Three arrested after pro-Palestine campaigners shut down Birmingham company linked to Israeli arms manufacturer

Three arrested after pro-Palestine campaigners shut down Birmingham company linked to Israeli arms manufacturer
3 min read
05 July, 2021
Pro-Palestine campaigners shut down a property management company they claim has links to Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems in Birmingham. Three women have been arrested on suspicion of 'criminal damage and aggravated trespass'.
Palestine Action said we need to "sacrifice ourselves a bit" when campaigning for change [Photo Credit to Neil Terry Photography - sent from Palestine Action]

Three women have been arrested after pro-Palestine campaigners stormed the offices of property management company Vine Property Management (VPM) in Birmingham on Monday. The protest took place because of the company's business with Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest private arms company, Palestine Action told The New Arab.  

Three female protestors from Palestine Action climbed onto the roof of VPM's office at around 7 a.m. on Monday, and sprayed the site with red paint before posting a video of the protest on social media. 

Three women were arrested on suspicion of "criminal damage and aggravated trespass" at the site later that same day, according to West Midlands police. 

"We have no choice but to take action," a spokesperson for Palestine Action told The New Arab. 

"Lobbying attempts and petitions have not worked," the group said; sometimes it has to "step further [which involves] breaking the law" because it has a "moral obligation" to act. 

The red paint and occupation of buildings are little "in comparison to what these weapons cause," the group said.

[Photo Credit to Neil Terry Photography - sent from Palestine Action]
Protestors on the roof of Vine Property Management's building. [Photo Credit to Neil Terry Photography - sent from Palestine Action]

The "shutdown" is one of a series of demonstrations against Elbit and companies Palestine Action claim are associated with the arms manufacturer, with the aim of stopping the construction and exportation of weapons from the UK used to target Palestinians in occupied territories. The longest demonstration lasted six days in Leicester in May and took place at a drone factory run by Israeli-owned Elbit Systems subsidiary UAV Tactical Systems. 

VPM, who merged with Fisher German in 2019, "handle the operations, oversight and maintenance of the UAV Engines factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire, thus contributing to war crimes committed against Palestinian people," Palestine Action wrote on their website. 

Police spoke with campaigners on the roof before three women were arrested. 

In a statement sent to The New Arab, West Midlands Police said: "[The protesters] safety is our primary concern at this stage and we have specialist officers on site who are currently engaging with them."

"What do you think about children getting their heads blown off, how does that make you feel?" one pro-Palestine protester said to police in a video shared by Palestine Action on social media.  

"This is a really strong message...that message is going out," a police officer said to protestors in the video. 

Palestine Action told The New Arab in a statement that over 100 people had been arrested following "shutdowns" and "occupations" coordinated by the organisation since July last year.

Although there are around nine crown court cases against Palestine Action campaigners, a "significant amount do not get charged", the group said, adding this could be because Elbit did not want their crimes to be spotlighted in court.

Fisher German, who Vine Property Management trade under, sent a statement to The New Arab, which read: “We have supported police in resolving the protest which has not only damaged our building but has also caused alarm and distress to our colleagues.

“We would like to clarify that Fisher German does not work for the company that the protest was in relation to.”

[Photo Credit to Neil Terry Photography - sent from Palestine Action]
Palestine Action said the police response to pro-Palestine demonstrations has been "extreme" [Photo Credit to Neil Terry Photography - sent from Palestine Action]

Palestine Action said thousands of people have joined the organisation since May, expressing solidarity for Palestine following the 11-day bombing of Gaza when over 255 Palestinians were killed, including 67 children.

People were "shocked and disgusted" by what happened, the spokesperson said. This is "one of the most horrendous injustices and governments across the world facilitated it".

"[We need to be on] the right side of history. We have to sacrifice ourselves a bit," the group added.