Occupation of Elbit’s Leicester Factory Continues into Second Day, Community Turns Out in Support

May 20, 2021

The Palestine Action occupation of the Elbit drone factory in Leicester continues into its second day, with the Elbit-Thales UAV Tactical Systems site having been shut down since 5:30am on Wednesday 19th May. The site has been barricaded, with premises vandalised, property destroyed, and operations halted. Activists on the roof refuse to allow the production of any more military drones for Israel to use in Gaza. Around a hundred Leicester residents turned out in support of the action yesterday afternoon, bringing flares, flags, and banners. Supporters joined chants of ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Shut Elbit Down’, while a convoy of cars turned up to make clear that Elbit is not welcome in Leicester.

Palestine Action have been occupying the site of Elbit-Thales joint venture UAV Tactical Systems since 5:30am Wednesday morning, at their factory in Braunstone, Leicester. The site is used for the manufacture of drone parts for both the Hermes and Watchkeeper drones, which are used to commit atrocities in Palestine and sold to repressive regimes throughout the world. These drones have been directly linked to the butchering of children in Gaza, and activists occupying the site are determined that no more of them end up in Israel’s hands. The Palestine Action occupation – now in its second day – has  halted operations and prevented any more drones bound for Israel from being manufactured in Leicester.

To support the activists who successfully shut down the site, Leicester residents turned out in solidarity, with approximately 100 supporters arriving at the factory gates on Wednesday afternoon with banners, flags, placards and flares. Chants of ‘Shut Elbit Down’ and ‘Free Palestine’ rang out as the local community made clear that the manufacturers of the arms and machinery which are fuelling war crimes in Gaza are not welcome in Leicester. These protestors were joined with a convoy of cars covered with Palestinian flags, while a call to prayer was also held in the evening outside the factory gates.

This action is the first time that Palestine Action have stormed the Leicester site, having previously targetted Elbit sites in Oldham, Staffordshire, Bristol, London and Kent. The action has completely halted factory operations, and will continue for as long as is possible. Police and private security attempts to end the occupation of the site have resolutely failed – after first attempting to use firefighters to assist in removal of activists, the Fire Brigades Union immediately intervened and withdrew their members. The FBU statement, wherein they restate their solidarity to the Palestinian people and to the right to protest, can be read here.

The activists occupying the factory, the Leicester community, and the Leicestershire Fire Brigades Union have all shown their complete solidarity with the Palestinian people, refusing to allow the production of Israel’s murderous drones on their doorstep. Comprisng 85% of Israel’s drone stockpile, Elbit drones have been used to target children in Gaza and bombard residential populations. After they have been “battle tested” on Palestinians, they are sold to governments and militaries such as those of Myanmar and India for the purposes of popular repression, and sold to states such as Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka to wage brutal wars. Meanwhile Britain has entered into multiple multi-million pound contracts for Elbit drones, using them to surveil and oppress refugees attempting to flee Britain and employing them for previous assualts on Iraq and Afghanistan.

These activists are part of an exponentially growing movement of people in the UK. Conscientious people have been horrified by the war crimes being committed in Gaza, and can recognise the urgent and necessary direct action which must be taken to prevent Israel from acquiring even more British-made arms, munitions and military technology.


Palestine Action

Elbit Systems