Disarm group clashes with campus security in protest against BAE

Protestors against BAE clashed with University security at todays Graduate Careers Fair.

The protestors, who were protesting against University investment in BAE, numbered around twenty and caused minor disturbances.

The group staged a demonstration and a die-in, where the protestors lay on the ground pretending to be dead. The twenty protestors were ‘dead’ for ten minutes, and wore red to represent blood, holding up a banner saying “BAE, careers in corruption and destruction”.

The University hold over £1million worth of shares in both BAE and Rolls Royce, two of the world’s largest arms-producing companies.

Some protestors voiced concerns over the heavy handedness of the porters and security. One protester said that a porter “took my flyers and tried to push me out of the physics building”. According to Freddy Vanson, one of the Disarm members, a security officer apparently told the group that they were on “private property” and were “trespassing”.

A security officer however said that the group was “preventing other students from having their legitimate right to get careers advice”. He also commented that the group was causing a fire hazard as there was a fire door right next to the BAE stall.

Vanson said that they had a right as students at York to say where their money should be invested and that they didn’t want the University to invest in the arms trade.

According to Vanson, they wanted to “highlight the danger to students of working for such a corrupt company”, referring to BAE’s involvement in alleged corruption in eastern Europe and Africa. “We (Disarm) haven’t gone away,” he added, in reference to previous protests.

The die in started at 12:45 next to the BAE stand and lasted ten minutes. After around five minutes, a security officer attempted to wake the dead to no effect. However, after another five minutes the group got up and began to hand around Disarm flyers.

Chris Venables, another protester, said he was taking part due to BAE’s involvement in fraud allegations, as well the company’s support of oppressive regimes. “BAE don’t use the usual channels of business” Venables explained. “Backhand money ends up in the pockets of bad people, such as Robert Mugabe. The arms trade is a dirty business that supports power in a dirty way”.

One protestor said the protest was a success, commenting that people were showing interest in what was going on and in the information on the flyers. Vanson added that the protest had been “effective” and had gone “just as well as we’d hoped. We were hoping to do the die in for two minutes but we got ten, so we’re pleased”.

Similar campaigns against the University’s investment in companies with links to the arms trade took place in February as well as in 2005. In Febuary, the protestors managed to hand a petition signed by nearly 2,000 students against investment in the arms trade to senior staff members in Heslington Hall.

Currently, York University is the UK’s sixth largest University investor in the arms trade. Following the protest in February, the University made the decision not to invest further in the arms trade as part of its ethical investment policy. However, The University of York Pension Fund, which isn’t part of The University of York, can invest in arms.


  1. “a security officer attempted to wake the dead”


    Surely we’ve overlooked this quality in our campaign for keeping our Porters!


  2. I think possibly “clashed” is a bit of an overstatement. It was a completely peaceful, and generally good-natured demonstration.


  3. “Vanson said that they had a right as students at York to say where their money should be invested”

    As far as I’m aware, the only money the Uni has left invested is through their pension fund, which isn’t students’ money… http://www.nouse.co.uk/2009/03/10/university-passes-ethical-investment-policy-following-student-campaign/


  4. 27 Oct ’09 at 8:01 pm

    Frustrated Student

    Enough already… why can’t people have the right to choose a career without pressure from a group of people who dislike their choice.

    The Uni is involved with BAE Systems in other ways than just being investors. Several Computer Science students, and most likely Electronics / Physics students are offered year in industry placements by BAE, year on year.

    In a time when its tough to get jobs, surely we must appreciate BAE from taking on graduates. Or would the protestors rather have more unemployed graduates? I know what I would prefer.

    Most large companies have dubious ethic practices. Be it clothes manufactured with a pittance paid to the maker, being an arms company, or being responsible for killing animals at 6 weeks old.

    I am getting bored of the pathetic and annoying demonstrations on campus, and I have a feeling that I am not alone.


  5. ‘Frustrated Student’, handing out some leaflets and lying on the floor for a few minutes is certainly not removing anyone’s right to choose a career. Let us not overreact here, people have the right to demonstrate and others of course have the right to disagree with them.


  6. One of the first rules of journalism is not to abbreviate, without first making clear reference to what it is in fact that you have abbreviated, company or otherwise.
    Others include perhaps explaining what it is that a protest is in aid of, rather than just in what way it was protested.
    Remember, exclaiming “INSERT (unabbreviated) NAME is bad” is not journalism, without having a concise arguement to back it up. Unless you want a career writing for The Sun, that is.


