ECC early in the morning. The Western Eye also heard reports that a member of the front desk event staff acquired a ‘sprained thumb’. However, the police told the Western Eye they were ‘overall very happy’ with the behaviour of the vast majority of students.

Most student observations of the day’s events favoured the humble efforts of the protestors to hold both the ‘arms’ industry and UWE to account for it actions. Criticisms of the industry focussed around the exportation of arms to countries with human rights abuses. Criticisms of UWE, on the other hand, were for ‘legitimising’ the arms industry by allowing the conference to take place.

Many lecturers have declined to publicly condemn the conference, however many expressed their concerns, in confidence, to the Western Eye. Dr Andy Tubb, a lectuer in Analytical chemistry, told the Western Eye: “I am disappointed in UWE’s involvement with the arms trade, although I am pleased to see the student’s efforts. We support the right to peaceful protest.”

Exhibiting ‘optical sights’ for assault rifles. (Not live weapons). © Western Eye 2013

Exhibiting ‘optical sights’ for assault rifles. (Not live weapons). © Western Eye 2013

22 Nov press review – Would this also becoming about UK media? Please help us get journalists interested in our stories

We are currently struggling to get any kind of serious interest in the swarm of issues that emerged from DPRTE itself and from events surrounding the protests. The WesternEye reported that we opposed an ‘arms fair’ and an event in both their articles ([1], [2]). However, UWE students not only oppose this obscene military business and arms fair as an event; we also denounce deeply entrenched and growing militaristic and profit-making interests within our university as well as other reasons, summarised in our first press release.

IMG_1114
Student banner at the entrance of UWE’s ECC on 20 Nov: ‘WAR is BUSINESS and RESEARCH’,  from CAAT Blog

As far the protests are concerned, the only journalist crew that was actually on site, the WesternEye, “UWE’s independent student newspaper” said that we staged an ‘impeccable protest’. Despite that, SouthWestBusiness and the Bristol Post basically suggest that we are idiots who caused traffic jams for no reason. We did not cause traffic jams: one person had to put his body in front of a car to stabilise a highly dangerous situation that was triggered by underpolicing, by the actions of one policeman and then aggravated by UWE security who prioritised the traffic of aggressive drivers towards the event over the physical safety and right to protest of members of the public, including many UWE students (more info and evidence on this soon, we don’t have capacity to report more at the moment).

Not even an inquiry about protesters’ injuries in relation to policing and UWE security whilst everyone does agree that it was peaceful. No interest about police presence and intimidation far away from any protest, while activists were having lunch, FIT recording of activists and many non-activists in the university cafe ‘Core24’. Nothing about FIT obstructing and harassing a group of UWE student activists as they were trying to leave the university. No mention of UWE and UWESU ignoring our concerns about our very physical integrity and freedom of expression, etc.This is what UK democracy looks like! This is what our university looks like!

Please read our blog and share it broadly. If you have contact with journalists, please have them interested in the issues that surrounded this protest, as well as the reasons we staged this protest in the first place.

TO UWE STUDENTS: WONDERING WHAT WAS GOING ON ON CAMPUS TODAY?

PLEASE READ OUR BLOG (https://network23.org/uwe-struggles) AND SPREAD INFORMATION ABOUT IT AROUND YOU

WONDERING WHAT WAS GOING ON ON CAMPUS TODAY?

Today, UWE hosted a military business fair inside its conference centre, the ECC. This fair is an event for military and business worlds to meet. It happened on Frenchay campus and we think, first and foremost, that it should be a place of learning. The presence of companies infamously affiliated with, or active within, the arms trade (such as Thales and Raytheon) shows us that this was NOT, as we have been assured, a simple trade fair, but a meeting  between private businesses who are funding military operations all over the world, be it through industrial association or active involvement.

