George Floyd protests: Labour calls on government to ban sale of riot gear to US
UK has exported equipment including guns, tear gas and shields
Labour is demanding that the government suspend the sale of riot control equipment to the US amid the ongoing protests triggered by the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry has written to her Conservative counterpart, Liz Truss, to argue that it would “be a disgrace” if anti-riot gear from the UK is used against US citizens protesting over police brutality, The Guardian says.
“If this were any other leader, in any other country in the world, the suspension of any such exports is the least we could expect,” says Thornberry, adding that the UK cannot “shirk that responsibility now”.
Government records show that in the past year, the Department of International Trade has licensed exports of a variety of riot control weapons and equipment including anti-riot guns, so-called “rubber bullets”, tear gas and riot shields.
Although the value of the exports are believed to total many millions of pounds, no official figures are available, because sales to the US are covered by open licences where the worth of goods exported does not have to be specified, according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.
However, Labour has pointed out that the government’s own rules say such exports should not go ahead where they are likely to be used for “internal repression”.
Thornberry is calling for Downing Street to “publish a comprehensive list of all current export licences to the USA of riot control projectiles and equipment”, and to reveal “who has purchased these items and for what declared purpose within the last five years”.
“The British public deserve to know how arms exported by this country are being used across the world and the American public deserve the right to protest peacefully without the threat of violent repression,” she adds in her letter to Truss.
Meanwhile, Labour’s Dawn Butler has tweeted that she is seeking support from MPs from other parties to increase pressure on the government to halt the exports.
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Thousands of voters have also signed an online petition calling for an embargo.
Outrage is growing in countries worldwide over the response of the US authorities to the protests engulfing the nation. As Sky News reports, video footage and photographs from the demonstrations have shown “batons, tear gas and shields deployed against unarmed civilians” and journalists.