  7. 27 Oct ’09 at 10:48 pm

    anononymous anon

    “Most large companies have dubious ethic practices.”

    Perhaps, but most are hardly comparable with BAE, the world’s second largest weapons manufacturer and arms provider to some of the most oppressive regimes on earth. This company has such a tremendously bad record on the ethical front that it is really on a league of its own. This is probably why these students wanted to provide this information to their peers before they make the decision to work for them.


  8. What a sad group of individuals.

    Of course people should have the right to choose what career they go into. These are a tiny minority of radical individuals who protest for the sake of protesting.

    Shame someone didn’t give them a good kicking on the floor and see how good they were at playing ‘dead’ with a size-12 up their backside.


  9. Witheld: What’s been abbreviated in the article? If you’re talking about BAE, then that’s the name of the company, they stopped being British Aerospace a long time ago.


  10. 28 Oct ’09 at 11:12 am

    Washington Irving

    i remember the porters being rather gentle and kind :)


  11. Generic “Damn Hippies – Stop Protesting” style comment.


  12. To go back to the frustrated students comment, Just because BAE do some good work you cannot forget about the other side of their company that deals with the arms trade and that should be enough to not work for them. If someone had a heart they would rather be unemployed than to know thier job cost someone their life.

    (and I was not part of the protest)


  13. Nice to see that student’s are still active on campus campaigning for their beliefs. Although I’m personally also in the camp that you shouldn’t really be stopping other people doing things just because of your beliefs i.e. if they were preventing people going to the stalls or just being so much of a nuisance that people didn’t want to. So of course the porters are right to try and move them along if that was the case.

    I still see it as a positive thing though that York is not just a quiet place where students can’t be bothered to stand up for anything.


  14. People have the right to publicly declare their disliking of one of the most heinous companies on the planet. BAE are involved in yet another world-wide scandal; they are the only company I can name, apart from possibly Google and Apple who are involved in this many scandals. The difference is that whilst Google, Apple, Chelsea or others with large lawsuits or punishments handed out are involved in unlawful transfers, accidental plagiarism or copyright laws, BAE are involved in illegally selling the most advanced weaponry in the world to countries like North Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Israel etc.

    It’s obvious that I agree with the protesters. However I chose not to protest. People should have the right to protest but people should have the right to a) not protest, b) ignore the protest and c) have a job with whatever organisation that they want to. And hopefully we’ll have some moral people in charge of BAE one day; people who choose not to break international law or sell billions of pounds of weapons to dictators etc.


  15. David, you’re making a pretty harsh statement there

    “If someone had a heart they would rather be unemployed than to know their job cost someone their life.”

    It all depends on your ethics, to some people making Weapons, is fine, as they see the distinction between that and actually killing someone.

    Some people think it’s wrong to have any connection at all with the industry at all.

    I’m of the opinion that there’s nothing wrong with working for a company like BAE, some of my fellow students do currently work for BAE. None of them are heartless. Ethics is just a subjective topic.

    My last point is that the protested was un-needed, and immature.

    Ok hand out leaflets, if you don’t think people know that BAE make weapons and that they sell them, sure hand out leaflets, but a “Die-in” that’s just immature, and only goes to irritate people


  16. A sensible post by Anon.

    The right to protest is all well and good, but what did this particular display of grievance achieve? Bad press, the usual hippy jibes and a bad name for those who may disagree with BAE but choose not to disrupt the lives of ordinary students with their pointless protests.

    Same old people (Freddy ‘I wear a FREE PALESTINE flag on campus 24/7’ Vanson and Co.): Get a life. One day, you wont be a student and you will actually need some form of real employment.


  17. Oh dear. Really immature, really misguided and really pointless.

    No student funds are put into the arms trade. Period.


  18. 28 Oct ’09 at 3:55 pm

    Simon Whitten

    Nothing in the article suggested the protestors prevented people from choosing to attend to stool, so many of the above comments are based on nonesense.


  19. “Nothing in the article suggested the protestors prevented people from choosing to attend to stool, so many of the above comments are based on nonesense.”

    Just as your protest was then. Go and find something meaningful to do with your life, Simon Whitten. There were 20 protestors max. Stop disrupting and forcing your warped ideas on the majority of the student population. You might just find that at some time in the future, someone will grow sick of you, your immature friends and use their ‘freedom of expression’ to shut you up.


