The No Faith in War day

Photo: Suki Ferguson/BYM

Rosie Horsley (Bradford Meeting)

I have shouted in the streets against the Iraq war, Nuclear Arms, EDL, Monsanto and Climate chaos but never have really felt my deepest conscience so loudly until I sat in silence in the street at London Excel centre in September.

A year and a half before September 2019 and rumblings about Roots of Resistance slowly pulsed in the Quakersphere. Things were happening in my periphery, my quite distant periphery I am ashamed to say, a year and a half is a mighty long time away. Though this small yet determined group were setting the stage for a Quaker strong show of resistance of the Arms Trade. For me this only came into focus a week or two before the allotted time in September. Nonchalantly rocking up to find my place within the spiritual circle that was so diligently cushioned by the organisational powers of Roots of Resistance.

At Friends house on the Monday we came as groups and individuals to mould together as one which for me is a gift of Quakers, a collective hive……. though not to say there aren’t some disgruntled strong-minded bees that need a wee bit more cajoling into place. We are perfectly imperfect. Learning songs of revolutions and protests gone by, holding stillness in preparation of what is to come. ‘Don’t forget your bustcard!’ was a constant cry, well I thought I don’t need one of those. I had made a conscious choice not to get arrested so no need to know solicitors’ numbers or what to say at police stations. That was still true up until the point a police liaison officer shouted, ‘move off the road’ and my conscience made me put my bag on my back and clip it tight. Luckily earlier I had slipped one of those bustcards into my pocket after all.

But I’m going ahead of myself. When I alighted from the rail transport outside the Excel Centre, I quickly found myself on the end of a Catholic procession. We slowly made our way through to the silent gathering that stood, placards aloft and peaceful faces resolute. I quickly learned that the roads had been held since early in the morning by strong collective action. A small number of purposeful folk are mighty. Throughout the day, worships of many faiths occurred and intermingled. The crowd swelled to a sizeable number. The hard work of a few Quaker had brought the collective passion of many.

The second Meeting for Worship brimmed with impassioned song and ministry. My thoughts were guided by those people who couldn’t be with us in that road. The people who had been murdered, injured, traumatised and displaced from their homes and lives because of the weapons industry. The industry that was trying to set up a show home just a few meters away, to display their wears like toys for the wealthy, without conscious or care of who was going to be on the sharp end of the machines. So, when I heard ‘move off the road’, I fastened my bag tight and sat, waiting. Though, I felt I took very little part in the immovable predicament I found myself in. There was such stillness, such peace that the loud voice of my faith, conscience and the collective power that felt like it resonated through all of us glued me fast to the tarmac. ‘dear friend, dear friend……’ the song on our breath binding us all with strength to be where we needed to be.

Being lifted off that road by the officers, felt like a journey in itself. Moving from a place of spiritual strength and unity to the slow walk into a harsh individualistic world. This was brutal, the power of my conviction running in droplets down my face, which the officers mistook for fear. As I try and

answer uncertainly the police officers’ questions, I am quickly informed by them that ‘we are not the enemy’. Later I contemplate the officer’s words, playing my lost response back in my head ‘no you are not the enemy, merely a vessel for those who hold the stacks of money, and so you are nothing to me’.

The police station was easier, in some regards. I had emerged from the grasp of the Light and was able to be me, as much as a person can ever be truly themselves in a brightly tiled white box. With this, I felt strongly the physical presence of Privilege. There were moments of uncertainty and feelings of trepidation when asking for what I needed but overwhelmingly I felt a sense of entitlement. I felt able to speak abruptly to the officers who were disrespecting me, I felt able to ask for endless cups of water and to look past the power dynamics at play into the eyes of the officers. I felt peace, on the most part, in my cell. This I am sure is not everyone’s experience. A holding cell is a disorientating and isolated place which would easily be made worse if a person felt unsafe or forgotten. Being released six hours later into the warm embrace of people I knew and people I didn’t, made me very aware of why many centuries ago we became known as Friends.

The protests raged on for a whole week outside the Excel centre. Incredible people putting their bodies aligned with their convictions. Does it all make a difference, well only time will tell. I do know for certain that this experience has changed me and the way I want to protest. Bring on the gentle anger.

Mini banners

Here is just a selection of some of the incredible mini banners that were made and used at the No Faith in War day by Quakers around the UK!

Some of them will be taken to the Peace Museum in Bradford, others you will see at protest near you soon!

