George Floyd protest: halt UK riot gear sales to US police, says Labour

Dan Sabbagh
Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Labour has called on the UK to suspend the sale of riot control equipment to the United States and review whether any British-made teargas or crowd control guns were being used against demonstrators across the United States.

Emily Thornberry, the shadow international trade secretary, has written to her opposite number, Liz Truss, arguing it would “be a disgrace” if the UK supplied material that was used by US police or national guard during crisis sparked by the death in police hands of George Floyd.

In her letter the Labour MP said: “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 from the British government in response to their actions, and our historic alliance with the United States is no reason to shirk that responsibility now.”

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According to its most recent report, the Department of International Trade in 2020 licensed the export of a variety of riot control weapons and equipment to the US including anti-riot guns, teargas and riot shields. 

No value can be placed on the crowd control equipment exported, according to Campaign Against the Arms Trade. Sales to the US are covered by open licences where the value of goods exported does not need to be specified.

Labour said that under the current arms export control regime, the government must not grant licences for the export of arms and equipment that might be used for internal repression. 

“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,” Thornberry said.