  20. 28 Oct ’09 at 5:01 pm

    Simon Whitten

    “Just as your protest was then.”

    Not that it is at all relevant to the point I made but I had nothing to do with the protest and was 200 miles away at the time.

    “There were 20 protestors max.”

    Again, the number of protesters is not relevant to the very simple point I made.

    “Stop disrupting and forcing your warped ideas on the majority of the student population.”

    As my first comment pointed out, nobody was forcing any ideas on anybody.

    “You might just find that at some time in the future, someone will grow sick of you, your immature friends and use their ‘freedom of expression’ to shut you up.”

    And at some point in your primary education you may learn to present a coherent argument, free from immaturity and ad hominem.


  21. 28 Oct ’09 at 5:41 pm

    anononymous anon

    ARP, you are an idiot. How can an idea be ‘forced on the majority’ by a few people giving information that is already available on the public domain?


  22. I agree with one of the comments above me, this is about students who protest for the sake of protesting.
    What I see is a lot of hypocrisy. Last year, we had a debate at the Debating society on whether the university should withdraw its BAE investments. During that debate, I reminded to the students attending that the banks they use, the banks that actually do hold their own money, invest far more than 1 million in arms trade companies, including BAE. Indeed, HSBC has invested hundred of millions, whilst Barclays has invested more than a billion in such corporations!
    Of all these students, who so much hate such companies, how many chose to close their HSBC and Barclays accounts? Only one person has actually contacted me to say that she actually changed banks!

    But of course, when it actually comes down to it, students like using such banks… more perks, more reliability… If you are not prepared to change your own lifestyle, stop protesting and harassing others.


  23. Dense. It’s better to make some difference than no difference.


  24. So exactly what difference did you make? Aside from around 3,000 other students thinking you were all complete loony-bins. You probably drew even more people to the BAE stall! Now that would be rather ironic.

    Aris makes the point. Essentially, you are hypocrits. It’s like the demo. against Nat West in York last year when the person ORGANISING the demo had an account with them, or like the protesters against Topshop in York…all wearing Topshop labels with a pair of shoes purchased from the charity shop (a mere conscience alleviator).

    As usual though, these minority of idiots give those who may have genuine concerns about BAE and what it involves, or indeed those who may just want to know more about what BAE involves itself in, a bad name. I mean seriously, ‘playing dead’? Was is Mr. Whitten who proposed an argument that was “free from immaturity”. Before accusing others of immaturity, look slightly closer to home.


  25. 29 Oct ’09 at 6:14 pm

    Suzzzaneee Schweeeirrrghallwkwkwkdmd

    Complete and utter nonsense.


  26. I don’t understand how you people can believe that it is ridiculous for someone to stand up for something that they believe in. Especially when it comes to down to a case such as this.

    We have the ability to demonstrate for what we feel is right, and this is exactly what the DISARM campaign is there for. Regardless if you are sympathetic of their cause or not, they should have the opportunity to put forward information, and make people aware of what the University pension fund does with its money.

    Freshers’ new to the University should be made aware of this, as well as anyone else that is oblivious to the issue. It’s not nonsense, it’s an area that all of us should consider, and if we feel the need, try and change.

    And protesting at a university campus event, in a peaceful way that caused no one any harm, is not exactly something complaining about student’s rights for.

    I honestly don’t see how people can have such an issue with people showing some passion for an issue. It may not matter to you, but either argue against DISARM or let them have their say on the issue. Don’t simply criticise them for having a point of view on an issue.


  27. A few comments from my site:

    1) It has to be restated, at no point of time were students kept from going to the BAE stall, talking to the representatives there, picking up a prospectus and choosing BAE as their career path. The protesters explicitly agreed on this in advance, deliberately staged the die-in next to rather than in front of the BAE stall and made sure to leave a corridor for trespassers. The word ‘clash’ seems to stem from the author giving in to the temptation of sneaking a hint of VISION-sensationalism into Nouse, as the protest was generally marked by calm and peacefulness from both sides.

    2) Aris, the hypocrisy argument is a good one because it always works and will always work. As Adorno famously said, “There is no right life in a wrong world” and this is why everyone, no matter how good-natured and well-intending, is liable of hypocrisy. Yet the consequence of retreating into the penance of the private does simply not follow. This is the same logics as saying “I can’t get 100% for my essay anyway, so why even try and get 70?” There are shades of grey and they matter. I happen to know that, although as far from being ‘perfect’ than anyone will ever be, some of the people involved in ethical campaigning go quite a long way to try and make sure when they buy food, do their banking, do campaigns, travel or choose a job.

