Portsmouth students protest against arms firms at university fair

Students from the University of Portsmouth protesting in Guildhall Square over defence firms being allowed to attend a graduate recruitment fair in Guildhall.
Students from the University of Portsmouth protesting in Guildhall Square over defence firms being allowed to attend a graduate recruitment fair in Guildhall.
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UNIVERSITY students have taken a stand against defence firms seeking to recruit graduates from Portsmouth.

About 30 students have been staging a demonstration outside Portsmouth Guildhall, where a graduate recruitment fair is today being held.

Holding plaques and waving a banner with ‘careers fair or arms fair?’, the protesters – all from the University of Portsmouth – are against having defence firms like BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin at the fair.

Helena Schofield, a third-year politics and international relations student, was worried about firms selling weapons to overseas states.

The 21-year-old said: ‘Our main focus this year is BAE Systems. They sell weapons to Saudi Arabia. These are then being used in the war in Yemen.

‘The UN has condemned the actions by Saudi Arabia in the war and we don’t want anyone who has anything to do with the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia at a graduates fair in Portsmouth.’

Another student, aged 23 and who asked not to be named, said: ‘Arms companies are morally wrong.’

BAE Systems is one of the city’s biggest employers, working on a range of aerospace and defence projects, as well as developing state-of-the-art maritime systems.

Protesters claimed the public has been receptive to their demonstration. 

Bavil Ahmed, 22, who is a first year politics and international relations student in Portsmouth, is against firms building military technology and selling it abroad.

He backed a more peaceful business approach, and said: ‘The world can survive without warfare. If you can shoot bombs at people you can shoot food at people.’

A spokeswoman for BAE Systems said: ‘As one of Britain’s leading companies at the forefront of advanced engineering and technology, we invest significantly in our education, apprentice and graduate programmes and help to develop skills that are vital for the UK economy.’