Over 400 people took part in a mass demonstration in Brighton on 14th October with the aim of closing the EDO MBM/ITT arms manufacturing factory. Despite a huge police operation, protesters managed to block a main road, while others managed to get to the factory through the woods to decorate it with red paint. EDO MBM/ITT was forced to close for the day.

Organised by the Smash EDO campaign, the demonstration, dubbed ‘Shut ITT!’, was the third large action against EDO MBM/ITT this year. Since 2004 Smash EDO has been holding weekly demonstrations outside the factory on Home Farm Road, in addition to regular blockades and direct actions aimed at closing down the Brighton-based factory. EDO MBM/ITT constructs military components for missile systems used in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan by the UK and US armies. The company has just started work on a renewed contract working with Raytheon (see www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=138) to supply the Paveway 4 system of munitions, which has been the ‘weapon of choice’ for US and UK forces in Iraq since 2003.

The last large mobilisation against EDO MBM/ITT, the ‘Carnival Against the Arms Trade’, was held in Brighton last June. At the ‘carnival’, up to 800 people marched from Brighton city centre to the factory, broke through police lines, and occupied the forecourt of the factory. Due to the success of the ‘carnival’, this time Sussex Police mounted a massive police operation, involving hundreds of police officers from Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey as well as the London Met’s Forward Intelligence Team (FIT). A Section 60 order was imposed, requiring demonstrators to remove face coverings. Fencing was also erected on Home Farm Road near the factory to contain protesters.

Despite these concerted attempts to suppress the demonstration, protesters clearly had the upper hand. At the meet-up point, police made several arrests while numbers were still low. However, once the march started, activists, flanked by reinforced wooden banners, were able to break through police lines and march down the A27 to Home Farm Road. As a result of the demonstration, the EDO MBM/ITT factory was closed apart from a skeleton staff, and traffic on the road by the factory ground to a halt for four hours. At the junction of Home Farm Road and Lewes Road, the police attempted to push protesters up the road into their cordon. When people refused, pepper spray and truncheons were used. Not keen to be cordoned off, the marchers split into two groups.

While some people occupied the junction of Home Farm Road and Lewes Road, about 300 others, accompanied by a sound system, climbed the hill into the woods behind the company premises. Forty bottles of red paint were reportedly thrown from the woods at the factory. Panicking, police then deployed riot cops and dog handlers, resulting in the injury of several activists and a journalist. Having got around the police cordons, protesters marched into the centre of Brighton, frustrating police attempts to corral them. In the city centre, hundreds of people sprinted through a park before police could form a line to control the march. A party on the beach followed, after almost six hours in which protesters, for the most part, reclaimed the streets of Brighton. There were ten arrests in total, mostly for refusing to remove masks. One person was arrested in relation to the June demonstration. Four houses were searched while arrestees were still in custody and up to 20 people were injured by police. Smash EDO has been campaigning to close down the EDO arms factory since 2004. Sussex police, in collusion with the directors and lawyers of EDO MBM/ITT, have made over a hundred arrests and attempted to create an exclusion zone around the factory. Nevertheless, demonstrations continue unabated and have cost the factory well over a million pounds in legal costs, lost working time and security fees.

For more information, see www.smashedo.org.uk, www.indymedia.org.uk/en/actions/2008/edo/.

A number of related solidarity actions have also taken place. On Friday, 24th October, eight protesters occupied the roof of Raytheon’s Bristol offices, with two staying for an impressive 34 hours. Raytheon produce military hardware, such as bunker busters and cluster bombs. Their hardware has been used against civilians in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere. They have a regular stall at DSEi, the world’s largest arms fair held in East London every two years. The Bristol rooftop protesters said they will be protesting every Thursday at Raytheon’s offices. On a related note, the Space Hijakers did some leafleting outside one of Clarion Events exhibitions, as the company has now decided to host the DSEi (Defence Systems Equipment International) arms fair in addition to their usual events, such as The Baby Show and the Spirit of Christmas. UNICEF have recently pulled out of The Baby Show over links with arms trade. More exhibitors have followed suit. Clarion Events have refused to comment.

Original Aricle at http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=3163

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