    Apart from that, the argument that you can’t demonstrate against NatWest if you have a NatWest account equally doesn’t make sense. Although I would and have changed my bank account in this case, it doesn’t hold as a generic point. There is, for example, a long tradition of people getting shares in a company they consider unethical so they can go to shareholders’ assemblies and try and push change from within. Often, precisely because you are one of their customers, companies listen to you when criticising them. When you’re unhappy with the government, would you rather move to a different country so that you’ll never be affiliated with it again, or try and talk to your MP or run for office yourself so you can make a positive difference? Equally, when you as a student are dissatisfied with what your university does, or invests in, you can try and find out more about and then let them know that you’re unhappy about it, rather than just packing your bags and resigning. Otherwise, you really would just be a ‘sad’ passive idealist searching for a refuge that doesn’t exist. (and Aris, just to make that clear: The vast majority of the University’s arms investments are in the Pension Fund, yet the Endowments’ Fund holds a small of number of shares in GKN, which produces parts for military vehicles and aircrafts. It does not majorly change the argument in this case, but please be careful with your generic statements.)

    3) And this leads to my major point. The protests where never about ‘good, ethical’ people fighting ‘bad, heartless’ people, but about opening up a debate about the choices we make and trying to make them more informed. We had a long talk with one of the BAE representatives from the careers stall. In contrast to some people on this site, he was genuinely interested in what we had to say and engaged in a constructive discussion with us. He was proud to announce that he thinks that, in response to all the criticism BAE received in recent years, they are now trying to introduce ethical policies and improve their bribery records. I won’t comment further on that, but the point is that even BAE felt the need to change something about their policy because some people insisted on being outraged by what they do rather accepting the “reality” of “how things are”. This ranges from students telling them they don’t think it’s a good idea to sell weapons to Mugabe or to supply the Saudi Royal Family with prostitutes, to senior members of the Serious Fraud Office, who resigned after Blair decided to cover up its report on the tens of billions worth of corruption they accused BAE in connection with Saudi Arabia of, to SFO members who have now decided to prosecute BAE over corruption evidence in four countries, to David Leigh and Rob Evans of the Guardian, who spent four years investigating BAE’s wrongdoings, winning press awards for their research, to the Goverment of Norway, who took BAE off their pension fund, to the US Department of Justice, who have kept investigating BAE’s corruption allegations for a number of years. The lefty-hippy-sad-people cliché – not surprisingly – just doesn’t stand.

    4) I don’t really understand the phrase ‘Get a life’ and would like somebody to explain it to me. It seems to come just after ‘So what?’ in the list of the most skill-free arguments. Does this mean I should stop looking into BAE’s dealings and protest against them because selling arms to human rights abusers goes against my beliefs? Should I not try and make a change about something that affects me and I disagree with, go to talk to lecturers and trade unionists to find out that some of them think similarly? Should I not raise signatures, to see if people are equally annoyed about what I am annoyed and to hear arguments from people who don’t agree with me, and why? Should I not drive people’s attention to a different side of the (by its very nature one-sided) reality they see at a careers fair, engage in debates with them about the choices they face and what they involve (and no-one there gave me the feeling they were thinking i was trying to dictate or restrict these choices)?
    Does ‘getting a life’ mean keeping your head down and getting drunk at Ziggy’s every Wednesday? I can’t really see where the words ‘life’ gets in there.

    5) A brief note to the author: The University of York Pension Fund isn’t part of the University of York is a bit of a logical confusion, isn’t it? It is defined as a separate corporate entity and is not financed by students’ money, but it surely is a part of our university. The Vice-Chancellor and Director of Finance are just as much part of it as the Porters, Cleaners, Secretaries and Caterers we see at our university every day, that’s why its debatable (among those who make up the Pension Fund, and therefore surely not dictate-able) whether University Policy is entirely separate from Pension Fund policy.


  28. “The protests where never about ‘good, ethical’ people fighting ‘bad, heartless’ people, but about opening up a debate”

    Fair enough. I, more than anyone, believe in free speech and debate. What I do not believe in is supporting an opinion just because it is easy to do so. Attacking BAE by being part of a large crowd, and not really having to do much yourself besides sacrificing some time is not exactly honest, when you bank with an institution that invests far more than the mere million the university has in BAE shares.

