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Drone protesters vow to close down Staffordshire factory

Staffordshire | News | Published:

Anti-war campaigners will try to shut down a Staffordshire factory during a demonstration to mark the one-year anniversary of a drone attack on Gaza.

Hundreds are expected to gather outside UAV Engines in Shenstone, scene of a two-day rooftop protest a year ago when activists stormed the building. A total of nine people were arrested. The temporary shutdown reportedly cost the factory £182,000.

Protesters from 25 UK-based campaign groups are expected to take part in the latest rally on July 6 outside the Lynn Lane factory which they claim supplies arms to Israel.

The Israeli-owned British firm has been drawn into the political controversy over arms sales because it is one of the world's leading manufacturers of engines for drones – unmanned aerial vehicles that are used by the military across the world.

The protest will coincide with the anniversary of the launch of Israel's seven-week military attack by land and air on the Gaza strip last summer.

More than 2,200 Palestinians, including 500 children, were killed and 100,000 people made homeless.

Word about the protest is being spread on a special Block The Factory website. Organisers say they want to 'reclaim' the area surrounding the site and are determined to stop production by their action.

Clare Fitzgerald, from the London Palestine Action group, said: "This is about having an economic impact on the arms trade, so we want the factory to be shut down.

"We are expecting hundreds from all over the UK, including Glasgow, Manchester and Bristol, to turn out. Around 600 people on Facebook have said they will come and we hope there will also be a good presence of local people.

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"Motorcycles used to be made at the site and we received a lot of support from local people last year who said they would prefer bikes to drones being built in their countryside."

Workshops, a children's area and activities like kite-flying will be held around the site on the day. The company, also known as UEL, is owned by the Israel drone specialists Silver Arrow, a subsidiary of the Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems.

Campaigners are demanding a military embargo on sales to Israel and the closure of the factory. Nine people were last year charged with aggravated trespass.

Chief Insp David Bird, of Staffordshire Police, said: "We are aware of next month's planned protest. We are working with all parties involved to ensure the day goes safely. Our aim is to uphold the right to peaceful and legal protest while safeguarding local residents."

The company declined to comment.

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