Yesterday I took part in an action which managed to close down arms factory EDO/ITT/MBM for a day. The extremely heavy policing stopped us from blocking the road to the factory, but tens of police vans in our way meant our actions had the desired effect: to close the factory and maximise economic damage to an arms company that the Smash EDO campaign hope to drive out of Brighton.
The action (tagline: “If I had a hammer…”) was inspired by the acquittal of the Decommissioners, who caused £300,000 worth of damage to assembly lines during Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2009. By aiming to “besiege” the factory by blocking its access roads, protesters stood in solidarity with Palestinians who live under siege. The hope is that more civil resistance to EDO’s presence in Brighton will prove the final straw for this arm’s companies operations in Brighton.
We succeeded in shutting the factory down for a day, but unfortunately not in the way we’d hoped. The vast and oppressive police presence graphically highlighted the lengths the state will go to to prop up this deadly industry.
Before we had even left the convergence space this morning, the house was surrounded by police in a ratio of approx 1.5 vanloads to every protester! No one would be allowed free movement if the police could help it. It is remarkable then that many people managed to stay mobile for much of the day. Though the police disrupted our plan, protestors disrupted their plan too by refusing to remain penned in a “designated protest area” for the day.
As documented in the Schnews documentary, “On the Verge”, police have taken a heavy-handed approach since the Smash EDO campaign was launched. Many suspect collusion between the arms company and senior police to put a stop to protests, and this seemed in evidence yesterday: the local paper reports that though 53 people were arrested, none have been charged. Arrests were effectively used to demobilise the protest.
I have spent much of the year working to expose the vast scale of taxpayer support the arms industry enjoys through the government’s arms sales unit. That the state could mobilise such force today to protect a company that has been found in court to have supplied parts used in atrocities in Gaza emphasised how important it is to take on the links between the establishment and arms companies.
Yesterday 250 people taking to the streets shut down an arms factory for a day. Earlier this year, Raytheon left Derry following a local campaign. Who knows what else we’ll be capable of as more people get involved in the movement to end the arms trade?
There are conflicting reports about whether the factory was actually shut down for the day.
The Argus reports:
“Early reports the factory had closed for the day proved unfounded.”
whereas Smash EDO stated:
“The demo did what it said on the tin, the factory was closed down (save for a few senior management). At 9am there were no cars in the EDO car park so the early shift clearly did not come in to work. By 11am the EDO site had been transformed into a base for the police operation, with police dog teams housed in a makeshift compound in EDO’s car park.”