In small and multifarious ways, we can, despite appearances, still win. From the resounding defence of the Camp for Climate Action against police incursions last summer to Smash EDO’s victories on Brighton’s streets and in the courts, there are still explosions of hopeful defiance. Campaign Spotlight is a new fixture in the Corporate Watch newsletter. Through its portrayal of the wide variety of campaigns struggling for social and ecological justice, this column seeks to demonstrate that, whilst imagination is one of the first acts of defiance, action is its mainstay and active resistance persists and flourishes, even as the citadels of power, the state and the corporation, become increasingly powerful. Campaign Spotlight hopes to carve another hole in the prison wall, showing that resistance against corporate power, rapacious exploitation, ecocide and deadening consumerism is still everywhere AND it’s still fertile. The Brighton-based Smash EDO campaign has been one of the UK’s most successful and persistent campaigns to challenge corporations profiting from the war against Iraq. It has faced severe police repression, the nature of which has exposed an unhealthy relationship between Sussex Police and the company, EDO.
Recently the campaign has held three successful mass street actions in Brighton in the face of immense police operations aimed at suppressing the protests. People from around the UK, and beyond, have joined the campaign to shut down the ‘Brighton bomb factory’. In December 2003, EDO MBM, a local company which had been taken over by the US-based EDO Corporation in 2002, announced to the press that it would be working with Raytheon on part of the Paveway series of munitions.
By 2004, Paveway guided bombs, in the hands of the US and UK armed forces, had become the most used munition in the aerial bombardment of Iraq that killed 100,000 people in one year and went on to claim the lives of an estimated one million people. In early 2004, a group of local campaigners decided to launch a campaign to close EDO MBM down. That campaign has now lasted four and a half years and has cost the company millions of pounds in legal costs, lost working time, damaged property and security costs.
This year one of EDO’s two premises in Brighton closed down due to the campaign’s determined and relentless nature. Eight of the directors of the company, including one managing director, have resigned since 2003. From the very beginning, the Smash EDO campaign was intended not as a symbolic protest campaign nor as an act of bearing witness, but as a concerted, long term campaign which intended to shut the factory down. Smash EDO was launched in May 2004 with a blockade, using metal fence panels, of Home Farm Road where the factory is situated. At the same time campaigners occupied the roof of the factory for over 24 hours. Since then, demonstrations have taken place at the factory at least once a week, pickets have taken place at the homes of directors, regular blockades have occurred and camps have been held in the woods behind the factory. Frequent acts of sabotage have been reported, including the supergluing of locks, the throwing of paintbombs, damaging company cars and the disabling of the factory’s air conditioning systems. EDO has been forced to invest in 24-hour security, a huge fence around the perimeter of the factory, razor wire and CCTV. T
he Smash EDO campaign has its origins in the movement against the war on Iraq. In Brighton, on the first day of the full-scale invasion of Iraq, in March 2003, 5,000 local people took to the streets and occupied the Town Hall in a protest dubbed ‘Stop the War, Stop the City’. This was the culmination of several years of autonomous and vibrant resistance to war in Brighton. However, many local activists were critical of the anti-war movement’s focus on mass marches in London and were looking for a way to bring a local focus to anti-war campaigning. One of the motivations behind the Smash EDO campaign was the failure of the anti-war movement to effectively challenge the state’s drive to war with Iraq. As the campaign’s press spokesperson, Chloe Marsh, put it, “If, when millions of people were mobilised against the war across the UK, we had looked at who the companies were who were set to make a profit from the war and targeted them our resistance could have been far more effective”.
Smash EDO’s large street actions this year have included a Freedom to Protest march. This was in response to heightened police repression of campaigners and culminated in hundreds of activists surrounding Brighton police station. The campaign then held a Carnival Against the Arms Trade in June, during which 800 masked protesters, dressed in red, marched from the centre of Brighton to the arms factory, broke through police cordons, occupied the forecourt of the factory and broke some of the factory windows.
As a result of EDO Corporation’s recent take over by the company, ITT, a mass demonstration, concisely named Shut ITT, took place in October, during which over 400 people again broke through police lines despite a massive police operation to suppress the protest. Protestors then took to the woods and daubed the factory with red paint, before managing to evade police cordons and march triumphant to the centre of Brighton. These three demonstrations were attended by an increasing number of activists from groups around the UK, and beyond, who had seen the effectiveness of the Smash EDO campaign and wanted to join the push to close down the factory.
