A man has been arrested as pro-Palestinian activists entered the second day of a protest today after scaling the roof of a factory in Staffordshire which they claim is supplying weapons to Israel.
UAV Engines Limited factory in Shenstone near Lichfield was shut down yesterday as a result of the protest with police forced to close the road it is based on.
Nine men and women who are members of the London Palestine Action group also chained the doors of the factory and hung banners from the roof top to highlight their cause before posting pictures of themselves padlocked to the roof on social media.
UAV produces engines for drones and is owned by Israel’s largest weapons company, Elbit Systems. It is claimed some of the equipment is being used in the Gaza conflict.
This afternoon, Staffordshire Police said: "A man has been arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass following negotiation.
"He will be checked over by paramedics at the scene before being taken into custody for questioning.
"Our policing operation continues."
The protest group is demanding a closure of the factory, as well as an ‘end to all forms of military trade and cooperation with Israel’ .
Speaking from the roof of the factory waving Palestinian flags, one of the protestors claimed: “Some of the horrific weapons used in Gaza are built right here at this factory.
“People need to realise what is being built here in this factory and supplied because it is killing the people of Gaza.
“You do not create weapons like this and profit from the sale of them when they have such an impact on the lives of innocent people.”Another protester, speaking through a megaphone claimed: “This factory will re-open again and it will continue to kill innocent children.
“We don’t want to witness the horrors we see on our TV screens any more so we need to do something to stop them from creating these weapons.”
The group arrived on site early yesterdaymorning. During the day they could be seen inside tents and reading books while firefighters and police officers tried to talk them down.
The road was shut by police just after 5am yesterday while they dealt with the protest.
The group has posted a series of messages on Twitter, saying they have enough supplies to ‘last a week’ and they said they were ‘staying put as long as it takes’.
Firefighters and officers tried to talk the group down from the roof using a cherry picker but the protesters refused to move or co-operate.
Around six police cars, two riot vans and one fire engine attended the scene.
Writing on their Twitter account, the activists said: “Drone engines manufactured at the factory we are shutting down have been exported to Israel in 2010, 2011 and 2012 #StopArmingIsrael.” A statement on the group’s website says: “Any claims that components manufactured at this factory are not being used in Israel’s current attack on Gaza are not credible.
“The factory that we are occupying produces engines for drones and is owned by Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest military company and the world’s largest drones producer. Drones are a key part of Israel’s military arsenal,” the group claims.
It goes on to say: “By allowing this factory to export drone components and other arms to Israel, the UK government is providing direct support and approval to Israel’s massacres.”
UAV Engines Limited is owned by the Israel drone specialists Silver Arrow, a subsidiary of the Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems. Their website says they produce ‘engines for various size tactical UAVs, target drones and single mission platforms’.
It comes as a a new 72-hour ceasefire was agreed was agreed in the troubled region (see right).
Protestor Sara Cooper, 26, a teacher from London said: “By allowing this factory to export engines for drones to Israel, the UK government is providing direct support and approval to Israel’s massacres. We demand the UK government stop arming Israel. This factory is the clearest example of the vast military cooperation taking place between the UK and Israel.”
Staffordshire Police spokeswoman Faye Casey said: “Police were called to a business premise on Lynn Lane, Shenstone, just after 5.20am following a report of a public protest on top of a building. Officers are in attendance to ensure the protest remains peaceful and safe and we are working closely with the business and the protesters. As a result of this activity we have cordoned off Lynn Lane.”
In 2009, 25 members of the Gaza Solidarity Group staged a peaceful demonstration amid claims UAV was involved in the production of drone technology used in Gaza.
UAV Engines Limited was unavailable for comment.