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Campaign of the Week Greater Rushmoor Against War: challenging the merchants of death

THE Tory-backed DPRTE arms fair has not managed to stay in the same place for long. 

Since it was first held in 2012, the weapons extravaganza has been chased out of Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham by local peace activists. 

Last year DPRTE — Defence Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportability — settled in Farnborough.

But determined locals are fighting to ensure the fair is booted out once again. 

Greater Rushmoor Against War (GRAW) was set up in March 2019 in response to the arrival of DPRTE on their doorsteps. 

“We felt ashamed that an arms fair was hosted in our town,” Julia Longrigg, a member of the campaign group explained. 

“The people who have opposed it in other places have continued to support us and we now have a substantial movement of people who keep track of it and condemn it wherever it can find a venue.”

DPRTE is described as Britain’s “leading annual defence procurement event.” 

It connects smaller arms suppliers with some of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers. 

Exhibitors last year included BAE Systems, which produces fighter jets purchased by the Saudi regime and used in its bloody onslaught on Yemen. 

The event is supported by the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Trade, and gives civil servants and arms companies the opportunity to rub shoulders and secure weapons deals.

As the event took place last spring at the Farnborough International Exhibition centre, GRAW campaigners made it known to the arms dealers that they were not welcome. 

The activists set up a peace camp of white tents near the complex before marching to the gates. 

Their peaceful protest was met by police on horseback. A sound system blared out music that could be heard inside as attendees made deadly deals, while a radical priest spray-painted: “Yemeni blood on your hands” on the gates outside.

But it’s not just the annual DPRTE arms fair that locals have to contend with. 

The Farnborough International Exhibition Centre is a hub of arms, defence and military activity all year round. 

The massive 20,000 square metre business park, which opened in 2018 and cost £30 milion, hosts a series of events sponsored by defence companies. 

It’s also the site of the famous Farnborough Airshow where weapons and missiles are showcased to thousands of spectators. 

Locals have complained about the secrecy of the complex and want the local authorities to cease its role in attracting military investments there.

“The exhibition centre is vast and disproportionate for a suburban town,” Longrigg says, adding that its huge parking lot with space for 3,500 cars contributes to pollution in the area. 

“The militarisation and expansion of Farnborough airport is impacting the community, environment and feeding the arms trade.”

GRAW remain determined to chase away the “merchants of death” from their small town. 

If Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham can do it, so can they!

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