On Monday 1st July, activists walked calmly through security gates at Discovery Park, an industrial estate near Sandwich in Kent, and entered the grounds of Instro Precision which makes scopes for drones, guns and surveillance equipment amongst other things.
The company is one of four UK based companies owned and controlled by Elbit Systems – a massive Israeli arms company with close ties to the Israeli state government. Elbit make 80% of the drones that were used in Operation Protective Edge, an Israeli operation from 2014 in which thousands of Palestinians were killed (including more than 500 children) and over 10,000 were injured. Amnesty research showed that there was a failure to avoid excessive harm to civilians and was therefore a war crime.
The activists put D-locks on both vehicle entrances to the factory and some climbed on top of a shipping container while others sprayed graffiti on the windows at the front of the building and on a shutter door at the rear of the building.
Police arrived and entered into long discussions with senior managers, including Carl Miller the Operations Director. After several hours, a cutting team arrived with police reinforcements, and once the front gates had been freed, dozens of staff (who had been inside the building on an early or overnight shift) were escorted from the premises while activists chanted, held banners and handed out leaflets.
Mr Miller then locked up the building and police communicated to the protesters that they were free to leave at any time without arrest.
After a total of six and a half hours, and satisfied that the action had closed Elbit-Instro for the day, the activists, some of whom were from East Kent Campaign Against the Arms Trade, left together.
The big question is surely that if Instro’s business is entirely lawful, why on earth would they instruct police not to make any arrests, given that lock-ons, graffiti and disruption of business all have clear legal ramifications?
In a synchronised action on the same day, activists in Oldham targeted another Elbit factory there and some remained in occupation for three days, temporarily closing it down.
The Kent action was the sixth in Thanet, but the first at Instro’s new site on Discovery Park, making it clear that arms manufacturers are not welcome in Kent.
It seems that Elbit is such a dodgy company that even HSBC, who aren’t exactly known for their moral rectitude, have decided to divest their $600k shareholding due to concerns over illegal cluster munitions.
Credit: Jerusalem Post
Palestinians have called for an international embargo on the trade of weapons to and from Israel, and urge individuals and groups to take direct action to shut down Elbit factories across the UK.
More info via #StopArmingIsrael and @BlockTheFactory
UPDATE: We’ve heard that the Oldham activists, although originally arrested when they came down after three days, have all been released without charge. Elbit are seemingly very forgiving at having their Oldham factory closed down for two whole days.