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Brighton, a city of Sanctuary or a Bomb making Factory?

Updated: Mar 10

Blog Post by Channel Co-Editor in Chief Fiona Green


 

If you do not read this whole piece, at least read this and take this away:


Brighton Arms Manufacturing (F3 Harris) Arms Equipment found by UN Reporters at bomb sites in YEMEN. Our city is building the release mechanisms in which bombs are being dropped from by Israel and US/UK in Gaza and Yemen.

Get involved in the blockades and protests outside this factory. Help directly stop more bombs from being dropped.

 

Photography by Leo Woollison-Crook


On the 13th of February 2024, some close friends and I attended a Stop The War Coalition Public Meeting at the Friends Meeting House in Brighton City Centre. The meeting had a focus on the atrocities being committed by Israel (facilitated by US & UK powers) onto Gaza and the Palestinian people but often discussed the larger international picture including discussions of Yemen, Lebanon, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The audience was small, with its' attendees being mostly elderly, spotted with young adults and working adults. The energy started jovial and passionate. Those who showed up wanted to do something, and meet others who felt the same way. Speakers Damian McCarthy, Anna Stavrianakis and Shabbir Lakha presented their speeches with confidence and necessity.


Damian McCarthy, a Trade Unionist who has toes dipped in organisations from Unite and PSC to Stop The War, started the public meeting emphasising the importance of getting involved in Trade Unions, "If you're not in one, get in one. Immediately."

He detailed the history of UK Trade Unions, encouraging the crowd to remember the times in the past where the Anti-Arms Movements led by Trade Unionists helped stop war-led atrocities across the world. Damian imbedded the current struggle against a-political trade unionists, members who and quote "do not at all get involved in politics". The idea of an a-political trade unionist is inherently confusing; how can one be in a union and not be involved in politics? That was exactly his point. He expressed his desire to encourage those with views such as these to get more involved, get more educated and stand on the moral and ethical side of history. I personally found myself educated about something called the Lucas Plan.

The Lucas Plan was an organisation initiated in the 1970's to push a shift from Arms Manufacturing to more Socially Useful Product Manufacturing such as the proposed following; Medical Equipment, Transportation Vehicles, Energy Conservations and more. The plan turn company dissolved over time due to poor management and lack of government support but Damian stressed of the importance the plan did while it existed, and that if it made change then, it can make change again. We need another Lucas Plan. Continuing, to achieve another Lucas Plan, Trade Unions need to commit and organise to "focused, isolated, action" against the Arms and Weaponry Trade in the UK. Damian spoke on how Trade Unionists must communicate with each other and coordinate their actions. He mentioned, that in-house, Trade Unions such as his own UNITE, must be help up to standard too and must be audited more frequently, as nothing in their T&C's disallows the investing into Arms & Weapons Trade, something many members stand against.

Damian ended, circling back to the important of joining a Trade Union as the fight is only getting stronger and "we...

"...have a world to win."

In Brighton, we must focus on L3 Harris. Across the UK there is a focus on Elbit Systems (who supply Israel with 85% of their drones and land used weapons), but L3 is on our doorstep. Anna Stavrianakis, a researcher on the Arms Industry and the Shadow World at our very own University of Sussex, spoke on the panel next. Anna spoke clearly on the direct connections between Gaza, Yemen and Brighton. Brighton is a cog in the international Arms Trade machine. She asked, is this what we want from our city? Our sanctuary to the LGBTQ+, home to the first Green MP, a city that stands for people and what is right. Brighton says, not in our name.

Brighton is home to an L3 Harris Factory on Lewes Road. Harris is one of the 12 largest arms companies in the world. However the factory in Brighton only employees around 100-150 people. Anna proclaimed she will always be in support of job availability, but not jobs by which facilitate genocide. This factory makes the bomb releasing mechanisms used in F45 and F16 Planes. The planes flying over Gaza and Rafah right now, bombing innocent Palestinians right now. L3 Harris exports its' releases mechanisms to the USA who send it directly to Israel. From a UK perspective, Anna warned there are no reporting requirements or limits for these factories, meaning Arms Manufacturers can not only make Arms Equipment and sell it to whoever they want but produce as many, as fast as they can. L3 Harris owns the manufacturing rights to the mechanisms that F16 Planes use to release bombs, holding subcontracts from Lockheed Martin (F-35 Plane Manufactures) since 2020. Anna passionately proclaimed that stopping this factory, would be a major step in helping stopping bombs from being dropped.

