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Christian protesters arrested outside arms fair

13 September 2013

lizzie gawen

Priestly protest: the Revd Christopher Howson, Chaplain to the University of Sunderland, takes part in a "symbolic exorcism" outside the Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition, in east London

Priestly protest: the Revd Christopher Howson, Chaplain to the University of Sunderland, takes part in a "symbolic exorcism" outside the Defence and...

AT LEAST 25 Christian demonstrators have been arrested during a series of protests outside one of the world's largest arms-fairs this week.

They included seven activists who on Tuesday glued themselves to-gether while kneeling in prayer and blocking one of the entrances to the ExCeL Centre, in east London, which is hosting the Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition.

The protest organisers said that the seven, who held up a banner which read: "This is a dead end. There is another way," included a trainee Methodist minister, and an Anglican ordinand.

On Sunday, three Anglican priests claimed that they were harassed by police as they tried to lead prayers in the road outside. The Metropolitan Police said that the confrontation led to 18 arrests.

A spokesman for the protesters, which included members of the anti-capitalist group Christianity Uncut, the Quakers, and the Evangelical Christian network SPEAK, said that the arrested demonstrators had refused to accept cautions, and had been bailed pending charges of obstructing the highway and similar offences.

One of those arrested on Tuesday, Chris Wood, a Quaker, said: "I believe that it is our moral duty to prayerfully and peacefully resist the evil transactions that take place at the London arms-fair, where instruments of death are commodified."

The three priests involved in Sunday's action - an Honorary Assistant Curate at Sunderland Minster, the Revd Christopher Howson; the Assistant Curate of St Peter and St Paul, and of St Mark's, Mansfield, the Revd Dr Keith Hebden; and an NSM in the Bradgate Team Ministry, Leicester, the Revd Helen Hayes - said that police had formed a close circle around the worshippers, and twice threatened them with arrest if they did not leave.

Afterwards, Mr Howson, who had conducted an exorcism ceremony in the road outside the exhibition centre, told the worshippers that they had gathered to "call an end to the evil horrors of the arms trade and to cast out the spirit of warfare and barbarism from this place.

"We remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the continuing global arms race, the failure of the nuclear powers to observe their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the polluted earth, the world governed by fear instead of justice, the futility of deterrence, the waste of public money."

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