“Taking on EDO with Octogenarian Quaker John and the New Kids on the Black Bloc” by Ciaron O’Reilly

***Slideshow from “Hammertime” EDO/ITT Brighton

“Taking on EDO with Octogenarian Quaker John and the New Kids on the Black Bloc”
by Ciaron O’Reilly (thanx to various websites!)

The Smash EDO campaign based in Brighton began in the early days of the war on Iraq, when local activists decided that focussing on how their locality was contributing to the war machine made better sense than going to London for increasingly meaningless marches through empty streets.

The EDO/ITT factory in Brighton makes weapons components vital for the waging of aerial war. EDO’s technology is used to attack people from Palestine to Iraq, from Afghanistan to Pakistan. They arm F-16s, build components for Paveway bombs and help develop technology for Predator and Reaper drones.

The locally based campaign and the heavy police response is dealt with in the fine documentary film “On the Verge”
Trailer (2 mins) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj-Qdop4gPs

During Israel’s 2009 massacre in Gaza, six Bristol based activists called the “EDO Decommissioners” broke into EDO and used hammers to cause hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to the production line. Along with three Brighton based co-accused, their defence was that they were acting to prevent war crimes. Sixteen months later they were found not guilty by a unanimous jury verdict. http://decommissioners.co.uk/

Following the dramatic acquital, the question remained, after all this, how long can EDO sustain their bloody business in Brighton? Activists announced a final push to shut the factory down. They declared “Hammertime!” and called for people to travel to Brighton to join them in besieging EDO. They aimed to shut the factory for the day. http://www.smashedo.org.uk/hammertime.htm

Well as the best teacher I ever had was fond of saying “If anyone offers to take you on a strange journey, go!” The London Catholic Worker were happy to dispatch me south, so I packed me sleeping bag and roll and headed to Victoria bus station. On the way to Brighton, I spotted a couple of young likely suspects on the National Express followed them off the bus and headed to the Cowley Club.

Cowley Club, what can you say, every neighborhood should have one – collectively owned, volunteer run social centre with bar, bookshop, library, meeting and gig space http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowley_Club

We had just missed the action briefing, so after a pint I was given a stack of inflatable hammers to distribute in the morning and offered a lift to the convergeance space out past the EDO factory. A huge heritage listed house http://wildkatzproject.org.uk/ it has been squatted for about six weeks by the Wildkatz Project http://wildkatzproject.org.uk/ . The occupants were opening up the space for the EDO action and over the evening it began to fill with primarily young activists from Tasmania to Estonia and places in England and in between. Some had just come from a “No Borders” Camp in Brussels, some had been to Palestine and seen the results of EDO’s work. There was about 50 folks by the time I crashed out around midnight. The ones I met were great, good humoured and idealistic. A lost property poster in the kitchen for “a black hoody” was a lightening rod for self depreciating humour. No one leave the room!

As is my way, I rose early had a cigar in the garden to kickstart the day and began pottering around the kitchen. A guy about my age was up and we had a great chat about making the best of jail time. He had done over 2 years for Animal Liberation offences and had a great story about an unsuccessful attempt to smuggle eggs from the jail kitchen through a vigourious pat down back to his wing.

As folks began to rouse around 8 am with the intention of laying siege to EDO we discovered that the Sussex police had begun to lay siege to us. Reports were coming in that 30 polce vans of riot police were packed a short distance away. Then all of a sudden someone caming running through the back entrance slamming and securing the door behind them. Through the kitchen window we could see the back garden begin to fill up with riot police in helmets and fluroescent jackets. It was the most amazing sight as they took up formation right next to the house it felt like “The Attack of the Giant Killer Garden Gnomes”. The kitchen became choc a bloc with young people dressed in black masking up – as encouraged in the original invitation. So the visuals were getting increasingly black in the kitchen behind me and a gaudy fluroescent yellow in front of me through the window. It was quite scarey on one level with the riot cops surrounding the house and staring through the windows, hard to know what their plans were.

Some of the squat residents were understandably getting a little anxious about the possibility of the cops coming into the house and smashing up equipment etc. So it seemed like the polite thang to do was to take our leave through the front door. So following 50 masked up black bloc shuffling out the front door we lined up on the garden path facing overwhelming odds of blue helmeted and fluroescent jacketed riot cops on the country lane. The head riot cop informed us that their intention was to escort us to the “designated protest area” but we wouldn’t be going anywhere until the masks were lowered. We were in no way in a position of strength, so whoever was doing the haggling at the front of the black bloc queue struck up a pretty good deal getting police cameras removed.

