The activists seek to raise awareness of the UK’s continued role in the purchase of goods produced in Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank as well as Carmel Agrexco’s role in the sustenance of Israel’s illegal expansionist activities in Palestine. The blockaders have urged companies dependent on Carmel Agrexco’s supplies, and therefore inconvenienced by this and previous blockades, to seek out new suppliers and, in so doing, show that Carmel Agrexco’s continued support for Israel’s aggression in Palestine will not be allowed to continue.
At 6am on Friday the 6th November the first blockade was implemented. Having constructed cages from temporary fencing, protestors D-locked themselves inside and positioned themselves themselves to block the two access roads to the depot. It was only fifteen minutes later that not only were police arriving onto the scene, but also the first lorry that was to be obstructed from enterring the premises.
The blockade held well initially however Carmel found a way of bringing goods out to the waiting truck using forklifts, thus circumventing the blockade. Despite efforts by support protestors to stand in front of the forklift trucks, and a to prevent the continuing effort by Carmel, the company managed to succesfully fill the lorry and continue its business. Their success was not to last long however, with blockaders managing an impressive feat of trickery to manoevre the fence panels into a line to block the entire entrance. Despite this success, Carmel decided to close their gates, locking inside blockaders and four supporters. Police had supporters released whilst the blockaders were left trapped inside. Although this was initially still a calm state of affairs, as the eighth hour of blockading approached, Carmel workers started to become aggressive and began making physical and verbal threats to the blockaders trapped inside as well as to the supporters. The two policemen present ignored their duty of care, failed to prevent the aggression and similarly did not ask the Carmel staff to open their gates to be let in to offer any protection to those physically attatched to the fences by their necks. They claimed Carmel had the right to use "reasonable force" to remove those on Carmel land, inicating when questioned that breaking their necks was consistent with "reasonable force". As the aggession escalated and the safety of those trapped became a serious issues with five Carmel staff at liberty to encircle and intimidate the blockaders, keys finally became available for those inside to be released.
The first blockade ended after more than 8 hours with no arrests and fortunately no injuries.
The second blockade was implemented at 5:30am on Saturday the 7th of November using a concrete lock-on on one gate and temporary fencing at the second. Police decided to focus on the concrete lock-on and after three hours and with no consultation to the nature of the lock-on, police decided to move the blockaders in absolute ignorance of their duty of care and to the great distress and pain of the two blockaders attached. Despite significant risk of breaking someones arm, the police falsely claimed they had no access to suitable "cutting teams" and moved the blockaders. Both blockaders were arrested and charged with obstruction of the highway, whilst a third protestor was arrested for obstructing a police officer. All were released by the early evening bailed to be in court on the 16th November, the blockade having lasted a total of nearly 5 hours.
The final day of action saw a public call out for demonstrators to arrive at 12pm. Despite no use of locks, protestor presence managed to prevent the company functioning for over three hours with protestors standing infront of the lorry attempting to enter. Eventually two protestors were arrested under s.14 of the public order act, charged and released later that day due to attend court on the 17th November. The final blockade lasted over 3 hours.
The actions saw a scaling up of the pressure upon Carmel to stop its business practices and to pressure other companies that use Carmel as their supplier to consider other options. This effort is one of a series of blockades that have been taking place since 2004 when the first effort saw their case of aggravated trespass go to court and eventually dropped midway due to the amount of disclosure Carmel were having to expose regarding their business practices and the exploitation and confiscation of Palestinian lands. Since then a number of blockades have seen rubble, manure, protests and other actions block the company and prevent it from functioning.
Carmel Agrexco is a 50% Israeli state owned company which manages the export of approximately 60% of all Settlement agricultural produce. Israeli settlements are in violation of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, and further more the International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that they are illegal. The sale of this produce within the UK facilitates the violation of the Geneva conventions of which the UK is a signatory.
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