A new anti-militarist campaign is brewing in Manchester against Brimar, a company involved in the manufacture of display units for military aircraft and vehicles that are being used by the US and Israeli military. Local activists have set up the Target Brimar campaign, aimed at forcing the company to end production of military components. In September, Target Brimar published a dossier entitled The Case Against Brimar’, which profiles the company and lists the campaign’s demands.The dossier lists the weapons components manufactured by Brimar and accuses the company of complicity in war crimes. In 2006, Brimar sold components for the Apache helicopter to Israel. Earlier this year, Foreign Secretary David Miliband admitted that UK-made components for the Apache had been used in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. Richard Goldstone’s report for the United Nations lists the Apache as the weapon used to destroy grain mills in Gaza, despite the mounting food shortage, and possibly the attack on the Samouni house, one of the most notorious attacks of the massacre. When questioned by the Guardian about components for the Apache, David Eldridge of Brimar said, “These components are commercially available worldwide. If British companies are prevented from supplying the Boeing Apaches because they’ll get sent onwards to Israel, is that going to stop them from being sent? Of course not, they’ll just move on to other suppliers and it would make no difference beyond hurting British business.” – the age-old, morally redundant justification of ‘if I didn’t do it, then someone else would.’

The US Department of Defence lists Manchester-based Brimar as one of its suppliers and confirms that Brimar equipment has been used in Iraq. Brimar also supplies equipment for the British army’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Target Brimar campaign was officially launched on 17th October, with a demonstration outside the Brimar facility in Chadderton, near Manchester. Billed as a peaceful, family-friendly event, the day began with a Critical Mass from central Manchester, before protesters gathered at noon. Although the demonstration only swelled to 75 people at the most, protesters were met by a disproportionately large police presence, engaged in what seemed mainly an evidence-gathering exercise dubbed ‘Operation Banner’.

Despite the fact that there was no indication that anyone gathering for the demonstration was intending to do anything other than hold a rally outside the factory gates, and even though there were several children present, protesters at the meeting point were extensively filmed and photographed by police. Perhaps most telling of the nature of ‘Operation Banner’ was the presence of PC Sean McDonald of Sussex Police, a self-styled ‘protest specialist’, who has been instrumental in the repressive policing of the campaign against arms manufacturer EDO/MBM ITT in Brighton.

Far from concentrating  on ‘keeping the Queen’s peace’ in his own jurisdiction, McDonald chose to travel 200 miles to protect a corporate interest in Manchester. This certainly marks a worrying development in the ever-tightening relationship between state police and the military industrial complex, where the supposedly unbiased forces of the law are increasingly used by private companies, both as well-funded corporate security, and as tools of intimidation, through their evidence-gathering and criminalisation of perfectly lawful conduct. Like so many other ethically questionable businesses, Brimar is obscurely located in an urban industrial park. Despite the lack of bystanders, the demonstration was hailed by a few supportive car horns as it ambled, police in tow, towards the factory (incidentally, passing BAE Systems along the way). Arriving in the cul-de-sac outside Brimar, participants were treated to food, music and speeches about the company and the campaign. Fifteen minutes into this quiet rally, with the majority of those present seated on the ground eating samosas, the police line supervising proceedings, seizing a moment when there were no independent witnesses, swept in and grabbed three people from behind. The three arrested are all defendants in the upcoming EDO Decommissioners’ court case. Along with six co-defendants, they are accused of conspiring to commit criminal damage at the EDO MBM/ITT premises in Brighton in January 2009 (see www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=3192). Eight defendants are on bail, on the condition that they have no contact with on another. One, Elijah Smith, remains on remand. The arrests took place on the premise that the ‘contact’ condition had been breached. However, police were unable to produce any evidence that this was the case. The defendants were brought before Oldham Magistrates court on Monday, 19th October, having spent 48 hours in custody. Due to the time-sensitive nature of the alleged bail offences, the case was abandoned and the three defendants were released without charge. Although marred by the arrests and the intimidatory tactics of the police, the inaugural Target Brimar demonstration seemed a positive start for a determined and well organised campaign; a campaign that has managed to attract support from as far afield as Brighton, Nottingham and Edinburgh. The campaign against Brimar is the latest in a growing number of targeted anti-arms campaigns in the UK, garnering active support and solidarity through the Anti-Militarist Network.

Operating in the same vein as Shut Down Heckler & Koch (www.shutdownhk.org.uk), Smash Raytheon (http://raytheonout.wordpress.com) and Smash EDO (www.smashedo.org.uk), Target Brimar is also inspiring local interest in international human rights violations, making corporate profiteering a community issue and challenging the misleading justifications and rhetoric of the the arms trade. To find out more about Target Brimar, visit www.targetbrimar.org.uk. To find out more about the Anti-Militarist Network and the campaigns involved, see www.antimilitaristnetwork.org.uk.

For more information about the EDO decommisioning and the upcoming trial, see www.decommissioners.co.uk or www.smashedo.org.uk.

Original article at http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/?lid=3444

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