Norfolk CAAT surprised their local arms dealers, MSI Defence, ahead of the companies attendance at the DSEI arms fair in London. Group member Jan explains how death came to be haunting a factory on the outskirts of Norwich….
Norfolk CAAT decided to do an action at MSI Defence because it is a company with a local factory making military equipment, including naval guns. MSI supplies to various repressive regimes, including Saudi Arabia, and the company had a stand at the recent DSEI arms fair in London. We wanted to highlight to local people what was going on, and to show the company that we’re not happy with them making weapons in our community which maim and kill people.
MSI is located just at the edge of Norwich, close to a housing estate and a school and in an industrial estate. It’s right beside places like Homebase etc, so it looks innocuous enough with its bland MSI sign at the entrance. It’s only if you walk down to the entrance that you see the sign there says MSI Defence systems.
We met early on Friday 4th September so we would catch people going in to work at MSI and get attention from rush hour traffic. There were around 15 of us with banners and placards, and some of us wore Death costumes to draw attention to what the factory produces and the ultimate outcome of that product. We stood at the end of the long drive to the entrance so people in cars going into the factory got a great view of us, as did passing motorists. It’s a busy road at that time, as it’s a main road into Norwich and we got some friendly waves and beeps from cars as they went by.
We also had interest from school kids, who took photos on their phones, and local residents. They were all surprised and shocked when we explained what went on in the factory so close to their school and homes, particularly one woman who had lived in the area for 40 years. None of them had any idea what MSI made. One man came out from MSI and took photos of us and security asked us to move off their property, although it was hard to see where drive ended and pavement began! A community police officer spoke with us but that was all. A passing police car turned round to have a look at us, but drove off.
The company were asked to comment on the protest but all they said was no comment! The action was peaceful and I think really successful, was featured in the local press too. We are now discussing what to do next – maybe some leafletting of the local area to make people aware of the situation and want to get involved with us? It is so important to let people know what’s happening around them, and hopefully they will want to join in future protests.