IMG_1114
Student banner at the entrance of UWE’s ECC on 20 Nov: ‘WAR is BUSINESS and RESEARCH’,  from CAAT Blog

This morning, we staged a peaceful protest outside the North and East entrances to Frenchay campus, as well as outside the main entrance to the ECC building to express our anger and disgust at what was, in effect, an event endorsing the expansion and technologies of the defense industry on a university campus.One protester was arrested and one of our friends, a UWE student, suffered a bleeding injury after being hit by a conference participant. UWE security and police prioritised the military business fair over our safety and freedom of expression. Many of us were recorded on video by special intelligence-gathering police and some were even harassed. Is this freedom of expression? Both UWE and UWESU were informed about attacks on our bodies, but they apparently had more important business to attend. This is the UWE student experience!

We are really shocked by what happened today and we need to get some rest. Beyond these scandalous attacks and threats, we shouldn’t also forget the issues that we attempted to air today. We denounce UWE’s irresponsible strategy of furthering a business agenda at the detriment of courses, students, staff, the quality of education, critically important research, and sustainability. With the hosting of this fair and, among other things, their approval of the tripling of tution fees two years ago, we consider that UWE management have demonstrated their priorities clearly: prioritise business of any kind even at the detriment of the physical integrity and the freedom of expression of a handful of students who did their utmost best to air very important points, despite systematic silencing,  hostility and even sometimes aggression.

For this reason, we need to stand up and speak out against the present and future involvement of our university with businesses and projects such as those present today. This is not just about one event, it is about maintaining the solidarity of students, staff and people all over the country and the world in the face of corporate greed.

WANT TO TAKE ACTION OR FIND OUT MORE?

PLEASE READ OUR BLOG (https://network23.org/uwe-struggles) AND SPREAD INFORMATION ABOUT IT AROUND YOU

Sign our petition on change.orghttp://qr.net/uweagainstmilitarybusiness

Email Us if you want to help! : uwe.better.together@gmail.com

Read our blog, share it, and link to it :network23.org/uwe-struggles

Facebook (No WMDs at UWE) and Twitter (@uwestruggles)

Email a personal or public message of solidarity

UWE allowed police and one intelligence-gathering ‘FIT’ team to intimidate, harass and gather video evidence on non-protesting students at the very heart of the University

Press release
For immediate release: 20 November 2013

UWE allowed police and one intelligence-gathering ‘FIT’ team to intimidate, harass and gather video evidence on non-protesting students at the very heart of the University

Email contact (please read our blog first and make specific points and requests): uwe [dot] better [dot] together [at] gmail [dot] com

UWE allowed police and one Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) into inside Core24, a university-run cafe, next to the library, at the very heart of the university’s main campus at Frenchay. Police interfered with the group who had been protesting as they were debriefing while having lunch, far away from the protest site. They were present in the cafe space throughout their lunch, a presence that the group considers as outrageous criminalisation and experienced as intimidating. FIT was seen shooting video inside Core24, who was then also filled with many people, including many UWE students and staff who had not been protesting, and who mostly seemed unaware that a military business fair was happening on campus.  After the group of protesters dispersed, one FIT team followed and harassed a small group of UWE student activists as they were trying to leave campus.

After peacefully protesting throughout the morning at the North Gate, the East Gate and in front of the Exhibition and Conference Centre (ECC) of the University’s main campus at Frenchay, protesters (including many current and former UWE students) gathered around lunch time in the area known as ‘Core24’, next to the library of UWE’s main campus at Frenchay.

While having lunch they discussed the events of the morning and addressed as a group one of UWESU’s elected officers.Even though both the University newspaper (http://www.westerneye.net/news/2013/11/students-stage-impeccable-protest/) and the police (http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Protest-arms-fair-conference-UWE-Bristol/story-20104800-detail/story.html^1) reported that protesters were peaceful, UWE allowed the police far away from the ECC and inside the very heart of the university. Police came to ask them to ‘discuss’ several times, interfering with the ongoing discussion and being present in the space at all times. One Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) was seen recording video footage of protesters and Core24, where many students and staff (most of whom seem not to even be aware that a military business event was taking place on campus) were having lunch.

