SmashEDO besiege Brighton bomb factory

Yesterday the Smash EDO ITT’s Hammertime demonstration saw 300 protesters surrounding Brighton’s bomb factory and demonstrating against EDO/ITT for six hours.

The demo was named for the 2009 Decommissioning, when a group of activists broke in to the EDO/ITT factory, decommissioning it with hammers to stop the production of weapons components being used by the Israeli military in the Gaza war. The Decommissioners were victorious in court, when they were unanimously acquitted of conspiracy to commit criminal damage in June.

Chloe Marsh, SmashEDO press spokesperson, said, “Today’s demonstration was about showing EDO that the victory of the Decommissioners in June will not be forgotten, that EDO/ITT’s complicity in war crimes is acknowledged far beyond Brighton. ITT’s weapon’s are not only wreaking havoc in Gaza, but in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. ITT continues killing, and it’s time to finally kick them out of town”. 

Early in the morning an accommodation centre in Stanmer Park, where some attending the demonstration were staying, was surrounded by police vans and riot police, and those inside forced to leave in a police cordon.

Despite this, a large group of undeterred protesters were able to meet in Wild Park, and head towards the factory, accompanied by a papier mache F16 aeroplane emblazoned with the words ‘Smash EDO’.

The demonstration was met with a high level of police repression, with police continually attempting to push protesters into a ‘designated protest zone’. Demonstrators were also assured by police that there would be no police photography, after which the police surveillance teams appeared.

Large sections of the demonstration were able to stay mobile and carry on demonstrating freely against the factory for several hours.

SmashEDO press spokesperson Andrew Beckett said “Despite repeated assertions that they were ‘facilitating peaceful protest’, the police employed highly repressive tactics in an attempt to quash the demonstration from the start. The large numbers of arrests made today, mostly from within police cordons, will only be used to attempt to justify this massive and disproportionate police operation to protect the workings of EDO/MBM ITT”.

At the time of release there were up to 40 arrests and at least 2 injuries.

SmashEDO Press Spokespeople Andrew Beckett and Chloe Marsh
Phone: 07526557436
Mail: smashedopress@riseup.net

Notes for Journalists:

The Company

From their base in Moulescoombe Brighton, EDO MBM/ITT, a unit of ITT corporation, manufacture vital parts for the Hellfire and Paveway weapons systems, laserguided missiles used extensively in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Somalia. EDO Corp were recently acquired by ITT in a multi-billion pound deal. ITT’s links to fascism go back to the 1930s. The founder Sosthenes Behn was the first foreign businessman received by Hitler after his seizure of power.

The Campaign

There has been active campaign against the presence of EDO MBM in Brighton since the outbreak of the Iraq war. Campaigners include students, Quakers, Palestine solidarity activists, anti-capitalists and academics. Despite an injunction under the protection of harassment act (which failed) and over forty arrests the campaign is still going strong.Their avowed aim is to expose EDO MBM and their complicity in war crimes and to remove them from Brighton. They hold regular weekly demos outside the Moulescoombe factory on Wednesday’s between 4 and 6.

THE FILM

On the Verge is an independent film about the SMASH EDO Campaign “In 2004 a group of Brighton peace campaigners began to bang pot and pans outside their local arms manufacturers EDO MBM in disgust of their part in the Iraq war. This has grown into the Smash EDO campaign, which has cost the company millions, been the subject of large scale police operations and has tested the right to protest in the UK.Using activist, police and CCTV footage plus interviews with those involved in the campaign, ‘On The Verge’ tells the story of one of the most persistent and imaginative campaigns to emerge out of the UK’s anti-war movement and direct action scene.”

SmashEDO press release
e-mail: smashedopress@riseup.net
Homepage: http://smashedo.org.uk

A report of the day

For anyone intrested who was there or not there, here is a report made entirely from first hand observations or direct reports from trusted sources as to what they were seeing. (ie no rumours or hear say, no relying on reporters or twitterers): 

After most people were gathered in the park, a large contingent of police approached and informed us we would be escorted to the designated protest area (pen).

Majority of demonstrators decided they would prefer a nice ramble and ran into the woods, some stayed in the fields.

Those in the woods emerged on the otherside into a field with numerous police including mounted officers, after some cat and mouse games two groups were kettled. One of these groups was released after people surrounded the police who then started to panic, however they were unable to reach the second group. Those not kettled split off into around 3 large groups and numerous small groups and dissapeared into the woods/residential areas before police were able to seal them in.

One group of aprox 50 marched back up lewes road towards homefarm road but was disrupted by horses and moterbikes, barriers were taken by marchers not to blockade but to use as shields.
Local kids in the school were shouting greetings to the protesters and seemed excited about their presence (running to the closest edge of their playing field for a closer look). The marching group was prevented from moving back towards homefarm road by a large police contingent, around half stayed and half headed back towards the centre.

These 25 were met by another group leading to about 40-50 heading into the centre (by the pavement), this group ended up running down side streets to avoid police containment. As they walked along london road several vans of riot police jumped out and charged them, however only around 15 ended up kettled the rest escaping.

These 15 were marched ALL the way back to homefarm road by a large police escort, which ended up taking up the whole of one side of lewes road disrupting more traffic than all the protesters previously combined!

At this point around 70 people seemed to be kettled in two kettles, the rest disperesed around the centre and the fields/woods above EDO.

Police arrested almost everyone in one kettle, released others.

Lots of reports of EDL/ENA ‘around’, one group of EDL attacked some smashedoers but had underestimated their numbers and strength and were resisted and ended up fleeing. 1 EDL member and 1 other person were arrested. Some EDL then seen leaving brighton via trains, the rest didn’t rear the heads for the rest of the evening following their brief fight and defeat. 

To sum up:
good points:
mobile protest out manuvered numerically superiour police force often.
around 50% of non protesting locals supportive.
atleast one kettle group freed.
lots of exercise!
fash quickly dealt with by locals.

bad points:
factory still open! (surely the blockade would have had to start before staff arrived to be affective?)
only around 150 present, as opposed to 1500+ at may day 2009.
mass arrests by police to prevent ‘further breach of the peace’ without any real breach in the first place.
few people knew their way around the woods/fields.
Protests against barclys largely ineffective.
around 50% of the locals either pesamistic “you wont win anyway”, apathetic “k, i just want to buy a sub”, or negative “get a job hippie”.

Demonstrators accused of violence (despite not hurting any police, EDOers or passers by), breach of the peace (for walking on pavements, having the nerve to protest, or running away from police), and property damage (one attempted gluing to some bank doors is all). Although the protest was disobedient, it would be hard to argue it wasn’t peaceful. 

first hand observer

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