More than 150 people blockaded the entrances to an Israel-supporting arms factory in Kent on 26 October. The crowd represented a coalition of trade union members under the name Workers for a Free Palestine. The action came after Palestinian trade unionists called for everywhere unions to “end all complicity” with Israel’s attacks on Palestine. Meanwhile, activists disrupted two other factories complicit in arming Israel.
Workers for a Free Palestine
On the morning of 26 October, a group of over 150 people blocked the entrances to Instro Precision Ltd’s factory in Sandwich. Instro is a subsidiary of Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems that manufactures targeting and surveillance systems used by the Israeli military. Activists including Palestine Action previously targeted the subsidiary in 2015 and 2021.
At the front of the blockade was a large banner reading ‘Workers for a free Palestine’. The crowd comprised members of trade unions including Unite, the RMT, and the NEU. Video of the blockade shows the crowd chanting “Free, free, Palestine, Palestine” and “We are all Palestinians”:
BREAKING: This morning, dozens of trade unionists under the banner ‘Workers For A Free Palestine’ have blocked both entrances to Elbit Systems, an Israeli arms company in Kent. pic.twitter.com/ePmpIO6ilZ
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) October 26, 2023
A press release by Palestine Action said the blockade covered both the factory’s entrances, thereby forcing it to shut down for the day.
Palestinian call for help
In a press release, Workers for a Free Palestine said:
On 26th October over one hundred workers picketed an arms factory to disrupt the flow of weapons to Israel. This shows the kind of leverage workers can have when we organise together. We encourage workers to come together across workplaces to organise more protests like the one today to shut down arms factories and immediately stop the flow of arms to Israel.
It said it had organised the blockade following an international call out by Workers in Palestine, a coalition of Palestinian trade unions. The call-out asked trade unionists worldwide to:
end all forms of complicity with Israel’s crimes – most urgently halting the arms trade with Israel, as well as all funding and military research.
We are calling on trade unions in relevant industries:
- To refuse to build weapons destined for Israel.
- To refuse to transport weapons for Israel.
- To pass motions in their trade union to this effect.
- To take action against complicit companies involved in implementing Israel’s brutal and illegal siege, especially if they have contacts with your institution.
- Pressure governments to stop all military trade with Israel, and in the case of the US, funding to it.
Subsequently, Workers for a Free Palestine said it is:
building a network run by workers that will support each other to take this kind of action. We are teachers, university workers, nurses, paramedics, bar staff, and more. We will set up weekly meetings for workers who want to organise around Palestine in their workplace and union.
The first of these meetings is on 1 November at Pelican House (144 Cambridge Heath Road, London). People looking to attend can sign up here.
Shutting down more arms factories
While Workers for a Free Palestine was blockading Instro, Palestine Action took action against two neighbouring arms factories in Leicester. An activist at the Meridian Business Park locked-on to block the entrance to UAV Tactical Systems’ drone manufacturing facility. Meanwhile, nearby, a separate group occupied the factory roof of Howmet, which produces parts for F-35 jets. According to Palestine Action, both supply Israel’s military.
Alongside its own shutdowns, the group complemented the trade unionists that shut down “death dealers” Instro, and added:
These actions represent the strength in numbers of those willing and ready to take direct action to shut down the Israeli war machine – while our politicians and media rally behind Israel’s criminality, the grassroots movement against Israel’s war machine sees people power as the only way to stand against genocide.
Local paper LeicestershireLive said police arrested five people across the two blockades.
We can help
News of Israel’s massacres in Gaza and the West Bank can seem overwhelming and impossible to affect. However, these actions show it’s not impossible.
Palestine Action, already well versed in taking on the UK-Israel military-industrial complex, responded in the only way it knew how. Meanwhile, trade unionists have opened up a new front in showing solidarity. Palestinians themselves have provided guidelines on how they believe people can help, no matter where in the world they are. It’s now up to us to respond.
Featured image via Ash Sarkar/X
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