The riot police formed a tight formation around us either side, in front and behind and off we we set. The remaining squatters hung out the window yelling encouragement and pumping up the volume on John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance!” Nice touch, Lennon would have been 70 this year if he hadn’t been cut down 30 years ago.

If you could ignore the batons, mace and threatening stares it was quite a pleasant morning walk through the English countryside. On one level it was very velderee veldera, but on another level if it felt like we had been taken prisoner before taking the field. On the bright side at least we were being forced marched in the right direction towards the EDO factory. Pedestrians taking there constitutional stopped dumbfounded at the sight. Ones response to such stare bear attention seemed to swing between a belligerent self conscious “what are ya lookin’ at? what’s so strange about taking a morning walk with heaps of riot cops!” and cheerily waving one’s inflatable hammer and inviting them to join us.

As we arrived at Wild Park several hundred yards before the “designated protest area” and the Home Farm Rd. turn off to the EDO factory we stopped and refused to go any further. The Wild Park cafe was the second rendevous and we could see fellow activists gathered there. The police response was to kettle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kettling us where we stopped at the entrance to the park. After a while I suggested we sit down and have a teach-in as a way of getting back the initiative. Folks were amenable to that. I gave a talk about the war on Iraq and the action, trials and acquital of the Pitstop Ploughshares in Ireland. A young Israeli woman gave a great speech on the repression of Palestinians by the Israeli state drawing upon a lot of first hand experience. This came to an end as the police decided to release us to join the others in the park.

All seemed well. I spotted John Lynes across the football field. John is an 80 year old Quaker who has spent years in Palestine and Iraq with the Christian Peacemaker Teams http://www.cpt.org/
As we were chatting police started to take up formation and march across the field in attempt to kettle the lot of us I guess.
Photo 1
Photo 2

The anarchist hordes swept past us heading for the hills, the bush between the fields and the back of the EDO factory. We assured the young’uns not to wait for us, to keep going and we would hold back the cops! The wave of fluroescent cops swept past us after the anarchists into the bush. John and I followed. In the Bush it got all Blair Witch Projecty with flashes of fluroescent and black hoodies. The police chopper above added its own ambience. We came out on the other side of the bush to a panormaic view of Brighton.

The police formed again complete with horse teams and successfully kettled 40-50 activists.
Photo 1 http://twitpic.com/2x83bb
Photo 2 http://www.flickr.com/photos/campaignagainstarmstrade/5…3892/

They immediately arrested Chris Osmond a long time local activist and one of those acquitted in the EDO 9 trial. Half the crowd had escaped across the field above the EDO factory heading through a local housing estate. John had been nabbed in the kettle and I headed further up the hill hooking up with some young Estonians. One of them cynically quipped “What do we do now, sing Kuymbya?” How do young Estonians know about Kuymbya? We kept just ahead of the cops and decided to head down to the Home Farm Rd. intersection that leads up to the EDO factory.

The cops had erected this huge metal gate across the road, no expense spared it seemed. Metal Gate

The factory had effectively been closed down (save for a few senior management). At 9am there were no cars in the EDO car park so the early shift clearly did not come in to work. By 11am the EDO site had been transformed into a base for the police operation, with police dog teams housed in a makeshift compound in EDO’s car park. A picket had been set up at the bottom of Home farm Road with a sound system and a 12 foot replica F-16. Photo

The day continued with people regrouping and making further attempts. Later in the day activists made it to the centre of town to target investors in ITT. A protest was held outside Barclays Bank the market maker for ITT, and an attempt was made to block the doors. Later on RBS, an investor in ITT, was disrupted by activists gluing themselves to the doors.

In all 53 arrests were made. Tactics were repressive and aimed at disempowering and controlling demonstrators. All were released without charge. The struggle continues. Where there are communities of resistance there is hope. Stop Arms sales to the Israeli State! Stop Fueling the War Machine!

Slideshow from “Hammertime” EDO/ITT Brighton

To keep in touch with the “Smash EDO Campaign” in Brighton checkthis website

Please comment down below