Five people were arrested at the siege yesterday evening after challenging the police for racially profiling drivers leading to stop and searches. This follows on from 36 other arrests since the beginning of the mass action against UAV Tactical Systems, three of which were off site for alleged conspiracy. The siege action began on May 1st 2023, and since then the site has seen severe disruption and an outpouring of community support. Several of the arrests relate to a disproportionate section 14 measure set by the police, which restricts where people are allowed to stand and walk. The measures have also seen police remove tents, but activists have stayed resilient and remained at the site without shelter and exposed to uncomfortable weather conditions. They have stayed with donations from community members, who gave items like sleeping bags and tarpaulin, as well as food and water. The siege now enters its 9th day, with protestors showing no signs of stopping.
The first round of arrests happened mostly over the first two days of the siege, where up to 36 people were arrested on baseless grounds in an attempt to intimidate protestors who turned up to shut UAV Tactical Systems down. Later on Tuesday they seized camping equipment and belongings whilst kettling protestors. In an earlier press release, Palestine action described the police strategy as ‘one of intimidation and blanket detention.’ Unfazed by these attempts to scare them off, Palestine actionists at the siege camp remained outside the factory, disrupting U-TacS production for most of the week.
Having taken down their metal cordon set up to protect the arms factory, the police had moved to forcing protestors camping outside the factory to stay within a barrier. Undeterred, activists had drawn the attention of passing cars and received enthusiastic solidarity from passerbys, as well as continued support from the local community in Leicester.
U-TacS is a joint venture between Elbit and French company Thales, and has a number of export licenses for the sale of arms to Israel, covering drones, military technology, imaging systems, and ground vehicles. The factory’s flagship product is the Watchkeeper drone, which is modeled after Elbit’s Hermes 450, after it was ‘battle-tested’ on Palestinians. The Hermes drone is used for both surveillance and bombardent of Palestinians in Gaza. It is this drone that Elbit has repackaged into the Watchkeeper, for use in Britain’s imperialist intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well in British border operations. U-TacS produce the Watchkeeper drone, derived from Elbit’s Hermes 450 design.
Elbit Systems have majority ownership of UAV Tactical Systems. Elbit is Israel’s largest arms manufacturers, producing 85% of Israel’s drone fleet, along with other munitions, weapons technology and vehicles.In addition, Elbit has worked in close cooperation with the Israeli military in conducting air strikes, assisted by their AI technology, on Palestinians. Both Palestine Action and people from the local community had set up camp outside the factory in order to shut it down and prevent more arms from being made to be ‘battle-tested’ on Palestinians.
These recent arrests bring the total number of arrests during the siege to 41.