Friday, 17 October 2008

Arms Manufacturer Quashes Protest

Article from The Argus:

In April 2005 The Argus ran a story about how an arms manufacturing company had managed to secure a ban on civil protest against the production and export of weapons to be used in war-torn countries. Over the years the company secured more than that, it secured a ban on civil protest even in Brighton's town centre, therefore a march against the factory was denied grounds by the Council.

EBO MBM Technology, an arms factory in Home Farm Road, Brighton, obtained a High Court ruling banning demonstrations of larger than ten people outside their premises and only permitting protests once a week.

An interim injunction has been in place since April 2004 which forbids anyone from entering an exclusion zone around the factory for the purpose of protesting.

EDO MBM is part of the US-owned EDO Corporation which supplies weapons components to governments around the world. The Brighton plant makes bomb release and interface equipment which has reportedly been used in Iraq.

The defendants argued that the Iraq war was illegal and so weapons manufacturers in the UK which make equipment for use by the British military there can be held responsible for war crimes.

Then a few days ago this happened.

'Baton-wielding police clashed with protesters yesterday as an anti-arms demo erupted into violence.

About a dozen people were injured as skirmishes flared during the demo – the latest in a series aimed at EDO/ITT, the Brighton-based weapons component manufacturer.

The main flashpoint occurred on Lewes Road, by the junction with Home Farm Road in Moulsecoomb, as hundreds of protesters came up against scores of police.

Officers closed both lanes of Lewes Road just after 1pm and prevented most of the group from moving south of the viaduct, which crosses the road.

Pepper spray was used on the crowd as it surged forward, attempting to break through the ranks of police. A number of people were hit with batons and needed first aid.

There were also other minor clashes around The Level as a small number of protesters managed to make their way into the city centre.

A handful of arrests were made.

Assistant Chief Constable Jeremy Paine criticised those involved in the demo.

He said: “There was clear intent to use violence and cause damage evidenced by the high level of tension among the demonstrators and articles observed and seized by police.

“Disruption was caused to citizens and motorists by a large gathering of protesters on the main A270 Lewes Road leading into the city.”

Hundreds of officers from across the country, including from the Metropolitan Police, Hampshire and Surrey, were deployed to oversee the protest.

It got under way just after noon, with protesters marching down Lewes Road from Falmer station.

They intended to arrive outside the EDO/ITT factory on Home Farm Road but were outflanked by a ring of steel formed around the building by several rows of police, fences and dogs.

It was an entirely different tactic from the one used during a similar demo on June 4, which led to violence when protesters were allowed right up the factory gates.

A spokesman for the Smash EDO group which organised the demo said: “Right from the word go police were basically saying, ‘We’re going to destroy you’. It was a completely disproportionate response.

“We were outnumbered but today has been a success because we’ve managed to get the message out there and show we are prepared to stand up and be counted for our beliefs.”

He confirmed that further highly publicised demos would be held in the future.

The number of officers present at the demo was criticised by Sussex Police Authority member Ben Duncan, who said: “There is a perception, rightly or wrongly, that the police do not have the resources to police our neighbourhoods properly and people are worried about crime as a result.

“Clearly they do not have a problem with resources at all if they can muster this many officers.

“In my view these protesters did not present a real danger and did not warrant this many police officers.”

Lionel Barnard, chairman of the police authority, disagreed.

He said: “We would be expected to make an appropriate response and take measures against this sort of demonstration. I believe that is what has happened.”

Mr Barnard said the overall cost of policing the demo would not be known for a number of days. However, the figure is thought to run into tens of thousands of pounds.'

I understand that many of the protesters are deemed by society and give themselves the title 'anarchist'. However, as far as I could see, their protest was peaceful and it is a bit worrying that unjust companies, backed by the State, can quash any kind of protest or dissent. Peaceful protest is meant to be one of our long cherished civil rights. It looks like it is disappearing fast. In this country i would imagine a small gathering of protesters against the local abortion clinic would end up in arrest also.

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