Defence giant BAE Systems which supports Royal Navy has Kent factory blockaded by pro-Palestine protesters
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BAE Systems, which carries out much of its work in Portsmouth, is the current target of protestors amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Hundreds of trade unionists under the banner “Workers for a Free Palestine” have descended on the site in Chatham, Rochester, Kent.
From 7am this morning, two of its entrances have been obstructed as part of an international day of action called for by Palestinian trade unions to “end complicity in Israel’s war crimes”. An organiser claims the firm is providing components for military aircraft being used in the bombardment of Gaza.
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The blockade consists of health workers, teachers, hospitality workers, academics, artists and more who are members of trade unions such as Unite, Unison, GMB, the NEU, the BMA, the UCU, Bectu and the BFAWU. The activists are calling for “an end to the UK Government’s complicity in war crimes being committed in Palestine, by ending arms sales to Israel and supporting an immediate ceasefire”.
Some protesters are clutching Palestinian flags and signs which say “Free Palestine”, “UK is guilty”, “End the genocide” and “Stop arming Israel’s war machine”. At one entrance, the group chanted slogans such as “1,2,3,4, occupation no more; 5,6,7,8, Israel is a terrorist state”, and: “BAE must be stopped, no more bombs must be dropped.”
Outside the factory, Harriet, 32, from east London, said: “I work in A&E and we got here very early, I think we got here about 6.20am or 6.30am this morning. Behind us is the BAE factory where some central components of the fighter jets that Israel is using to bomb Palestine are made and then they are shipped to Israel and become a part of the killer fighter planes.
“The more than 10,000 now Palestinian civilians that have been killed in the last couple of weeks are literally at the mercy of these weapons.
“So we’re trying to turn workers away who are coming to do their job which is assembling those weapons and we’re trying to stop deliveries getting in and out of the factory which so far has been successful. We’ve turned quite a few workers away.
“I think this has been a long month and it’s been a very long 75 years for Palestine. And I think people are getting rightly so angry and I think fatigued of the genocide but not of fighting it.
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“I’m here because I’m a person. I’m also here because I’m a medic and we’ve seen hundreds of medical staff in Gaza killed, some still under the rubble.”
A BAE Systems spokesperson said: “We operate under the tightest regulation and comply fully with all applicable defence export controls, which are subject to ongoing assessment. We’re horrified by the situation in Israel and Gaza and the devastating impact it’s having on civilians in the region and we hope it can be resolved as soon as possible.
"We respect everyone’s right to protest peacefully.” The Israel-Hamas war started after a Hamas incursion into southern Israel on October 7 that killed 1,400 people.
The Hamas-run health ministry says that a month of retaliatory bombardment by Israel on Gaza has killed more than 10,500 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children.