Scuffles Break Out At Palestinian Solidarity Demo In UK

UK police arrest 8 at Israeli arms factory protest to mark the anniversary of last years Gaza conflict

Police clashed with Palestinian solidarity activists in Shenstone near Birmingham on Monday, after they gathered outside an Israeli drone manufacturing company UAV Engines.

Staffordshire Police have been accused of being a “heavy-handed” during their intervention at a protest to mark the anniversary of last year’s Gaza conflict.

At least eight people were arrested during the demonstration outside the factory which is owned by a subsidiary of Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems.

RT reports:

An activist with London Palestine Action, speaking in personal capacity, told RT that the demonstration was meant to be a “fun, creative” experience, but was met with “aggressive [and] forceful police tactics.”

Campaigners estimate 200 people attended the protest near Birmingham, which was the site of a similar blockade in August 2014.

The protest was timed to mark the one-year anniversary of start of the Gaza conflict. Activists held a memorial service for the 2,200-plus Palestinian victims, 490 of whom were children.

Protests were also held in Tamworth and Broadstairs in the UK, and Melbourne in Australia.

Shenstone protesters targeted the UAV Engines factory where engines for Hermes, one of Israel’s primary armed drones, are manufactured.

Drones owned by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) may have been used in attacks that resulted in civilian deaths and violated international law, according to reports by Human Rights Watch and The Guardian.

A variety of campaign groups including War on Want, Campaign Against the Arms Trade and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign united under the umbrella movement “Block the Factory” to organize the day of action.

Protesters posted videos on Twitter indicating a heavy police presence. At one point, a police officer is seen dragging a man holding a megaphone out of a crowd and arresting him.

protest outside an Israeli arms factory

Speaking to RT, activist Alex Levan, 31, said organizers had intended the protest to be peaceful.

“There were lots of police from early on,” he said. “They were very rough, they manhandled protestors, [and] they were very heavy-handed.”

“The idea was to reclaim the space around the factory and to turn it into a real festival environment, a creative activist environment with workshops, with a family space, with arts and crafts.”

“But the police were heavy-handed, they’ve made at least 10 arrests, but there will probably be more. These were completely unprovoked arrests, these were peaceful protests,” he added.

“But we did spend the majority of the day, from the early hours of the morning, blocking the factory.”

The protest succeeded in halting factory production for the day.