33 arrests made, including two co-founders; the Siege continues despite police repression

May 3, 2023

* UPDATE: It was previously publicised that 26 arrests had been made. As of 18:00 on 03/05/23, this number has been confirmed to in fact be 33.*

An unprecedented 33 arrests were made yesterday at the site of the Palestine Action siege, as Leicestershire Police took disproportionate measures using unjustifiable force against individuals who had turned out in opposition to Israel’s arms trade. The siege continues into its third day, a mass mobilisation against the UAV Tactical Systems drone factory in Leicester – owned by Israel’s largest weapons company, Elbit Systems.

Leicestershire Police, having witnessed the speeches, workshops, dance, and community mobilisation that have characterised The Siege thus far, stepped in with all of the force at their disposal to intimidate and detain those standing against Elbit. Throughout yesterday, arrests were made indiscriminately, without evidence and with the clear motivation to repress the growing mobilisation. Police, who arrived with armed units yesterday, have deployed tactics including kettling, property siezure, breaking and entering cars, the raiding of homes and the dismantling of encampments [1]. Of the 33 arrested, the majority were taken to Euston Street station, released on bail overnight.

Police arrested a score of those who had populated a woodland camp adjacent to the site [2], along with four who had locked-on to each other in the road, and supporters and bystanders. As reported by Leicester Mercury, the action throughout Monday, where 250 people had assembled, had “passed peacefully”, with Police were not offering any reason for their encroachment into the camp [3].

The arrests included two co-founders of Palestine Action, Huda Ammori and Richard Barnard, taken into custody for reasons as of yet unclear, arrested in a different jurisdiction and transferred to Leicester early this morning. The pair’s arrest, unconnected to any events at the site of the factory, demonstrate that the police strategy is one of intimidation and blanket detention.

The activist network Palestine Action have committed to mobilising against UAV Tactical Systems, and this mass action will persist regardless of underhand, unjustified aggression that the police undertake on behalf of Elbit Systems. And the community is onside: after the police seized the tents, blankets, food and possessions of those camped at the site, the Leicester community turned up to donate blankets, sleeping bags, food and other necessities that the police had deprived protestors of [4]. Joining the site of the siege last night for Janazah Salah (funeral prayers) in solidarity with hunger striker Khader Adnan [5], Leicester residents have made clear that Israel’s war machine is not welcome on their streets.

Last night’s bombing raids on Gaza [6], along with the death-in-unlawful-custody of Adnan, underscore the purpose of the siege: ridding Leicester of the stain of complicity in Israel’s crimes. A Palestine Action spokesperson has stated:

“The Siege of UAV Tactical Systems has so far proved successful: successful in laying bare the reality of police ‘protection’ – their aggressive tactics and arbitrary arrests being used to protect the interests and reputation of a murderous weapons company. The success also lies in the response we have seen: people stand defiant in the face of police repression, a community unifying in opposition to Israel’s arms trade. As stated, we intend to see UAV Tactical Systems shut down”.

In Leicester and across Elbit’s other 7 remaining sites in Britain, military technologies are manufactured for export directly to Israel. The UAV Tactical Systems site regularly sends drones and drone technologies to Israel [7], where Elbit’s drone products brutally enforce the Israeli occupation of Palestine. UAV Tactical Systems’ flagship drone, the Watchkeeper, has been used by the British military in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the English Channel – but is itself modelled on the notorious and deadly Hermes drone, after the latter was ‘battle-tested’ on Palestinians [8]. Elbit, Israel’s largest weapons company, supplies 85% of Israel’s drones, and 85% of its land based military equipment [9]. Its products, including the Hermes, have been linked to documented attrocities by the Israeli state [10, 11].

[1] https://twitter.com/Pal_action/status/1653422029226356740?s=20
[2] freedomnews.org.uk/2023/04/30/palestine-action-occupy-leicesters-israeli-drone-factory/
[3] https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/leicester-news/live-drone-factory-siege-updates-8401772
[4] https://twitter.com/Pal_action/status/1653693189981712385?s=20
[5] https://twitter.com/Pal_action/status/1653502069679050767
[6] https://thecradle.co/article-view/24365/israel-bombs-residential-area-in-gaza-resistance-hits-back
[7] https://caat.org.uk/data/exports-uk/licence-list?index=date&region=Israel&company=Elbit+Systems
[8] https://waronwant.org/sites/default/files/Killer%20Drones%2C%20War%20on%20Want.pdf
[9] https://corporatewatch.org/elbit-systems-company-profile-2/
[10] https://theintercept.com/2018/08/11/israel-palestine-drone-strike-operation-protective-edge/?comments=1#comments
[11] https://whoprofits.org/company/elbit-systems/