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One week after Eurosatory 2022, our assessment


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Eurosatory took place in Villepinte, welcoming thousands of visitors for the exhibition that claims to be the biggest in the world on air-land defence. Between the two rounds of the legislative elections, Eurosatory took place in an even more opaque and closed context than usual.

Alongside SFW and the Peace Movement, a dozen activists, French and European citizens gathered in front of Eurosatory, as at every edition since 2018 in the name of SFW, and since 2014 for some members. The aim was to show a different position from Eurosatory and to engage in discussions with the crowd that was pouring into the exhibition centre. This year, we chose to focus our campaign against Eurosatory on the links between the military and the environment, an unfortunately hot topic as temperatures were regularly above 30°C in Paris during the week of the show. As part of our campaign, we produced postcards to distribute to passers-by. These postcards provide information in English and/or French to educate on this issue, which is little recognized, even by professionals in the field.

As on every other occasion, we had filed a declaration of demonstration at the prefecture of Bobigny, remaining at the disposal of the authorities. However, on Monday morning, as we were leaving the RER station, several security services asked us not to stand in the place for which the declaration had been made. The police, the Villepinte security service and the RATP/SNCF security then created great confusion by telling us that the space between the RER exit and the Villepinte exhibition centre was public, then private (and vice versa), asking us to move a few hundred metres away, where no one passes.

The instructions were not at all clear, even though we had our authorisation from the Bobigny prefecture. This led us to leave the site while waiting for more clarification on the situation. To our great surprise, we learned on Tuesday afternoon, 14 June, that any gathering or demonstration in the communes of Villepinte and Tremblay-en-France had been banned by a prefectoral decree published on Monday 13 June and signed by Mr Didier Lallement, Prefect of Paris.

Thus, instead of guaranteeing the fundamental right to demonstrate, the Paris prefecture decided to ban it. The decree invokes security problems linked to the yellow vests movement, the freedom convoys or the anti-vaccine pass opposition, even though there is no connection between these events and our campaign and our members. What security threat did a dozen peaceful demonstrators pose when there were dozens of law enforcement officers? This order does not seem to have been taken as a last resort, which might justify it, but rather as a preventive measure, depriving us of our freedom to demonstrate.

Each year the space we are permitted and our freedom to demonstrate have been slowly restricted, the latter being the most serious development in our view. If security was truly an issue, the police could have anticipated it, and, in any case, the appropriate security forces were present, in greater numbers than the activists. A huge arms fair based on security and defence, unable to guarantee security because of the presence of peaceful activists? This seems more than ironic.

Our experience this year at Eurosatory is not unique to France or to our campaign. In Canada, protesters opposing the CanSec arms show, also in June this year, faced increased security and an 80-year-old man was quite seriously injured when he was pushed off the road by police. In Australia, peace activists linked to a climate advocacy group had their phones seized and their homes searched by police.

This shows a shocking global trend against anti-militarisation movements. There is less and less space for disagreement about defence. If civil society is prevented from protesting or using the means at its disposal to try to make itself heard, what other spaces are left?
Why are indiscriminate arms sales and war profiteering allowed while peaceful protest is not?

Safety issues affect all of us and will impact all of us, whether it is our environmental safety, our physical safety or our food safety, we have a right to be involved in this discussion.

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The prefectural decree is available here.



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