Timetable for briefing on Monday 2nd September

We’ll be in the Large Meeting House and Margaret Fell rooms at Friends House, Euston (173-177 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ) – it’s right opposite Euston Station.

Drop in from 2-4.30 pm (Large Meeting House)

We will have a series of tables where you can ask questions, or do different activities. These include:
    • A welcome table – where there will be information about the No Faith In War day and we will be able to answer many of your logistical questions.
    • A roles table, for anyone taking on a role on the Tuesday (first aid, legal observer, videography, photography)
    • Mini-banner making table
    • Personal statement writing table – to write a short statement of ‘why I am here’

Workshops

2-2.45 pm – Protest Singing Workshop (in the Large Meeting House)
2.50 pm – Know your Rights shout out (in the Large Meeting House)
3.00 pm – Turning the Tide workshop: spiritual grounding for witness (in the Margaret Fell Room)
3.30-4.15 pm  Protest Singing Workshop (in the Large Meeting House)
All afternoon in the Margaret Fell room there will also be time for conversations in affinity groups or working groups or for people who may need a quieter space for preparation and reflection.

Evening Briefing: 5-8.30 pm

This will include time in worship, running through the timetable for the day of action and logistical information, hearing from Juliet Prager (deputy recording clerk for Quakers in Britain), also someone who has been at the demonstration that day, know your rights information, and some singing together. Leave feeling fully prepared and spiritually grounded.

Things to bring to DSEI

If you want to print it, you can download our ‘Things to bring to DSEI’ zine here! (you can simply print it on A4 and then fold it up into a little booklet) – otherwise, see the individual images below for what you can bring!

 

Getting ready for 3rd September

Some of the Roots of Resistance core group met today in London to make final preparations for our action against the DSEI arms fair next month, taking place on 3rd September as part of the No Faith in War day.

In the next few weeks, you can expect emails with more call outs for volunteers, info about the action, and area organisers should check our new updates page for news!

Make sure you’re signed up to receive email updates from us, and don’t forget to follow us on social media.

We’ll see you on 3rd September (or on the 2nd September in Friends House, Euston if you can make it).

Taking action against DSEI in 2017

I was very excited about joining a Meeting for Worship intending to stop the lorries entering the EXCEL. centre in 2017

It was a pleasant September morning when we arrived at the exhibition centre. I went to greet some Catholic friends who had locked themselves on to each other, intending to saunter over to the MfW. It was not to be.

A Friend asked me to make a sign which I did, kneeling in the road. A Friend from Leeds was with me. A couple of police officers approached us and asked us to move as we were blocking the road. We said that that was our intention. An officer said we would be arrested if we didn’t move. We stayed: he arrested us. It was all very civilised! I know my gender, age (71) and disability means that the police were very careful with me. I talked to them, avoiding giving too much information (I’ve done this many times). Sitting in the van gave space to explain to them why we were there. I have found such conversations to be an important part of nonviolent action.

Because of the group who had abseiled off the bridge, we had to be taken through the exhibition centre in the van. Our police officers were obviously impressed by the action.

Eventually we arrived at the police station and were taken in to be processed. The custody sergeant went through the procedure and we were placed in cells. In our van I think there were four or five of us.

I have been arrested many times and really lover being locked in the cell. When I hear the key in the lock I think, ‘That’s the first part of the action complete’. As I am visually impaired I cannot read normal print so can’t take a book into the cell. I pray, reflect, sing, walk up and down and generally enjoy my own company. As a lazy person I love not being able to do anything except drink the coffee offered at regular intervals.

We were released about 4pm and were given bail conditions and a date to appear in court. In the event after two court appearances, our case was dropped.

Susan Clarkson
Bradford Meeting
Brighouse West Yorkshire AM

A parent’s reflection on taking action

I stood on the road, 8 months pregnant and surrounded by other protesters. It was a joyful, lovely sunny day with banners, placards, chanting and chatting. About once an hour the police came and asked me to step out of the road, they said it wasn’t safe to be there while pregnant. When I refused they would start asking those around me to tell me to move, to keep me safe. A while later, after I had drifted from the road, the police came – large numbers of officers swooped in, clearing other protesters out of the road quickly and standing in lines to prevent people reentering, allowing the line of trucks that had been held up to slowly roll in past us all. Once they had cleared the road, one senior policeman came to my side ‘Its not safe for you here he said, you need to move further back’. I replied that I was far safer than the men, women and children who would become the casualties from the arms that were going to be on display that week ready for sale and use, on which he had to agree. 

