Despite draconian coronavirus legislation which effectively bans protest, yesterday morning eight activists took the latest in a series of actions against Elbit Systems UK, an Israeli-owned weapons manufacturer suspected of complicity in war crimes in the illegally occupied West Bank.
Palestine Action is a grassroots network of human rights activists calling for Elbit to leave or be kicked out of this country. In the last few months they have organised more than 40 non-violent direct actions including shutting down the Shenstone subsidiary UAV Engines for several days last September.
Despite all the protests, police raids and arrests, there has still been no court trial, which is something the campaigners very much want. Back in 2014, activists shut down an Elbit Midlands subsidiary but at the very last moment before the case was due to be heard, the company mysteriously refused to produce documents, and the case was dropped.
Activists believe that this demonstrates the company may not be acting lawfully, and is wary of having its business scrutinised by a court. Elbit maintains a policy of silence when approached by media and has not commented on these allegations.
Yesterday morning at the Oldham Ferranti Technologies factory, pairs of socially distanced protesters locked on at the two main gates and at the front entrance of the site, while two more climbed onto a roof above the entrance. In this action, Palestine Action were joined by activists from Extinction Rebellion North, representing an interesting development for both organisations.
The protest shut down the factory for a day, and late last night the last two activists were removed from the roof by police officers using cherry pickers.
Some pro-Israeli accounts on social media claimed that one of the protesters was a “holocaust denier”, but it turns out that the screenshots of anti-semitic posts were from a fake account that had been closed down by Twitter after investigation, and the whole claim was a false smear.
The UK government has very recently signed a £102 million deal with Elbit for a “sensor-to-shoot” system.