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Pressure continues to mount on Brighton weapons-component manufacturers EDO MBM, as Brighton anti-war campaigners identified EDO as a key link in Israel's military machine. Andrew Beckett reports.

Bringing the war to the factory floor

The recent Israeli onslaught on Gaza and Lebanon has been conducted with the help of weaponry made in Brighton. In the last months, Israel has engaged in an illegal assault on the civilian population of Gaza, and has invaded Lebanon killing hundreds of Lebanese civilians. These are war crimes under international and English Law. Israel could not carry out these acts without the support of foreign corporations. We aim to “bring the war back to the factory floor”.

Smash EDO regularly pickets the factory to remind the management of their complicity in war crimes. Non violent direct action such as locking to the gates, occupying the roof, or blocking the road aims to disrupt production and highlight the nature of the business conducted inside the anonymous looking factory. The campaign is regularly featured in the media. Sussex police have been determined to shut down the campaign. They have made more than 40 arrests at the factory and in town centre demonstrations. All but four of those arrested have had their charges dropped.

Love and rage

Campaigners have been determined to step up the pace of the campaign since the bombing of Lebanon began. In August, three protesters locked themselves to barrels of concrete outside the factory, blocking all vehicle access for the day. The police were clueless as to how to remove them and they were left to unlock themselves - no arrests were made. Later that week, protesters brought models of mutilated bodies to the road outside the factory in an attempt to show the workers the true horrors of war; later that month, Palestine solidarity protesters held a “day of rage” at the factory against the bombardment of Gaza and Lebanon.

Following the massacre in Qana, two protesters scaled the factory walls and held a twelve-hour rooftop protest supported by a noise demonstration below (see PN2477).

The “peace” city?

On 16 September, in the run-up to UN International Day of Peace, hundreds of protesters delivered a petition to Brighton's “Peace Messenger Envoy” demanding that the council condemn the factory's activities. Prior to the demo the local Green Party issued a press release stating that the factory must close.

The march was met by considerable police repression, including written police threats to arrest organisers prior to the march. Smash EDO do not negotiate marches with the police, seeing the demand for negotiation as a threat to civil liberties. Sussex Police have done nothing to inspire the trust of the people of Brighton, deliberately conspiring with EDO to make spurious arrests and to harass protesters.

However the march went ahead and, because of the determination of the marchers, a Section 14 order preventing the march entering the Town Centre was never enforced. The march ended in a stand-off on North Street with the police preventing marchers from reaching the Town Hall to present the petition.

Eventually the relevant councillor was forced to come and collect the petition on the street.

There's a hole in your fence

EDO MBM was blockaded again in the early hours of 21 September - this time all access to the factory was totally blocked. Workers began to arrive at 6am and, by 8am, more than 100 of them were scratching their heads wondering what to do, as protesters announced over a megaphone that they were complicit in murder and should resign.

The protest then took a bizarre turn as Paul Hills, managing director of EDO MBM, climbed his own fence, produced an angle grinder, and cut a hole in the factory's fence so that employees could get to work; no arrests were made.

The Smash EDO campaign has continued to grow, and aims to prove that, “Every bomb that is dropped, every bullet that is fired in the name of this war of terror has to be made somewhere. And, wherever that is, it can be resisted”

Smash EDO c/o Sussex ESF, c/o Unemployed Centre, 6 Tilbury Place, Brighton BN2 OGY (07891 405923; smashedo@hotmail.com; http://www.smashedo.org.uk)

Andrew Beckett is press officer for Smash EDO