Activists take aim at police following eight arrests over Oldham arms factory protest

Activists involved in a local arms factory protest have taken aim at what they call a pattern of police harassment.

This comes following the arrests of eight Extinction Rebellion North and Palestine Action activists last week.

The group of activists had prevented a factory, used by Elbit Systems UK, from opening.

In the early hours of Monday morning, they stormed and occupied the Ferranti technologies plant, halting production for 16 hours and causing £20,000 worth of damage.

Speaking on Friday, Palestine Action said: “The attempt to harass, coerce, intimidate and shut down Palestine Action, is part of a much broader exercise to dilute our civil liberties and our right to protest.

“This is a political move by a government attempting to oppress and incarcerate its own citizens.

“This futile, poorly-managed attempt to pressure activists into submission will not stop us, or even slow us down.

“Our actions expose, disrupt and destroy the companies which profit off the death and destruction of the Palestinian people and other oppressed groups across the world.”

Police have previously used blackmail legislation and counter terrorism legislation to arrest members. But for every one that is arrested, two more seem to volunteer in their place.

The group confirmed: “In fact, we are growing faster because of the police crackdowns and we will continue to grow, continue to fight, continue to enrol, continue to #ShutElbitDown and continue to work to end all UK complicity in Israel’s settler-colonial Apartheid regime.”

Palestine Action have also vowed to target Lockheed Martin next, another, similar arms company.

Elbit is Israel’s largest private arms company, and supplies around 80% of their drone fleet. They
have 10 UK sites, five of which are factories.

The company provides border surveillance not only for use in Palestinian Territories, but also for use on the US-Mexico border.

The company also supply arms to what activists dubbed ‘fascistic’ governments in Brazil and in the

This year, our own Ministry of Defence have signed contracts with Elbit which will involve trials for surveillance in UK waters too.

Palestine Action were set up in August 2020 and have already hit 40 sites across the UK that they deem complicit in the Israeli regime, dousing them in dripping red paint to symbolise the blood on the hands of arms dealers, and breaking equipment used to manufacture arms.

Their longest occupation streak so far is six days.

Their rationale for turning to radical direct action such as this is that years of peaceful protests, endless petitions and letters sent to MPs have amassed to no meaningful change.

In fact, our government’s ties to Elbit Systems, and Israel’s security services seem to be deepening. Impressively, despite Palestine Action’s social media pages frequently being taken down for violating terms of service, the group have a strong online presence and ample support.

Their advocates include Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.

On social media, Palestine Action run activist training workshops and publish tutorials on tactics from graffiti stencils to ‘locking on’ to gates and buildings effectively.

This has undoubtedly contributed to their swelling numbers, making participation easily accessible at various different levels. So has their willingness to collaborate with other, better established, protest groups.

Amnesty International has also called for the UK government to halt export of these arms to Israel, citing evidence that drone parts made in Elbit’s UK factories were being used on Palestinian civilians, including children, and key infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and mosques.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said: “The UK government must ensure that weapons exports to Israel do not fuel human rights abuses.

“[The government] should suspend all arms exports to Israel, including indirect exports via other countries and the sale of military components, until there is no longer a substantial risk that such equipment will be used for serious violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.”

Photos courtesy of Vladimir Morozov

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