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ITT’s Hammertime!

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.

CAAT staff poised with inflatable hammers over a model of an EDO-armed fighter plane

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.

Demonstrators try to outflank police on a meadow near EDO

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.

A placard held up against the police says "ARREST MURDERERS - DON'T PROTECT THEM"

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?

For more pictures, see our set on Flickr.


Update 2010-10-15:
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 states:

“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.”

7 comments to ITT’s Hammertime!

  • I have a great deal of sympathy with opposition to the arms trade, but refusing to co-operate with the police and consequently costing the people of Brighton a six-figure sum in policing costs is not the way to win popular support for the cause. Well done for (allegedly) shutting the factory for one day (though a fat lot of difference that will make), but not well done for alienating a whole load of potential supporters yet again.

    Plus I don’t think the people or police of Brighton have forgotten the violent mayhem of the May 2009 Smash EDO protests.

    I was seriously thinking of signing up for CAAT, but having seen its links with Smash EDO I’m having to think twice.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/5273655/Police-officers-injured-in-May-Day-anti-war-protests-in-Brighton.html

    http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/8450390.Dozens_arrested_following_Smash_EDO_protest/

    • Evey

      The aim of the demonstration was to besiege EDO, as Gaza is besieged with the help of products made by EDO. There is no way that this aim could have been achieved by cooperating with police.

      Your unconditional argument for cooperation with the police is an argument not just against Smash EDO; not just against direct action; but against civil disobedience. Direct action and civil disobedience can be powerful means of bringing about social change, but they require non-cooperation with the forces of the state.

      If the Smash EDO demonstration had cooperated with police, it would have meant everyone being kept in a pen behind steel railings and lines of riot police for the entire day, possibly without access to food or water, as has happened at other demonstrations I’ve been on. No wonder the demonstrators did not want to cooperate with the police.

      As for the cost to the taxpayer, remember that cost is levied by the state, not by the anti-arms-trade activists. If the council wants to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds defending arms companies, perhaps you should take it up with them.

      Furthermore, it could be argued that making it too expensive for the government to protect arms companies could force them to withdraw support. The unpopular poll tax was scrapped precisely because the campaign against it was costing the government so much money.

      You dismiss the effect of shutting the factory for a day. “Fat lot of difference that will make,” you say. One could easily be just as dismissive about other campaign tactics – marching, holding placards, writing a letter to your MP – but wouldn’t it be better to be doing something? Shutting the factory, even for one day, would actually have a serious impact on the company. It would cost them tens of thousands of pounds and send a crucial message to all who work there.

      I admit, sometimes these demonstrations get ugly. Sometimes some people in the crowd cause needless disruption to the public and behave in ways that some members of the public find intimidating. I think that this is counter-productive and I won’t provide crowd cover for such behaviour, but I will continue to take part in these demos as long as most people there remain focused on the stated aim of shutting down the arms company.

      I was at the Mayday 2009 demo and I think it’s a shame that the behaviour of some people in the crowd (not all of whom were anti-EDO demonstrators) served to alienate members of the public. I have to say though, that Telegraph article you’ve linked to is very biased. For example, it repeats over and over again that 3 police officers received minor injuries, but it says nothing about the 30 demonstrators who were injured by police that day.

      As for the dozens of people arrested on Wednesday’s demo, it may interest you to know that every one of them has been released without charge. http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/8453107.No_charges_over_SmashEDO_protest/

      In the struggle against the arms trade I believe we must use a diversity of tactics, including direct action and civil disobedience. I have been involved in anti-arms-trade campaigning and activism for many years and I am very wary of arguments that seek to divide the movement into “good” law-abiding campaigners and “bad” law-breaking activists.

  • Evey – thanks for your response.

    I’m not sure I made any unconditional arguments. I can see the case for direct action, but that does not necessarily require complete non-cooperation. For example, if Smash EDO had cooperated with the police at least to tell them how many demonstrators they expected, that would have cut the policing cost significantly, as the police response was clearly disproportionate considering how few people showed up for the demo.

    Also, a statement from CAAT or Smash EDO distancing themselves from the excesses of the May 2009 demonstration would be a good thing to see. Maybe I missed it at the time?

    It wasn’t just EDO that was targeted or directly affected by that protest, blatantly, so it isn’t just EDO that the police are trying to protect.

    And is there confirmation that EDO did indeed close for the day? I’ve seen conflicting reports (hence “allegedly” in my previous comment).

    Thanks,

    Anthony

    • Evey

      Just as it was the aim of the demo was to besiege the factory, it was the aim of the policing operation to prevent that from happening. The relationship between the two parties is unavoidably adversarial.

      Surely you can see that it would not make sense for Smash EDO to supply the police with any intelligence that would help them to assess the level of resources they’d need to contain and neutralise the demonstration.

      Anyway, as I said previously, raising the cost of EDO’s police protection to an intolerable level may hasten the company’s demise.

      A poll on the Argus website shows that many people think that “police resources shouldn’t be used to protect a private company.” If the council made ITT contribute to the cost of its own protection (as football clubs are made to contribute to the cost of policing matches) that could help drive the company out of business.

      Smash EDO has not distanced itself from the Mayday 2009 demo, and claimed it as a success: http://www.smashedo.org.uk/pressreleases/Mayday%20Success%20.htm

      I don’t think there’s any reason for CAAT to make a statement about that demo, in which it was not involved. If it helps, CAAT’s statement of purpose says that it is “committed to nonviolence in all its work”. https://www.caat.org.uk/about/actionguidelines.php

      As for whether the factory was closed on Wednesday, check the update appended to the post above.

  • Anne-Marie

    Hi Anthony,

    Thanks for your comments. You asked for a bit more clarity on CAAT’s relationship to other anti-arms trade groups…

    CAAT has a policy of non-violence for its actions against the arms trade. Amongst other things, CAAT does not engage in physical violence, intimidation or verbal abuse. It welcomes actions aimed at disrupting or drawing attention to arms production and trade, whilst accepting that other groups and individuals may not share its understanding of non-violence.

    CAAT’s work with Smash EDO and other anti-arms trade campaigns may include:

    • informing CAAT supporters about demonstrations
    • publishing news about arms company sites and actions taken against them
    • inviting members of campaigns to write for CAAT publications or speak at CAAT events
    • exchanging research information

    We were pleased to take part in the demonstration last week, and hope that increasing pressure on EDO following the Decommissioners’ acquittal may lead the factory to close. Our participation was non-violent and as far as we know, there were no violent incidents on the day.

    Hope that helps!

    Anne-Marie

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