Hundreds protest outside defence factories against arms being sent to Israel

Hundreds of campaigners have staged protests outside a number of defence factories in the latest demonstration against arms being sent to Israel.

The campaign group Workers for a Free Palestine said it had blockaded sites in Bournemouth, Glasgow, Brighton and Lancashire, some of which are operated by defence giant BAE Systems.

The company’s shipyard in Glasgow was targeted in the early morning protests on Thursday, which the campaign group said demonstrated it was escalating its action after previous blockades.

The demonstrators are urging BAE and other companies to end their ties with Israel and cease all weapons, defence and supplies trading with them.

They are also calling on the UK Government to back a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and are calling for an end to the occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Protesters form a blockade outside Eaton mission systems in Wimborne near Bournemouth
Protesters form a blockade outside Eaton Mission Systems in Wimborne near Bournemouth (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The biggest protest was at Eaton Mission Systems in Wimborne near Bournemouth where around 600 people took part.

Jenny, a spokeswoman for the Workers for a Free Palestine group, who did not give her surname, said: “The fighter jets these factories help to produce are being used to imprison the people of Gaza in a death trap.

“They are ordered to evacuate when they have nowhere safe to go, while our Government still refuses to back a ceasefire.

“Workers all over Britain are rising up for Palestine, saying we will not allow arms used in a genocide to be supplied in our name and funded by our taxes.

“Our movement is growing rapidly and gaining more momentum each day.

“We are escalating our tactics and today’s blockades are seeing unprecedented numbers of people take part in the disruption of Israeli arms manufacturing in Britain, in concert with workers targeting Israeli arms suppliers around Europe.

“We won’t stop shutting down these factories until they stop supporting Israel’s murderous war machine.”

Activists holding a banner saying “Stop Arming Israel” could be seen at one of the entrances to the Govan factory, while at another demonstrators held Palestinian flags.

They claim that BAE systems produces components of weapons sold to Israel, such as the F35 combat aircraft and the Mk 38 Mod 2 machine gun system.

Scott, a youth worker aged 26, who did not wish to give his surname, said: “We are not here to shame or blame workers at BAE.

“The company’s management decides what to produce and who to sell to – it is them we hold accountable for being part of the chain of killing.”

Activists blocking one of the site entrances in Govan chanted “free, free Palestine” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

Protesters form a blockade outside BAE Systems in Govan
Protesters form a blockade outside BAE Systems in the Govan area of Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)

One of those demonstrating in Govan, who gave his name only as Oli, said people in Glasgow are saying “enough is enough”.

He told the PA news agency: “We wanted to stop business and to tell BAE we are prepared to do this as long as we can to make you think twice about the decisions you make.

“Glasgow does not need to make war machines.

“Glasgow and the people of Glasgow are saying we want to make things that are useful for people, not harmful.”

Jay, a visual artist aged 24, said: “I came here today to show that direct action is for everyone and that together, we can change the way the world turns.”

A BAE Systems spokesperson said: “We’re horrified by the situation in Israel and Gaza and the devastating impact it’s having on civilians in the region and we hope it can be resolved as soon as possible.

“We respect everyone’s right to protest peacefully.

“We operate under the tightest regulation and comply fully with all applicable defence export controls, which are subject to ongoing assessment.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Officers were in attendance at a protest outside a premises in Govan Road, Glasgow, on Thursday, 7 December, 2023.

“Protestors have now left the area, no arrests were made and officers left the scene shortly before 1.30pm.”

Similar protests were held in other European countries on Thursday including France and Denmark.