Two years later I returned to demonstrate against the arms fair returning to London, with my 2 year old. We spent the day chalking on the pavement, chatting to other protesters, joining the Quaker meeting for worship and crossing back and forth between the camp and the demonstration, where once again the road was full of protestors blocking the way for trucks and lorries trying to enter the fair to set up for the coming week. 

We also went to look a the warship coming into dock, which seemed vast, dark and ominous, my two year old dwarfed under the large shadow it created . A real reminder of why we were there, but somehow incongruous with the lively, friendly atmosphere of the protest. 

This September I will return, with my two children, who will be nearly 4 and nearly 1. We will come ready with banners, games and chalk. With our voices strong and full of energy to resist the arms fair. We come, because we can’t not. We are privileged to be born into a safe environment, but as a country we profit from the sale of arms through which others suffer. Together we will stand in solidarity with those affected and resist the arms fair.

Klaus’s day at DSEI

With 176 days to go until the start of DSEI 2019, we here from Klaus about his experiences of joining the DSEI protests with a group from his Meeting. 

I went to the ‘No faith in war’ day on a Tuesday, together with four other members of our meeting.

We were hoping to arrive in time for the Meeting for Worship at 11am, but the packed train (the previous train had been cancelled) from Bath was a little late and we were rather confused, as we eventually got out at Prince Regent station. In the end, we arrived half an hour late and expected that the Meeting for Worship may have already been disbanded. We were very pleased to see that this was not the case and joined in with the other 60-80 worshippers in the road – most of them Friends (including quite a few familiar faces), but also people from other faith communities (and our ardent atheist friend from Bath Stop War). I had been at peace vigils before – and, of course, at Meetings for Worship, but never at this kind of combination of the two. It felt like a truly gathered Meeting-cum-vigil. The police had obviously agreed to allow the Meeting to last for its full hour plus time for notices afterwards.

Following the Meeting and a brief chat with a couple of police officers, our little group walked over to the other entrance where, we had heard, numbers of protesters were rather low. They were indeed, when we arrived – we nearly doubled their number! Over time, other protestors arrived, but not in sufficient strength to challenge the continuous flow of lorries (including obviously quite a few that had nothing to do with the arms fair) to enter and leave the gate. Diana soon decided to use a legal means of slowing down the traffic by using the zebra crossing to cross the road very slowly – and then cross straight back again. After she had done this exercise umpteen times, a police officer stopped her with harsh words from continuing. However, what started as a confrontational verbal exchange soon transformed into a lengthy, mutually respectful conversation.

Conversations with police officers ranked high on our agenda, showing respect to them as human beings, while explaining to them why we’re keeping them busy through our protests. At one point Diana intervened when a fellow protestor vented her anger against the police.

While Ruthie, Nick and Diana were all immersed in conversation with police officers – and Alan in another conversation with a fellow protestor – I briefly joined a small band around a young, dog-collared clergyman who had written new lyrics for some of the Taizé songs. Our little ad-hoc choir was singing remarkably well, as we were rehearsing the rewritten songs on the pavement. The new texts were:

“Stay with me”: “Stay with me, remain here with me. No more to war, no more to war.”

“Bless the Lord my soul”: “Bless all those who work, to end the trade of death, Bless all those who work, For God’s new world of peace.”

“In the Lord I’ll ever be thankful”: “No more tanks, guns, and no warfare, Only then will I rejoice. Look for peace, do not be afraid, lift up your voices, the world should hear, lift up your voices, the world should hear!”

Our choir leader mentioned, with a cheeky smile and in earshot of the police, that the acoustics would be much better in the road than on the pavement. And so, as we saw a heavy LGV arriving, we moved into the road, singing our new songs, and sitting down for a few moments. We were not keen on getting arrested for what would have been a purely symbolic act, so all stood up again, just before the police would have carried us off the road.

A few more conversations on the pavement, and some singing and guitar-playing arranged by some other protestors rounded off the afternoon before our little group from Bradford on Avon went on our way back home.

A little later, I stumbled across an article on the internet, mentioning that the arms fair protesters ranged “from faith groups to seasoned activists”. I mused that with just over 25 years experience of antimilitarist activism, I was the least seasoned activist in our little faith group.

On the Saturday, another Friend from Bradford on Avon went to the arms fair protest in London with her 2-1/2-year-old son.

 

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!”