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Bananas, Flyers, and the Control Arms Tank

27th Jun 2012

Janek Seevaratnam reports on the day Control Arms campaigners took a trip to London...with a tank in tow

When I think of activism and public engagement stunts I think of flyers, fancy dress and something (hopefully) fun. Today, in our final big stunt before the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations begin in New York in July we came armed with flyers, bananas and some dashing Control Arms t-shirts. And a tank. 

Not a toy tank, a think-tank or a fish tank, but a proper military tank. Also, this tank wasn't just stationary, but was driving through the streets of London.  I tried not to fidget with childish excitement, but it was hard (and I failed). We started off the morning by meeting with some of our amazing activists who had travelled from far and wide (as far as Manchester and Glasgow!) to be there.

 The plan was to head to a selection of embassies to deliver a letter to ambassadors concerning the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations, beginning next Monday at the UN in New York. We would meet up with the tank at every stop along the way - or so we thought. We were left waiting at the Indian Embassy, our first stop, as the tank was pulled over by the police while travelling through Westminster. Meanwhile our activists were handing out flyers and the now-famous ATT bananas to members of the public to explain what we were doing and get some final signatures for our petition. 

After the shaky start, we 'targeted'/'hit' (to quote a US Embassy aide - no flies on him!) all of the embassies successfully, with one of our energetic activists handing in the letter at each stop. You might not think a tank is particularly fast-moving but the hours whizzed past as we ran through the streets trying to keep up with it. After the final stop we were able to catch our breath and catch up with Oxfam's Anna MacDonald and Amnesty's Olly Sprague (heading up the ATT campaign for the two organisations) who gave us some great insight into the ins-and-outs of the treaty before they fly off to New York for the negotiations. 

I like to think I'm in relatively good shape, but I was struggling today. Luckily our activists, despite waking up at unearthly times to make it to London in time, were full of energy and enthusiasm and left me in my tracks (tank pun!). They really did us proud and we're hoping that their reward, other than pictures of them in front of the tank, is going to be a bulletproof Arms Trade Treaty.