Five activists are acquitted of the charge of “conspiracy to commit criminal damage” after a unanimous jury verdict, who took barely over 60 minutes to reach their decision. The five defendants pleaded ‘not guilty’ prior to the hearing and had to wait two years to be heard in Southwark Crown Court.
On October 10th 2020, Palestine Action stormed Elbit’s headquarters at 77 Kingsway in Holborn, London. They leapt out of a car with buckets of paint and modified fire extinguishers to drown Elbit’s offices in red, creating a ‘river of blood’ that ran down the street — a symbolic act to represent the blood of the Palestinian people spilled by Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms supplier.
Elbit was created out of a need to further arm and sustain the occupation. Today, captive Palestinians in Gaza are used as a human laboratory to develop Israeli weapons, marketing them as battle-tested before selling them on to the world’s most notorious dictatorships.
During the 7-day trial, the Palestine Actionists shared their experiences with the jury. Some explained why they took part, and why forcing Elbit Systems out of Britain is an imperative and moral duty. Others shared their experiences in Palestine, having witnessed first hand how Elbit’s weaponry was being used to oppress and dehumanise the indigenous population. Others explained the intricate details of Elbit’s wide-ranging weaponry, and how the company is directly responsible for multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The prosecution alleged that the Kingsway 5 had conspired to damage Elbit’s premises in a premeditated attack described as ‘almost military’, accusing the activists of using ‘improvised weapons’ — buckets of red paint and fire extinguishers.
The defendants maintained that their actions were taken out of necessity, to prevent the crimes of the Israeli military and to stop the increasing destruction and suffering inflicted by Elbit’s ‘smart’ weaponry. Their actions, they said, were conscientious: how could we not act in the face of Elbit’s abhorrent crimes?
“We wanted to raise awareness of the war criminal hiding behind these doors,” said one defendant in their witness testimony. “We wanted to be part of the movement to shut Elbit down and save Palestinian lives. If my actions can save a family, or stop a bomb that would otherwise have fallen on Gaza, then it was worthwhile.”
The prosecution argued that there was no possible connection between direct action in Britain and the saving of lives in Palestine. He neglected to mention, however, that two years of direct action had successfully forced Elbit to abandon their Kingsway headquarters and cost the company huge amounts in damages, security costs, unwanted public exposure and substantial negative press.
This is the first time Palestine Action has been heard in a Crown Court by a jury of twelve, and is being heralded as an unprecedented victory. The defendants were instructed by Lydia Dagostino from Kellys Solicitors and represented by Owen Greenhall and Audrey Mogan from Garden Court chambers. A number of delayed Crown Court cases have yet to be heard and are to date, scheduled for 2023. The group looks forward to further proving in these upcoming trials that, as ruled today, Elbit is guilty and Palestine Action is not.