UK Supreme Court upholds the right to protest in case involving disruption of DSEI arms show in London
Morning Star photo: Jo Frew (38), Chris Cole (54), lawyer Raj Chada, Nora Zeigler (28) and Henrietta Cullinan (56) after the first acquitted in February 2018.
The Guardian reports: “Four demonstrators who formed a blockade outside a London arms fair have had their convictions quashed by the supreme court, in what has been hailed as an affirmation of the right to protest.”
“Nora Ziegler, Henrietta Cullinan, Joanna Frew and Chris Cole were charged with highway obstruction after using ‘lock-on’ devices to block an approach road to the ExCel Centre in Docklands, east London, when it hosted the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair in 2017.”
The article adds: “On Friday [June 25], in a majority judgment the UK’s highest court ruled the charges should be dismissed.”
The media release from the law firm representing the resisters noted: “[The Supreme Court] agreed that each case has to be judged on its own merits, and the state has to consider, under human rights legislation, whether the arrest, prosecution and conviction is a proportionate response to the defendants’ actions – which they agreed it was not.”
Lord Nicholas Hamblen and Lord Benjamin Stephens said: “There should be a certain degree of tolerance to disruption to ordinary life, including disruption of traffic, caused by the exercise of the right to freedom of expression or freedom of peaceful assembly… We consider that the peaceful intentions of the appellants were appropriate matters to be considered in an evaluation of proportionality.”
Chris Cole, one of those arrested at the arms show protest, welcomed the ruling and commented: “We are delighted that the right to protest, even if it causes disruption to public life, has been upheld by the supreme court.”
The Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) has confirmed its next arms fair will be an in-person event on September 14-17 at ExCeL London.
Cole says: “Arms dealers from around the globe will once again descend on London this September to promote their lethal wares at the DSEI arms fair. In the light of today’s judgement, we urge as many people as possible to protest the arms fair and say as strongly as possible that profiting from war and armed violence is abhorrent and must end.”
Similarly, it would appear that CANSEC, Canada’s largest arms show, is scheduled as an in-person event on June 1-2, 2022 at the EY Centre in Ottawa.
Protest against CANSEC in Ottawa, May 2019.