Oct 26, 2010

#BDS: Police repress convergence on UK weapons factory

As Israeli warplanes flew over Gaza on 13 October, activists converged on Brighton, United Kingdom for the annual mass action against the local EDO/ITT factory that produces components used in weapons by the Israeli Air Force, amongst others, to devastating effect.

Faces clad, dozens of protesters attempted to break through police lines. Outnumbered by police three to one, the activists were chased down, detained and arrested. The surreal background symphony continued: photographers' flashes, stubborn traffic attempting to worm its way through police lines, the chants of "Free Palestine!" and the unmistakable sound of a police chopper circling overhead.

The campaign against EDO/ITT is now in its sixth year and this was the fifth convergence of its kind. The British police's heavy-handed crackdown on the action should perhaps be no surprise given the success of past Smash EDO convergences and the ongoing weekly protests against the factory. The repression began in the early hours of the morning as dozens of activists sleeping in an accommodation center in Stanmer Park, located twenty minutes from the planned protest site, awoke to find the building surrounded by 27 riot police vans. Those trapped inside were only permitted to leave inside a police cordon -- a mobile means of detention. Protesters who were able to reach the planned convergence space, a park close to the EDO/ITT factory, quickly met with an overwhelming force of riot police on foot and horseback.

Undeterred, protesters, numbering around 300, splintered off into smaller groups as the day quickly developed into an elaborate, and wholly unequal game of pursuit between activists and police. Sights such as a group of protesters, pursued by police, taking off into the woods carrying a largepapier-mache airplane and inflatable hammers underlined the tragicomic nature of the demonstration. Two Israeli activists taking part in the action held an impromptu talk about the realities of day-to-day life for Palestinians under Israeli occupation to those held captive alongside them in a police cordon.

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