Over 400 disrupt operations at BAE Systems site and call for ceasefire ahead of national march for Palestine
HUNDREDS of trade unionists disrupted operations at an arms factory in Kent on Friday, blockading entrances and preventing workers and deliveries from entering the site.
More than 400 activists targeted a factory belonging to BAE Systems, a key weapons supplier to Israel, in protest over the country’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza.
United under the banner “Workers for a Free Palestine,” members of Unite, Unison, GMB, NEU, BMA, UCU, Bectu, and BFAWU, halted operations and called for an immediate ceasefire.
BAE Systems, the largest weapons firm in Britain, manufactures components for Israel’s F-35 stealth combat aircraft.
The fighter jets are currently being used in ongoing attacks against innocent civilians in Gaza, where the death toll has risen to more than 10,000.
Notably, the “active interceptor system,” which is used by pilots to direct and manoeuvre the aircraft, is also produced at the site in Kent.
Alexandra, a teacher and NEU member taking part in the blockade, said: “Seeing 185 schools and other educational institutions in Gaza bombed is utterly heartbreaking.
“If our government and the Labour opposition won’t support a ceasefire, as workers we will continue to take action to stop the slaughter of civilians in our name, funded by our taxes.
“The British arms industry, which is subsidised by public money, is involved in the mass killing of Palestinians.
“We’re here today to disrupt the Israeli war machine and take a stand against our government’s complicity and we urge workers across the UK to take similar action.”
The blockade, part of an International Day of Action against Israel’s war crimes, echoes a surge in worker-led interventions worldwide.
In the US and Australia, workers have actively disrupted shipments of arms bound for Israel, while trade unionists in Belgium and Barcelona have refused to load military equipment intended for the country.
And an anticipated half a million will further amplify the resounding display of solidarity as they flood the streets of London tomorrow for the National March for Palestine.
According to one of the organisers Stop the War, coach companies said they’d sold out of seats on hundreds of buses as thousands from around the country make their way to join the march.
Stop the War convener Lindsey German called the mobilisation “comparable only to the two million-strong protest against the Iraq War in 2003.”
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has vowed to clamp down on widespread ceasefire rallies since Israel escalated its bombardment of Gaza after Hamas’s deadly attacks killed 1,400 on October 7.
Ms Braverman suggested that waving Palestinian flags and chanting pro-Palestine slogans could be illegal under the Public Order Act, and branded rallies calling for a ceasefire “hate marches.”
Writing in The Times, Braverman suggested “some of Saturday’s march group organisers have links to terrorist groups, including Hamas.”
In the article, Braverman accused the Metropolitan Police of playing favourites, and stopping far-right protests while allowing “pro-Palestine mobs” to demonstrate.
Stop the War said that Braverman’s attempt to claim that police have a left-wing bias “is a clear call to street thugs to ‘step in’ and do the job the police are supposedly ‘unable’ to do.”
Ms German called the move “straight out of the Donald Trump playbook.”
The protest takes place the same day as Armistice Day. While the Royal British Legion has defended pro-Palestinian demonstrators’ right to protest, the far-right Democratic Football Lads Alliance issued a call to arms on social media.
A post on the group’s Facebook page said: “Vets have reached out and asked for our support due to the threat from the far-left and pro-Palestinian supporters to disrupt the Remembrance Day parade.
“We are calling on all football lads up and down the country to join us in standing shoulder to shoulder with our veterans that fought for our freedom.”
Baroness Warsi, a Tory peer accused Ms Braverman of couching the planned demonstration as an “armistice day vs a hate march.”
Ben Jamal, director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which is also organising tomorrow’s march, said: “Contrary to the disgraceful rhetoric of Suella Braverman and other political leaders, hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life, will come to London to march for peace, for a ceasefire, and for the rights of the Palestinian people to be respected.
“They reject a narrative that seeks to dehumanise Palestinians and their legitimate struggle for freedom.
“They are appalled by the mass killing of Palestinians including 4,500 children, and they want an end to British complicity in supporting Israel’s decades long violations of international law.”
Palestine’s health ministry says 11,078 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7, and over 50 per cent of housing units across the area have been damaged since the escalation began.
An Amnesty International petition demanding an immediate ceasefire has gained more than a million signatures.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s senior director of research, advocacy, policy and campaigns, said: “Outraged over the devastating toll on civilians, a global chorus of Amnesty International members and supporters are calling for the protection of all civilians at risk by signing our petition to demand an immediate ceasefire by all parties to the conflict.
“The only way to prevent further loss of civilian lives and allow lifesaving aid to reach those in desperate need in Gaza is for states to act now to demand an immediate ceasefire by all parties to the conflict in the occupied Gaza Strip.”