Alongside, L3 Harris's Brighton Factories productions have been seen by UN Reporters at bomb sites in Yemen. Meaning not only is L3 Harris facilitating Israels pursuit of genocide, but also facilitating the attacks on Yemen and the Houthis by the UK/US. The bombing of Yemen due to Houthi Solidarity Action has basically been called pointless by US President Biden himself. So why it continues is completely nonsensical. However, Anna moved to concentrate on the power of Collective Action and Blockades to help stop the bombing, to help put a stop all of this murder. L3 Harris is being regularly protested by locals, however they need more support. The blockades need us, the people of Brighton, to make them more successful in halting production of the bomb release mechanisms.


 
If you want to try and help right now: you can visit the link tree STOP L3HARRIS here to take action as a Brighton & Hove resident. Context your local MP, contact your local councillor. Tell them we do not want an Arms Trade Factory in Brighton that sends its products to countries that use it to rage war on innocents.
 

It was finally Shabbir Lakha's time to speak. Shabbir is a National Officer of the Stop The War Coalition. He has travelled across the UK, leading school walk outs and encouraging activism and widening the movement for years. Shabbir began by taking us back in time in the 1947 Nakba in Palestine, illuminating the house on the fact the Nakba never ended, it has continued for over 70 years. Nakba is the Arabic word for catastrophe. A catastrophe led by Israeli Zionists.

Shabbir articulated how important it is that we continue our solidarity and continue our actions to further the movement. Internationally, Yemen has shown the largest solidarity action so far with much of Yemen's population showing up in protest for Gaza and Palestinian Freedom. Yemeni solidarity action also consists of the Houthi's, a group of activists argued to be enacting economic sanctions on Israel by blocking commerce along the Red Sea in reaction to Israel's break of international law.

He commented on how here at home, protesting, posters, stickers and badges have been criminalised and protesters have been persecuted for showing solidarity under UK law. He continued to exclaim how UK Government Leaders like Sunak keep saying that they 'disapprove' with Israel's actions and think what they are doing is 'too much', yet do not take any decisive, impactful action to change the current situation. UK Governmental Leaders are the ones we have given power too to change things, to take action, yet they sit and refuse to. The MP's of UK sit and make money from Israel's atrocities, actively funding and investing in organisations that facilitate it... And yet they call the protestors terrorists and terrorist sympathisers.

The British Public, us, the people, stand with Palestine. This is something everyone in the UK knows very well. Shabbir encouraged this stance to continue, for us to not lose pace and keep going. The Free Palestine, Ceasefire and All Eyes on Rafah movements have produced the largest and most sustained Collective Actions the UK has seen in a long time, hundreds of protests occur per week in the UK for Palestine. The solidarity and actions that have come from the publics support of Palestine has encouraged a level of mass education and political enlightenment that is vital to wider causes that support ideas of larger parliamentary and political change away from imperialism and capitalism. Shabbir highlighted that these outcomes are showing us directly that collective actions via protests, blockades, petitions, emails to local leaders, public meetings, are WORKING. Activists must keep working to deepen and broaden the movement until Governmental Leaders act on and reflect the people's stance.

Shabbir finished his speech to the house by echoing a statement repeated by many others who understand the larger effcts of social political movements and international solidarity...

"...in freeing Palestine, Palestine will free us."
 

The attendees at the Friends Meeting House showed incredible support for all three speakers on the panel. The panel held a Q&A after the speeches which were received very well, it was so amazing to see the public of Brighton get so engaged with Palestine and UK politics. I won't talk too much about what questions or discussions occurred at the public meeting out of respect and privacy of the group in attendance however I do really want to say that it was such an interesting and educational space to be within and anyone reading this should really consider making the time to go to a public meeting such as this one.


As a conclusive thought, I want to thank and congratulate anyone who made it this far to the end of this piece. I personally think it is really important to keep talking and keep sharing information about and actions on Freeing Palestine. We must face the truth of the world we live in, there are bad people doing bad things. We cannot turn out backs on innocent people. We must be on the right side of history, the UK public proudly stands with Palestine, we need to make our leaders align with us.

Keep protesting. Keep boycotting.
Keep Palestine in your hearts and in our lives.




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