In the early hours of Tuesday, 11 September a group blockaded the entrance to the BAE Middleton factory carpark in conjunction with the day of action against the DSEi (Defence Systems and Equipment International) arms fair in London. The gate was locked; planks of wood with nails hammered through them were fastened to the road; oil was poured around the area to cause additional disruption. The location and design of the blockade were intended to avoid causing personal injury; rather, the aim was to disrupt the normal functioning of the factory.
BAE is the world's fourth largest arms manufacturer. It sells weapons to many countries on the government's lists of human rights abusers, including Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Israel and Indonesia. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) currently has open investigations into possible corrupt dealings with six countries. SFO investigations into the massive Al Yamamah deal with Saudi Arabia were dropped last year due to government intervention. Considering that BAE is above law, our response is necessary.
As well as disrupting the operations of Manchester's own arms manufacturer, this action conincides with a day of action in London against DSEi, the world's largest arms fair, being held at the Excel Centre from 11-14 September. Large-scale protests and direct actions have been held against DSEi since 1999, drawing attention to the invitation of countries with poor human rights records and the sale of torture equipment.
Police have been preparing for today's planned protest and rally in London for months, meaning that the scope for action is severely limited. By taking action locally we hope to decentralise resistance to the arms trade, making people aware that civilian casualties and human rights abuses are not horrors removed from our daily lives, but have roots in our own communities. Challenging the legitimacy of arms manufacturers like BAE is not the job of experts or the remit of politicians; it can and must be done by all of us where we live. Our protest is not a request for the authorities to act on our behalf; it is an action which takes us closer to the world we want to see. While we have nothing but contempt for those who coordinate this industry, who grow rich on the profits of killing, we do not act out of hostility to the workers of the BAE factory. We object to a system that leads ordinary people to sell their time and effort making weapons which kill and maim ordinary people around the world. We encourage all employees to join us in struggle by treating themselves to an impromptu holiday. Further, we hope our action will encourage everyone to strike now against that which makes their lives unliveable.