Protestors supporting Palestine took to the roof of a factory in Leicester where they stayed for more than eight hours as police tried to talk them down.
Members of the Palestine Action group scaled the Israeli-owned UAV Tactical Systems factory in the Meridian Business Park in Braunstone Town at around 5am this morning.
Their goal was to disrupt production at the factory which is a subsidiary of Elbit Systems, an Israeli-based defence electronics company, and Thales, a French aerospace company.
Leicestershire Police were called to the scene just after 5.30am and subsequently called in Fire and Rescue crews as support.
A group of four protestors wearing red overalls stuck tape across the roof of the building spelling out the phrase ‘war crime scene’. Red paint was also sprayed across the sides of the factory.
Emergency services attempted to intervene while the protestors were on the roof.
A turntable ladder was deployed to reach reach them as they were encouraged to climb down by police officers, but the group remained. Fire and rescue crews left the scene at 11.14am.
The protest came against a backdrop of escalating violencein the Middle East, including Israeli air-strikes on Gaza and rocket attacks from Palestinian militants into Israel.
Palestine Action has been planning to take direct action against Elbit Systems’ UK locations including those in Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and Bristol.
This was the Palestine Action’s first demonstration in Leicester.
Protestors allege that parts manufactured in the Leicester factory are being used in military tech which is being used in the conflict in Israel and Gaza. The company’s website lists the Watchkeeper drone under the aircraft currently in production or development on its page about the site in Leicester.
In a statement, the protestors said: “Today’s action shows that it is entirely within our power to stop the production of machinery.
“The past week has shown the relentless death and destruction that Israeli forces can and will inflict.
“It is the duty of anyone who has been rightly appalled by these atrocities to stand up and take action.”
Supporters joined the protest on the ground outside the factory gates where a sign saying ‘Shut Elbit Down’ was laid on the ground.
Chants such as “Palestine will be free” and “Shut Elbit Down” were shouted between Palestine Action protestors and their supporters.
LeicestershireLive contacted Elbit Systems UK but the company declined to comment on the protest.
Leicestershire Fire and Rescue crews left the scene at 11.14am, despite the protest being ongoing. They were initially called to ensure the safety of those on the roof of the factory.
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The Fire Brigade Union confirmed that it intervened to remind managers that their role does not involve law enforcement and expressed support for the right to protest.
A statement from the union said: “Union Officials immediately reminded Senior Managers that as firefighters, we are, and remain, a proud humanitarian service and our role does not involve law enforcement.
“Once the safety of those involved had been confirmed, Fire Brigades Union members withdrew from the incident.”
Leicestershire Brigade Chair, Graham Vaux added that “the Fire Brigades Union stand in support of Palestinian solidarity and the right to protest.”
The demonstration continued into the afternoon and police remained at the scene engaging with those involved and facilitating the peaceful protest on the ground.