Richard Barnard, one of the co-founders of direct action network Palestine Action was dramatically arrested in a police operation in north London yesterday afternoon and held at Barkingside police station overnight.
He was apparently detained under suspicion of ‘blackmail’. Colleagues believe this is related to the campaign’s actions against a Mayfair company called LaSalle Management Ltd, which owns the building in Kingsway where Israeli arms company Elbit Systems UK have their head office. Last month Barnard appeared in a video they released, speaking about the campaign against LaSalle and threatening a hunger strike if LaSalle don’t stop supporting Elbit and taking their rent. Another division of LaSalle operate controversial refugee detention centres in the US.
Elbit manufactures parts for the majority of the drones which have been used by the IDF in the occupied territories in actions which groups such as the United Nations and Amnesty International have labelled war crimes. Elbit advertises its weapons systems as ‘battle-tested’ and trades on their use in Palestine, where civilians have repeatedly been targeted by Israeli forces.
The arrest came just two days after protesters shut down Elbit’s Oldham subsidiary on Monday. The eight activists were all released without charge after being arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. Elbit has yet to pursue the action group to court.
A spokesperson for Palestine Action, Huda Ammori said:
“The only thing we can assume this is about is [Palestine Action] demanding that companies do not associate with war criminals, and if they do we will take action. This is not blackmail. This is asking for companies to abide by International Law and Human Rights Conventions.
“This is just another extension of harassment by the police. We will not be deterred by police harassment; we will only grow stronger and call on everyone to join us in forcing war criminals out”.
Both LaSalle and Elbit appear to operate no comment policies to press enquiries. LaSalle also have a bizarre ‘no-names’ policy, whereby it’s not possible to speak to a press officer or spokesman unless you know their name in advance, but you can’t find out any names.
Barnard was released on bail this afternoon.