TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 11TH - TANK DAY
Amazingly after another late stressful night, the hijackers awoke in good spirits. The tank was filled with petrol and a hearty fried breakfast turned up. We had word on the secret phones that the Bird was in flight and a last minute vehicle inspection confirmed that Fredom was ready to roll. Game on.
The police were stationed outside our yard, however we had a second entrance through which the hijackers began to turn up. News came in that a group of 20 protesters had breached the arms fair security in the morning, however they had all eventually been arrested. We only found out later that one of them was our very own agent Rachmetov!
The media had begun to turn up, and Agent Greenman was doing a fine job of fielding their questions outside. We had previously arranged that he would deal with the police as the tank crew would already have enough on their plates. As agents turned up we all took on roles, a pedestrian and bicycle steward team was set up, as we realised driving an 8.5 tonne tank through a crowd of police and protestors could be a little tricky. Our embedded journalists from Time Out had turned up and the sound system was in place and booming.
Our plan was to move off at about 12:30 ready to meet the main protests around the arms fair as they came up from the fair towards Canning Town. By this point police numbers outside our yard were swelling and they were attempting to park a van in front of our gates to block us in. Luckily we had taken the precaution of parking a flat-bed truck in the way to stop them from doing just that. The tank crew boarded Fredom and gunned the engine, petrol fumes filled the air, and the noise visibly tightened the expressions on the waiting police the other side of the fence. Inside the tank were
Bristly Pioneer - Driver
Spritely Monkey - Commander and navigator
Agent Hardcastle - Gunner
Patelaneeta - Good vibes and obstacle clearance
Elizabeth and Rachel - Embedded Journalists
Craig - Sound Cannon
Ralph - Video
Phill - Legal Observer
Outside Greenman, Zargof, Batman, SAA, Lady Bea, Undecided, Jessic, Bananas and plenty of volunteers were busy getting ready to move off. Curiously Gelatin Agent and Koshka were no-where to be seen?
Bristly revved the engine, and the sound system was cranked up. As the opening bars of the A-Team theme tune blared out, our tarpaulin was pulled from the gates and the doors were swung open. The tank started rolling forward, just as the police made a final attempt to block our exit. Protesters leapt in front of the van, as a scuffle broke out with the assembled boys in blue. The tank rolled forward more. It looked like the riot van was going to get in our way, and we didn't at this point want to make the decision to crush it with a tank :-)
However with a quick wink to the hijackers the guy who owned the wood yard took a deep breath and dived under the riot van! The police slammed on the brakes and attempted to get him out from underneath their vehicle. "I've had it with these protesters" he shouted "I want them out of my yard now, don't you dare block them in, they've been nothing but trouble, and I want them out NOW!". The police eventually got him out from under their van and took him shouting to one side. By this point about 100-150 police were on the scene with about 6 vans and several motorbikes.
As the tank attempted to get onto the road, the police had to resort to protestor tactics and make a human shield in front of our beast of a vehicle. We had previously stated in a press release that if they did this we would take our foot off the accelerator, no squished policemen.
Greenman at this point was liaising with the police and had got them to agree to escort our tank to the front doors of the fair, so long as it passed a road side inspection. However, the group of police, clinging onto our bonnet were refusing to let us onto the road. The FIT police photographers, at this point desperate to capture whoever was inside the tank, attempted to poke their cameras through our windows. Our tank training quickly kicked in, and after a call of "Button down the hatches" from tank commander Spritely, Slam, Slam, Slam, Slam, Slam, Slam, we were cocooned in our armoured vehicle, with our periscopes for vision. It was at this point we realised what a useful protest vehicle this was going to prove to be. The FIT team cameras and scores of police were now facing 16mm of armor plating to deal with if they wanted to deal with us. Craig cranked up the sound system on the roof.
Eventually after lots of faffing around, The police agreed to move and let us onto the road. Bristly flipped down the drivers hatch, gunned the motor and Fredom rolled out to cheers from the surrounding crowds. We rolled down the hill towards the several riot vans parked up blocking the entrance to the A12, and for a moment there was a look of nervousness from the assembled police. Here they were facing an anarchist group with a tank, a real, big, noisy, heavy, armored monster.
A smile from one of the motorbike police (it pays to be polite) and we pulled up next to them for a roadside inspection. Although our tank in MOT exempt, they still wanted to inspect the vehicle for road worthiness. Again this proved to be another police delay tactic, and our clock was ticking to make it to the protests at the fair on time. They demanded everyone get out of the tank, we saw no reason to let them in. Time rolled on, and there was still no word from Gelatin Agent or Koshka!
After checking our paperwork, the police decided to start the inspection. However as with everything with our tank, they admitted it wasn't exactly routine, it's just not like dealing with Ford Escort. As they were pulling out instruction manuals on how to deal with this situation, a call arrived on Spritely's secret phone:
"The Bird is in the nest, and ready for flight, are we go?"
Time for plan C!
Bristly informed the police we had an important announcement to make, and that we would have to delay the inspection. Leaving them by the roadside, he clambered onto the bonnet of the tank, and was passed a microphone through the gun turret by agent Hardcastle. Craig connected him to the sound system and turned down the music.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm afraid I have a sad announcement to make. It seems the Police are doing everything in their power to delay us today, and prevent our perfectly legal vehicle from driving on the road. It basically looks to us like they are going to prevent us at every turn, and doubtlessly find some odd reason as to why our vehicle isn't able to drive. Basically Ladies and Gentlemen, we don't want to hold you up any longer as the worlds largest arms fair is happening, and the police seem more interested in stopping legitimate protest than stopping some of the most corrupt and nasty people on the planet."
