When the national Disarm DSEi campaign called for a day of action against the arms trade, the target for the Nottingham group was obvious. The city is home to Heckler & Koch – the world’s second-biggest manufacturer of small arms, which will be touting for customers at DSEi. As most locals were unaware of the company’s presence, the Disarm DSEi group called for a public demo to expose its location, highlight its appalling track record and call for it to be shut down.
The demo took place on a sunny afternoon outside Heckler & Koch’s office at Easter Park on the Lenton Lane industrial estate. About 35 people turned up, Nottingham residents young and old, including activists from Greenpeace, CND and Stop The War. A variety of colourful banners and placards was displayed, and leaflets were handed out to passers-by, who had been unaware that their employer’s neighbour is a major arms dealer. Sadly, having heard about the demo, Heckler & Koch closed its office for the afternoon!
There were a couple of speeches on the evils of the arms trade and Heckler & Koch in particular. The list of repressive regimes and conflict zones that H&K guns have been exported to was read out over a megaphone. Having noticed that the company had failed to signpost their office, activists decided to help them out by clearly labelling the entrance to the industrial park “Heckler & Koch (arms dealers)”.
There was a large police presence, including officers from the Forward Intelligence Team who had come all the way from London to keep protesters under surveillance with their gigantic cameras. Despite the peaceful nature of the demo, vehicles leaving the demo were photographed and in some cases followed by the police. One protester was pulled over on the pretext of looking “too young”, asked to confirm that he had been at the demo and made to show his driving license (presumably so he could be added to a list of potential troublemakers).
Heckler & Koch tried and failed to keep the demo out of the media. The police, PR and legal response on behalf of the company only succeeded in showing how much the demo rattled its cage. The story was reported in local TV, radio and print news, and you can see pictures on IndyMedia.