Activists in Scotland were arrested Tuesday for blockading and shutting down Thales UK, renowned Govan, Glasgow-based weapons manufacturer, to protest the company's role in producing drones used by Israel against Palestinian people.
Early Tuesday morning some protesters climbed onto and occupied the factory roof while others obstructed the building's entrances by lying on the ground and attaching to each other by arm tubes. The six blockaders on the ground were arrested first. Then police attempted to starve out the roof occupiers by cutting off their food and water supply, as well as their blankets, for approximately five hours, Blair Poutney, a supporter of the direct action, told Common Dreams by phone.
Nonetheless, before they were all arrested, the direct action participants were able to halt the work of the factory from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM, effectively preventing the working day from proceeding, said Poutney.
"Drones are a key part of Israel's military arsenal," Fiona McDermot, one of the people who occupied the roof of the factory, stated before being arrested. "By allowing this factory to export drone components and other arms to Israel, the UK government is providing direct support and approval to Israel’s massacres."
The activists hail from Glasgow Palestine Action, described by Poutney as a collective of organizations and networks who oppose the UK's arms trade with Israel.
"Thales UK is working with Elbit Systems to make the next generation of 'Watchkeeper' drones, a contact worth £1 billion," reads a statement released Tuesday by the protesters. "These drones are based upon the Hermes 450, which was documented killing Palestinian civilians in Gaza in 2008-2009. The drones are marketed as 'field tested' – which means they have proven effective at killing Palestinians."
“I think it's a disgrace that these weapons are being made on our back door," said local resident Sandra Beatie. "I had no idea this was happening.”
The protest is a response to Israel's recent military assault on the besieged Gaza strip, killing over 2,000 civilians, at least 75 percent of whom were civilians, according to UN estimates.
According to the protesters, culpability in Israel's assault on Gaza extends far beyond Thales UK. "This is a message to Glasgow City Council who fly the Palestinian flag on our City Chambers while simultaneously arming Israel with the weapons they need to bomb Gaza," protester Leena O'Hare said earlier Tuesday. "The UK government, by allowing Thales to operate with Elbit systems, have blood on their hands. Last year alone the UK government had 381 extant arms licenses to Israel, worth almost £8 billion."
O'Hare continued, "We demand that the Scottish government puts pressure on the UK government to end arms sales to Israel. And also takes active steps towards ending the production of weapons systems in Scotland that are connected to apartheid, colonialism and genocide. Another Scotland is possible!"