Maria has been campaigning against wars and the arms trade for more than 15 years, beginning with supporting and then joining Brian Haw on his decade-long continuous Parliament Square protest against US and UK foreign policy. Later, she set up her own #PeaceStrike and has been arrested multiple times engaging in non-violent civil disobedience, including climbing up scaffolding on the outside of the Houses of Parliament and locking on under lorries in Parliament Square.
While the corporate media focussed on Brexit and the Trump visit, Maria took up position opposite Downing Street on Monday for a 24-hour vigil against UK arms sales.
Despite 14 million people facing starvation in Yemen, where there is currently the world’s biggest cholera epidemic, the UK government still approves massive arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which uses those weapons against the people of Yemen. The UK is also directly engaged in equipment maintenance, and military and pilot training for the Saudi government.
Maria had various home-made banners at her vigil, and another of her connected themes is a request to the police to investigate the DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International) arms fair due to take place again this year beginning September 10th. She has presented a dossier of evidence to the police which alleges the sale of illegal torture equipment and banned weapons at previous DSEI exhibitions (they take place every two years in East London at the Excel Centre). Rather than focus on the protesters (who she says are trying to prevent murder weapons from getting into the exhibition), she wants police to mount a proper and thorough investigation into the legality of some of the trade that goes on inside the exhibition.
Maria has been ‘striking for peace’ for many years, and is heartened that the idea of striking and engaging in civil disobedience is now spreading and being shown to work, with the rise of the #SchoolStrike climate movement and Extinction Rebellion.
Meanwhile, it seems the police want greater powers to deter this form of peaceful protest, with an Assistant Commissioner pushing for prosecution of all 1100 or so peaceful protesters involved in the recent ‘Rebellion’, (the majority of whom were arrested for minor obstruction offences) but have not yet increased their efforts to investigate corporate crime, the arms fair, or political corruption.
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