Mansfield vicar leads arms protest

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A peace protest led by a Mansfield vicar stopped traffic outside a London arms fair for 15 minutes, as campaigners prayed for peace around the world.

Rev Keith Hebden, based at St Peter’s in Mansfield, and two other Church of England vicars, led dozens of worshippers into the road on the approach to the Excel Centre, in East London.

Worshippers from around the country then knelt down in the road while a special peace service took place, despite police efforts to bring it to and end.

Protestors had converged on the Defence a Security Equipment International arms fair, as a host of weaponry and military equipment from around the world were being brought in on Sunday, 8th September.

Rev Hebden told the Chad: “The police at the scene spoke to me and threatened to start arresting people, but I told them that we would definitely move when we had finished.

“The police seemed to be argueing amongst themselves about whether to arrest us or not at one point, and when other protestors saw what we were doing, they gathered around to protect us.

“There was a lot of support for what we were doing and a lot of support from the police as well, because thet realised that what we were doing was peaceful.

“In the Christian tradition, at the end of the service we move around and shake hands, and most of the police officers shook hands with us.”

The event was organised by anti-capitalist network Christianity Uncut, with the support of members of Christian CND, the Student Christian Movement (SCM), the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Christian Network of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

Together they prayed for Jesus’ victory over “the spirits of militarism and violence” and asked God’s forgiveness for tolerating the arms trade, Rev Hebden said.

It is not the first time that Rev Hebden has courted controversy through the use of peaceful protest.

In 2009 he was arrested at Gloucester Cathedral for interupting a sermon being given by a controversial speaker.

In March, Rev Hebden was also involved in an anti-Burma protest at a Total garage in Mansfield.

l Rev Hebden is due to appear before Lincoln Magistrates Court in October for his alleged involvement in a peace protest at RAF Waddington.