Wikipedia describes FIT teams as follows: “Forward Intelligence Teams (FITs) are two or more police officers who are deployed by UK police forces to gather intelligence on the ground[1] and in some circumstances, to disrupt activists and deter anti-social behaviour”(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forward_Intelligence_Team).

One group of UWE students was then followed by the same FIT team. Those police constantly obstructed and questioned them whle recording videos as they were trying to leave Frenchay.  One UWE student who was part of the group followed by this FIT team and who is currently resting texted the following after it happened:  “FIT teams in core 24 as we were leaving filmed us and then followed us off campus, continually stopping us to question us. Massively intimidating and I felt really harassed”.

Despite some positive outcomes, including a massive traffic blockade caused by the police and UWE security, and a peaceful incursion into the military business fair, our protest was systematically silenced, some protesters (most of whom were current or former UWE students) were injured, concerns about the physical integrity of UWE students were ignored by both UWE and UWESU.  UWE students who staged this peaceful protest are appalled and overwhelmed by the  dimensions that this is taking. We have been collecting much evidence and collaborated with independent legal observers throughout the process. We intend to hold UWE, UWESU and the police accountable for their actions on campus today but we are exhausted and we need help!

We will probably be unable to provide any further updates in the near future. However, much more has to and will be said about what happened on campus today. We will try to provide updates as soon as possible. More comprehensive and evidenced reports about today will be reported on our blog (https://network23.org/uwe-struggles/). We are calling on individuals and organisations to support us to hold everyone accountable for what happened today on campus.  In the meantime, we encourage you to simply start by reading this blog, spread information about it, and then consider taking active forms of solidarity (see below for suggestions).

Notes:

^1 We complained to the Bristol Post that they misreported this event, not least because they described it as an ‘arms fair’ (it is a military business fair) and because they didn’t pay any attention to the argument collectively agreed by protesting UWE students (https://network23.org/uwe-struggles/2013/11/19/uwe-students-to-peacefully-disarm-military-business-fair-on-campus-through-party/). Journalists from the Bristol Post didn’t come on site and one ITV crew reported being sent back by UWE security on 19 November on grounds that UWE is private land. To our knowledge, the only journalists who were present were the University student newspaper, the WesternEye (http://www.westerneye.net), even though they also reported this as an ‘arms fair’ (http://www.westerneye.net/news/2013/11/uwe-hosts-arms-fair/).

How you can already support

  • Please help us to push this to the outside world as we currently have very limited capacity to do press work
  • You may send personal messages of solidarity to the protester who was arrested and UWE students who were/felt intimidated and/or harassed by FIT teams today by email. Please include ‘personal message of solidarity’ in the subject of your email.
  • You may send public messages of solidarity (most of whom were UWE students) and complaint to. Please include ‘public message of solidarity/complaint’ in the subject of your email.
  • You may send letters to complain about democracy at UWE to whoever you may see fit. Besides UWE’s VC and UWESU, we encourage you to contact MPs and influential people in Bristol committed to democratic values and with an understanding of the place of universities in democracy. Make sure to cc us to those emails.
  • We welcome offers of support from any individuals and groups to help us deal with the huge amount of work ahead of us. Please read our blog and twitter before making suggestions and email us with specific offers
  • We are particularly interested to build solidarity at university-level by working with UWE staff. We can set processes in place for organising confidentially if needed or preferred. Again, just email.
  • More comprehensive and detailed updates will be published on our blog (https://network23.org/uwe-struggles/) and twitter (https://twitter.com/uwestruggles)
  • If you haven’t already, please consider signing our petition (even though it now needs to be updated): https://www.change.org/petitions/calling-the-university-of-the-west-of-england-uwe-bristol-not-to-invest-itself-into-promote-support-or-enable-profit-making-from-of-through-wars-military-uses-of-research-military-networks-and-violent-approaches-towards-conflicts

