Anti-arms trade campaigners in Nottingham handed out hundreds of leaflets to people attending a health conference next door to arms company Heckler & Koch on Wednesday 26th September. The conference, called Good Health in Hard Times, took place at the Trent Vineyard church, which occupies Units 1 & 2 at Easter Park – an industrial park on Lenton Lane. The arms company, which makes submachine guns and assault rifles, operates from the unmarked warehouse at Unit 3.
The campaigners stood at the gate to Easter Park and the entrance to the church car park offering leaflets to arriving delegates, none of whom were aware of the arms factory, and most of whom expressed shock and disgust on learning of it.
One taxi driver stopped to praise the campaigners and expressed his outrage: “There’s far too much killing in the world as it is, and these people are selling more guns from here?” he said. “I’m glad you people are here telling others about this; it’s all wrong.” He took with him a handful of flyers to give to people he knew, and as he drove away he was still shaking his head in disbelief.
One campaigner said:
“This is why we carry on picketing. When there are just a couple or so of us on the regular monthly picket it can be a bit disheartening at times, but that fella alone showed why we have to carry on doing it. While the majority of the citizens of Nottingham know nothing about the existence of gun dealers and merchants of death and destruction on their doorstep, we must carry on doing it and bringing it to the attention of as many of them as possible.”
Staff at Trent Vineyard church expressed concern that the campaigners were “disrupting their business” and asked them to move away from the car park, but the campaigners stood fast. The leadership of the church does not approve of the campaign and has always rejected appeals from campaigners and ordinary churchgoers to support it. On Wednesday, one representative of the church admitted that while many in the congregation would share the campaign’s concerns, the church is also attended by police and soldiers who would not support a campaign against Heckler & Koch, which is one reason the church leadership will not support it.
Relentless rain did not deter the leafleters, who stayed for an hour until all 300 delegates had entered the conference. Meanwhile, two campaigners who had booked places at the conference were leafleting and chatting with people inside.
One of the speakers at the conference even mentioned the campaign: Danny Dorling, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Sheffield, started his speech by saying that while he was initially apprehensive to encounter a ‘picket’, once he understood what the campaign was about, he approved of it and asked why more attention was not being paid to the contradiction of an arms warehouse being next door to a conference on health and wellbeing.