    “There is, for example, a long tradition of people getting shares in a company they consider unethical so they can go to shareholders’ assemblies and try and push change from within.”

    What sort of people? Are you talking about hostile take-overs? Because having one million worth of shares in a company that is valued at several billion is worth practically nothing. Even if you were allowed to attend board meetings, you would not be able to push for any changes.

    “There is no right life in a wrong world” and this is why everyone, no matter how good-natured and well-intending, is liable of hypocrisy.”

    I understand this, that hypocritical behaviour may rise due to ignorance. However, I did make it clear to everyone attending the debate that the banks they use invest hundreds of millions in BAE. Roughly eighty people voted in favour of the motion, yet you are the only one who changed your bank account (an act which I truly respect).

    To conclude: I honestly respect someone who has views contradictory to mine, if they truly believe in their cause. Sadly, this does not seem to be the case with the majority of anti-BAE protesters.


  29. The protests were pathetic.

    A few greasy-haired, unshaven dropouts ‘playing dead’ on the floor of a campus careers event.

    If you don’t think that this is both childish and pathetic, then it wouldn’t actually surprise me. People will have their own views on the matter and make their decisions based on what they saw. You will only end up doing more harm to your cause than good because it was such an outrageous display of ‘protest’.

    Just wait till you have to join the real world. You will have a real shock.


  30. ARP, thank you for all the groundless assertions you used to express your frustration, now you can join the debating society to learn what’s the meaning of a constructive argument.


  31. Thesi,

    I am a strong believer in freedom of speech, so yes protest.

    But the bit that really pisses me off is the stunts. Ok stand there, handing out information, informing people about your cause. But a ‘Die-in’ is just pathetic.

    While i disagree with what you are protesting about, i believe you should be protesting if you feel strongly enough about it, but you need to draw the line between protesting, and pulling idiot stunts, which while they may get you publicity, they tend not to further the cause.


  32. You think lying on the floor playing dead is constructive? I’ve seen more mature 2-year-olds.


  33. ARP, lying on the floor is nothing more than a means of attracting attention, what actually mattered was providing information to students.

    Lloyd, you raise a valid argument, I too think it would have been a better idea if the protesters only handed out leaflets. But then again, it’s not as if this harmed anyone in any way so this is a minor point I think.


  34. Dear people,

    I buy all my guns from BAE and was shocked to hear that a protest had been staged against these good people. They never ask questions as to what I do with my weapons and even offer me deals. Also, if I refer a friend to them I get a nuclear bomb half price! Bargain.


  35. Yes, a means of attracting attention- it’s childish!

    As you say yourself in the following paragraph, handing out informative leaflets rather than sensationalist and uninformed ‘protesting’ would have been a far more constructive way to ‘protest’ against this great evil. People just looked at you and thought what the f**k are these loony-bins protesting about now?

    The only harm done was to your own cause.


  36. Informative leaflets were handed out as a matter of fact. I will concede that the actual die-in was probably unnecessary, but I think you (and many others) are overreacting about this – a few people lying on the floor for a few minutes is hardly that big a deal.

    Disclaimer: I did not take part in this protest.


  37. oh dear me- bored arts students with too much time on their hands protest against something they know very little about. laughable


  38. “bored arts students with too much time on their hands protest against something they know very little about”

    It’s interesting to see how many prejudiced assertions can a frustrated reactionist fit in a single sentence. Good job Jonny!


  39. I’m finding it pretty depressing with the amount of people here who justify arms production because of rising unemployment. None of them even claimed arms production was ok, they just said “we have other problems”.

    also anon I woundn’t waste your time with ARP, but you do a good job of giving him the oppurtunity to open his eyes.


  40. reactionist? nah man, just shouting out my opinion. I’ll leave the wind-up-merchanting to the seasoned professionals :)


  41. 10 Nov ’09 at 5:58 pm

    A mature and concerned student

    “no one who has two legs and is flammable is blocking a fire exit” – Mitch Hedberg
    There has been a great deal of talk about maturity, are we back at that compare how many strands of hair we can find on ourselves stage of our lives?
    Protesting is much more fun than having an angry little type on a website, lighten up.


  42. Voodoo i think you missed a lesson in economics, getting rid of BAE will not stop war, or anything, due to the fact there is demand for weapons. If there is a demand for it, someone will supply it.

    Now if you want to get BAE to stop producing Arms & Weapons, you want to aim your protesting at the people who create the demand for weapons, if you remove the demand, the supply will cease.


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