UWE students to peacefully disarm military business fair on campus through party

Press release
For immediate release: 18 November 2013

UWE students to peacefully disarm military business fair on campus through party

Photo/video opportunities: 19 November from 4pm (meeting at main bus stop of UWE’s Frenchay campus^1) and onwards^2

On 19 November, students of the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and their allies will attempt to peacefully disarm a military business event of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) planned to take place the next day on campus.  A party entitled ‘Drop Beats, not Bombs’ will start at 4pm on campus and later converge on the UWE Conference Centre, where the Defence Procurement Research, Technology & Exportability (DPRTE) 2013 fair is scheduled to take place on 20 November.

UWE students argue that the University’s undemocratic decision to host this military business fair is not merely obscene; most importantly, it highlights UWE’s increasing collusion with business and military institutions. Students also denounce UWE’s strategy of cutting on courses, staff and quality while furthering a business agenda through large infrastructures which are largely useless to students and education, such as the planned 20,000 seat ‘UWE stadium’ or the conference centre, where DPRTE 2013 is to take place.

UWE students denounce the Bloodhound SSC project, a rocket-propelled car funded by, and developed in partnership with, the MoD, promoted by the University as a strategic project^3 and recently ‘greenwashed’ by the University’s Assistant Vice Chancellor for Sustainability^4. Instead of furthering far-reaching problems detrimental to students, people, education, and sustainability within and beyond the university, UWE students call on the University to start taking a responsible role towards their students, staff and education as well as towards contemporary societal, geopolitical and ecological crises.

Helen who studies at UWE’s Bristol Business School said: “With the ‘Drop Beats, not Bombs’ party, we will bring life to this university and further peace while disarming the business of death. This undemocratically decided and obscene networking fair enabling military, industry and business worlds to meet in order to make profits is not in the interests of students and education. It reveals the University’s considerable and growing collusion with business and military worlds. UWE Frenchay is stuck between huge sites of the MoD and Hewlett Packard. UWE’s collusion with the military and business is embodied in the Bloodhound SSC’s project central to UWE’s 2020 strategy. We denounce UWE’s irresponsible strategy of furthering a business and military agenda at the detriment of courses, students, staff, the quality of education, critically important research, sustainability and peace. UWE’s claimed commitment to its students is also contradicted by the development of large business-friendly infrastructures such as the planned 20,000 seat ‘UWE stadium’ or the ECC which are largely useless to students, education and research. In fact, they are even useless in themselves, because they will be and are mostly empty most of the time … except for the kind of big business that UWE supports and wants to attract, even if what they do enables massive power inequalities waste, destruction, suffering and death everywhere in the world”.

Notes for editors and journalists:
Updates will be posted on the following website: https://network23.org/uwe-struggles/
1 Information to access UWE’s Frenchay campus is available here
2 We may also be able to provide images. Please email us to express interest and make requests.
3 http://www2.uwe.ac.uk/services/Marketing/about-us/pdf/UWE-Bristol-Strategy-2020.pdf
4 http://www.westerneye.net/comment/2013/11/open-letter-to-uwe-sustainability-of-the-bloodhound-scc-cars-rockets-and-forthcoming-arms-and-defence-fair-at-uwe/5 See ECC’s calendar: http://info.uwe.ac.uk/events/eventlisting.aspx?categoryID=42, see the following blog post by a UWE student about the planned stadium in relation to UWE’s argument: https://network23.org/benoit/2011/12/14/uwe-stadium-what-it-means-for-uwe-students/

Notes for allies:
Please send this press release and the related petition far and wide: https://www.change.org/petitions/calling-the-university-of-the-west-of-england-uwe-bristol-not-to-invest-itself-into-promote-support-or-enable-profit-making-from-of-through-wars-military-uses-of-research-military-networks-and-violent-approaches-towards-conflicts
Updates will be posted on the following website: https://network23.org/uwe-struggles/

Contact and interviews:
Email uwe.better.together@gmail.com with specific requests/proposals and contact details.