The building of this network of resistance has been achieved partly by the tour of Onhe Verge, a feature length documentary about the campaign made by SchNEWS, an alternative media collective based in Brighton. The success of the street actions against EDO MBM/ITT is significant because the demonstrations occurred despite repressive police tactics. For a long time, mass actions in the UK, such as the actions at the DSEi arms fair, have been hampered by police containment tactics and intrusive police surveillance. The prospect of spending hours corralled by police, being intrusively filmed and subjected to police violence, intimidation and snatch squads has made many activists despondent about mass actions.
The significance of the last two mass demonstrations against EDO resides in the fact that, despite police attempts to use all the aforementioned tactics, campaigners appeared to maintain the upper hand. People actively resisted being corralled and defended the demonstration against police violence. They also sabotaged the efforts of police intelligence gatherers, particularly the Met’s Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT). FIT’s role is to gather evidence about people on the demonstration, to follow and harass known activists and to intrusively film everyone on the action. However, at the EDO demonstrations FITwatchers, encouraged by a police memo saying that the public “were under no obligation to comply with their filming”, used banners, flags and scarves to obstruct police film crews. This tactic was so effective that the FIT could often be seen running away in desperation. The undermining of evidence gathering, coupled with the wearing of masks, made police surveillance far less effective.
All this has led to the development of a network of groups that are beginning to support each other’s resistance to the arms trade in the UK. A new group has been set up in Nottingham, modelled on the Smash EDO campaign, aimed at closing down the local HQ of mammoth German small-arms manufacturer, Heckler & Koch. Handguns manufactured by Heckler & Koch are used by US mercenary firm, Blackwater, in Iraq. Similarly, two demonstrations, including a 36-hour rooftop occupation, have taken place in Bristol at the local depot of Raytheon, EDO’s biggest partner in crime. Perhaps most importantly, the level of support from other parts of the country that the Smash EDO campaign has enjoyed demonstrates that when the movement works together it is at its strongest. Andrew Beckett, press spokesperson for Smash EDO said “closing down EDO MBM/ITT will send ripples through the arms industry and bring us closer to posing a real threat to the state’s illegal wars. We will be here until EDO isn’t”.
2002 – MBM systems in Home Farm Road, Brighton, bought by EDO Corporation, a US arms company trading with ‘the US and her allies’. March 2003 – Invasion of Iraq, 100,000 people killed in bombing campaign. December 2003 – EDO MBM issues a press release announcing its new contract assisting Raytheon in manufacturing the Paveway III and IV systems for guided bombs.
March 2004 – First demonstration against EDO.
May 2004 – Blockade and rooftop protest at EDO MBM. Weekly noise demonstrations begin.
August 2004 – First Smash EDO Protest Camp set up in Wild Park behind EDO MBM.
September 2004 – Libel threat by EDO against campaigners. March 2005 – EDO MBM files claim for a civil injunction against campaigners with help of Sussex Police. Campaigners challenge EDO’s claim in court. Smash EDO pledges to defy the injunction.
May 2005 – Factory granted a temporary exclusion zone around its premises. Demonstrations continue unabated.
June/July 2005 – Two activists remanded in Lewes prison for alleged breaches of the injunction.
January 2006 – David Jones, managing director of EDO MBM, resigns.
February 2006 – EDO’s injunction collapses. EDO forced to pay over a million pounds in legal fees.
Summer 2006 – Resistance against EDO snowballs as EDO’s equipment is used by the Israeli army in their bombardment of Lebanon and Gaza.
2007 – EDO Corporation’s share price plummets as demonstrations continue.
December 2007 – ITT takes over EDO Corporation. Activists dump several tonnes of manure outside ITT’s British HQ. March 2008 – On the Verge, a feature length film about the campaign, is released by SchNEWS. Police try to ban screenings of the film.
May 2008 – EDO MBM/ITT confirms the sale of their second factory in Fishersgate.
June 2008 – Up to 800 people participate in the Carnival Against the Arms Trade.
October 2008 – Over 400 people participate in Shut ITT demonstration, despite police repression and intimidation.
January 2009 – During the Israeli genocide in Gaza, anti-militarist activists broke into the ITT/EDO MBM arms factory in Brighton. They ‘decommissioned’ it by causing extensive damage to the offices and equipment used in the manufacture of weapons used by the Israeli army.
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