Sussex students' "Books not Bombs" blockade

IssueMarch 2007

The latest skirmish in the 30-months-old campaign to drive arms company EDO-MBM out of Brighton, and out of existence, took place on Monday 19 February.

Eight students from Sussex University (conveniently situated just up the road from the factory) - including the current student union president, Dan Glass - continued a great tradition of Sussex students' pre-dawn anti-militarist activities when they locked themselves to the factory entrance soon after 5am. Banners saying “Books not Bombs” were fixed to the gates. Spokesperson Sarah Johnson explained, “This is part of a continuing campaign to highlight how much money has been put into companies like EDO rather than into essential public services.” EDO-MBM makes components for, amongst other things, Israeli missiles which have been used against Palestinian civilians. EDO-MBM has also organised conferences on the development of unmanned military aircraft. And the Brighton firm's parent company has a direct contract with the Israeli navy.

This latest action was well reported in the Brighton and Sussex media. Brighton and Hove is officially a “UN Peace Messenger City”.

Radicalising youth

After the action, Dan Glass told Peace News that they had achieved everything they set out to do. The factory was effectively closed for about six hours, with a delivery having to be turned away. Although two of the blockaders were arrested, they were subsequently de-arrested.

Since the Smash EDO campaign's legal victories against the Sussex constabulary (see previous PN reports), police action against the campaign is often less intense than it used to be. However, on this occasion, video footage of the action was seized by the police under, what campaigners feel to be, questionable circumstances.

Dan explained that involvement in successful actions against the factory was helping to radicalise local students. There are now regular nonviolent direct action trainings at the university, to prepare people for action over anti-militarist, environmental and other issues.

The campaign against EDOMBM includes local residents, students, peace and anti-capitalist activists, human rights groups, trade unionists, and others.