Eight arrested after Palestine Action and XR North cause £20,000 worth of damage against Israeli arms factory in Oldham

Feb 2, 2021

  • XR and Palestine action activists cause £20,000 of damage during blockade of Elbit Systems factory in Oldham 
  • The eight were arrested after 16-hour occupation of factory, halting weapons production for the day
  • Facebook removes Palestine Action page for sharing live stream from XR North’s page which remains up 

Eight activists from Extinction Rebellion North and Palestine Action were arrested yesterday after causing £20,000 worth of damage after shutting down an Israeli arms factory in Oldham. The activists stormed the factory in the early hours of Monday morning, February 1, with six blockading three entrances and another two climbing onto the roof. 

The Ferranti Technologies plant, owned by Israel’s largest arms firm Elbit Systems, was left emblazoned with red paint, smashed windows and missing its “Cairo House” sign. The action received widespread support including from Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Walters and the national Extinction Rebellion group. 

During the 16-hour occupation of the factory, police officers prevented legal observers from being at the scene by using Covid regulations to threaten them with fines and arrest if they did not move on. The two on the roof were the last to hold the factory, after refusing police requests to come down from their rooftop siege. The pair, draped in Palestinian flags, shouted “Free Palestine” as they were brought down and arrested at around 6pm – 16 hours after the factory was seized and the production of weapons halted. 

In the wake of the protest, Palestine Action’s Facebook page was taken down on Tuesday, February 1, under the pretext that the group “goes against our community standards.” Palestine Action has accused Facebook of discriminatory targeting Palestine human rights activism given that its only posts on Monday were those sharing live stream videos from XR North’s page, which has not been affected. 

The eight activists continue to be held in custody.  The factory siege was the first collaboration between Extinction Rebellion and Palestine Action. The two direct action groups have vowed to escalate their actions until Elbit Systems is shut down for good and all systemic injustice ends.

Commenting on the Oldham factory blockade and Facebook’s censorship of Palestinian human rights activism, a member of Palestine Action said: 

“Yesterday’s action was a huge success and demonstrates the strength in building alliances across movements especially when humanity and the world we live face the biggest challenges to its existence. This is only the beginning of such an action, and we will honour our commitment to continue to escalate with XR and shut Elbit down for good.”

Facebook has routinely censored our posts, saying that we promote harm, when in fact we promote direct action against an arms company, which is guilty of extreme violence through testing its weapons on Palestinian children and then exporting them to other oppressive regimes across the world. Facebook will not succeed in silencing us, nor stop our vital work to stop Elbit. 

Speaking from the roof yesterday, Extinction Rebellion North activists spoke out against Elbit’s production of “illegal” weapons, the role of its surveillance drones against refugees and the sinister simulation technology produced at the Oldham factory, which teaches pilots how to bomb targets by using similulations from the Israeli military’s shelling of Gaza. 

He said: “This isn’t just about the West Bank, this isn’t just about Gaza, this is about all of the innocent lives and all of the innocent civilians who have been killed by the company that runs this building. 

“So we’re here as part of a collaboration between those two groups, recognising that we need to work together as a direct action movement in order to fight for social change and social justice and that includes fighting the system that allows both fossil fuels and arms companies to exist.”

Elbit Systems UK has established an extensive presence in the UK over the last 16 years opening 10 sites in England and Wales, including four weapons factories. Ferranti Technologies in Oldham was bought by Elbit Systems in 2007 for £15 million. Weapons parts produced by Elbit Ferranti include intelligence gathering systems for drones. 

Palestine Action aims to shut down Elbit’s UK operation and has hit the firm’s sites, and those of their landlord LaSalle Investment Management, around 40 times since launching in August 2020. These actions include shutting down UAV Engines in Shenstone on three occasions (the most notorious of which allegedly cost the company £145,000), and a series of occupations and public protests at Elbit’s London HQ.​​​​​​​

Extinction Rebellion North’s overall mission is to mobilise 3.5% of the population to achieve system change. The group connects and builds resilient communities by working and supporting one another across the region, aiming to create a world that is fit for generations to come.


Notes to editors

Palestine Action is a direct-action network of groups and individuals formed with the mandate of taking direct action against Elbit Systems’ UK locations at grassroots level, calling for them all to be shut down and for the British Government to end its complicity in Israeli apartheid.

Extinction Rebellion is an international apolitical network using non-violent direct action to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.​​​​​​​ 

​Ministry of Defence signs £102 million contract with Elbit Systems UK ​​​​​​for “sensor-to-shoot” system: https://www.army-technology.com/news/uk-mod-orders-elbit-detect-and-destroy-system/

Ministry of Defence has bought £46 million worth of military equipment from Elbit Systems since 2018-2020: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-10-08-ties-that-bind-britain-buys-46m-of-israeli-military-equipment-and-stations-troops-in-israel/

Human Rights Watch investigation into 2009 Israeli drones attacks on civilians in Gaza: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/iopt0609webwcover_0.pdf

Amnesty calls on UK government to halt Israeli arms sales over evidence killer drone parts made in UK factory: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/amnesty-urges-suspension-uk-arms-sales-israel-evidence-revealed-israel-military

Elbit surveillance technology for Israel’s aparthied wall: https://www.facing-finance.org/en/database/cases/elbit-systems-surveillance-system-torch-for-the-separation-barrier-in-israelpalestine/

Role of Elbit drone in murder of four children playing on Gaza beach in 2014: https://theintercept.com/2018/08/11/israel-palestine-drone-strike-operation-protective-edge/

More on Elbit’s drones in Gaza: https://corporatewatch.org/elbit-systems-company-profile-2/

Elbit’s military-grade drones trialled for use in English Channel against refugee crossings:: https://privacyinternational.org/news-analysis/4124/dear-home-secretary-channel-crossings-are-already-inviable-asylum-seekers-and

Previous Elbit Systems factory shutdowns