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Stop Elbit: Kent activists rooftop occupation of an Israeli drone factory

On 17 February 2015, members of East Kent Campaign Against Arms Trade were among several groups who staged a rooftop occupation of a local arms factory. The action was hugely successful, receiving widespread media coverage and extensive local support. You can see a video report of the day here. Here, one of the activists gives her account of the day.

Protesters on the roof at a Kent arms company site

For 13 hours last Tuesday, we occupied the rooftop of a factory owned by the Israeli army’s drone supplier, Elbit Systems. We hung enormous banners advertising Elbit’s role in Israel’s war crimes, took phone calls from the press and pitched a tent against the cold.

The front gates down below were locked to a supporter’s neck. At least 3 lorries trying to deliver parts were turned away and so were workers at the plant. A stream of press and passers-by were greeted by a crowd of activists with banners.

And yet, perhaps the biggest news of all was that despite a day of bad publicity for Elbit, despite the loss in profits and the message that it sent to anyone who thinks of occupying roofs of weapons factories – the policy of Kent Police was not to make arrests. All day they stood back while we carried out the action; then they watched us climb down from the roof and drive away.

We occupied the factory because Elbit Systems supplies the Israeli army with 85% of the drones that are used to terrorise and kill in Palestine. Last summer, Israel’s brutal bombing of the Gaza strip was condemned by numerous experts as involving war crimes. Drones were instrumental in those crimes. We occupied the factory because we don’t want Elbit operating on our doorstep and we don’t think it’s acceptable – or maybe even lawful – to export weapons parts from Kent to Israel.

We want to take the case against the Government and Elbit to the courts. We want to know on what grounds and for which weapons parts the government has granted Elbit export licences to Israel. But one or the other – Elbit or the Government – is fighting shy. Two weeks before our action, the case was dropped against protesters who had occupied another Elbit factory at the peak of Israel’s actions in the summer. The case was dropped, apparently, because the company managers refused to testify against a group of people who had cost them days of negative publicity and dented profits. The managers’ refusal came on the eve of the scheduled case and just in time to prevent the defence from accessing the details of the export licences to Israel approved by the British Government.

If Elbit or the Government don’t want a court case, they must have even more to hide than sent us to the rooftop in the first place.

If you’d like to take action against the arms trade, you can find your local arms company by going to our arms company map and entering your postcode. To get in touch with East Kent Against Arms Trade, email caatekent(at)riseup*net

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