"Ladies and Gentlemen, we have just had a very important phone call from two of our agents who couldn't be here today. Apparently our SECOND TANK, a great big tracked 60 tonne tank has just left its location and is rolling towards the fair as we speak. We suggest you follow our agents and go to meet it"
Cue chaos! The shock on the faces of the assembled police at this point was a picture, as they reached for radios and dived into their vans the scene was amazing. Within 2 minutes 90% of the police had flown off down the A12 in a bid to find our second tank, the Hijackers quickly pedaling along too and the various press hailing cabs to join the chase.
click here to watch the plan C video
The tank crew disembarked, with only Bristly and Batman remaining to look after the vehicle and complete the roadside MOT. The road police, once the rest of their colleagues had left, visibly relaxed and started to chat about our vehicle and how odd it was. However as predicted, they found a few small details wrong with it, and were forced to declare it un-road worthy. They did however ask us for a few Disarm DSEi stickers as souvenirs for their notepads!
Gelatin Agent and Koshka at this point were trundling towards canning town round-about in a white UN tank about 3 times the size of our one. Just before reaching the round-about they spotted a police van up ahead. Ducking into the turret of the tank however didn't manage to hide the fact there was a massive great tank on the road. Whilst the rest of the van looked quizzically on, one of the police climbed into the back of the tank with them for a conference.
Policeman: It's really strange, but we've been holding up a group of protesters not far away from here, and they also have a tank.
Gelatin Agent: A tank?? What do you mean??
Policeman: Well, yeah, they have a tank and they are going to drive it next to the Excel Centre to demonstrate against the Arms Fair, we have set up a space for them there.
Spritely Monkey: Gelatin, it's us...
Gelatin Agent: I know... Really? That is absolutely amazing, what a funny coincidence... Do you think that would be possible for us to drive our tank there too? Wow, it would be great to get them together.
Policeman: Well, yeah, let's speak about it.
Gelatin Agent: What a wonderful thing to happen, two tanks in one day! You must be awfully busy today....
Eventually after a bit of wrangling with the Police Spritely, Gelatin Agent and Koshka managed to persuade them to escort the tank past the round about and right up to the front doors of the ExCeL centre. So a procession took place, lead by the Hijacker girls in the white tank, then followed by several riot vans and a troupe of Hijackers on bicycles.
Arriving at the ExCeL it was time to auction off the tank. Greenman took centre stage and gathered around a crowd, Protestors, cyclists, police, passing arms dealers and more police were invited to bid.
We proudly announced that after years of struggling against the arms dealers and police, we had seen the error of our ways. That the governments £400,000 support for the fair, not to mention the £4,000,000 worth of police provided, was obvious support for a business which has no regard for human life, and certainly takes no responsibility for it's actions. If arms dealers can come to London and sell weapons to regimes regardless of how these weapons are going to be used, then why shouldn't we follow suit? We therefore announced to the assembled crowd that we would be auctioning off our tank to the highest bidder, regardless of their intentions. If they so chose to drive it through the police lines and into the fair itself, we would be taking no responsibility.
This as you can imagine, resulted in a few worried looks from the line of police now surrounding us.
To get the auction started however we needed to drum up the crowd into a frenzy, as our music started, out from the turret of the tank popped our sales team. Girls and Boys in little more than body paint danced around on the tank, licked the guns, and made love to the weaponry. The arms industry is a little like a teenage boys bedroom, full of panting men, lusting over weapons and hot chicks, far be it from us to suggest that they are all a bunch of, ahem 'self pleasurers'. Loolie from artists anonymous, dressed in a red PVC nurses outfit held up a sign advertising the tank for sale, as Gelatin Agent, Alun, agent Underwater and others whipped up the crowd.
Bids started coming in thick and fast,
"A Squat in Hackney"
The value of the bids to our arms dealing hijackers rose and rose
"My first born child"
"7 Iraqi children"
Eventually after turning down several meager offers we sold the tank for fifty US dollars! As Greenman collected the cash, and Loolie stored it safely in her cleavage, the winner was hoisted up onto the tank. Agent V, cranked up the Beatrix, his very own mobile sound system, and the dancing commenced. Arms dealers continued to drive past our tank as they were harassed by the protesters.
Eventually however the party wound up, we bid farewell to the lovely people from tanks-alot.co.uk who had risked their tank to come along to the fair and headed back to our lock up. It is hard to express just exactly how relieved, shocked, exhilarated and exhausted we were at this point, I don't think any of us could really believe we had managed to pull the wool over the police's eyes and sneak a second tank right up to the fair. Beers were cracked open, the sound system was cranked up and the Hijackers partied into the night. Job Done...
Half of the point of our tank action at the DSEi arms fair was to raise the public profile of the fact that the worlds largest arms fair happens in East London every two years. A fact that seems to be largely ignored by the media, keeping the general public unaware of what is going on in their back yard and being organised by their government.
Below is a selection of the media coverage we managed to gain with our project, hopefully putting the spotlight on the fair, and putting the arms dealers under a bit more public scrutiny
The Space Hijackers xxx
We love Artists Anonymous!
more public scrutiny.