Craig Murray: Extreme Policing

People are getting arrested at a factory in the U.K. belonging to Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer for doing nothing but exercising the democratic right to protest.

Protest area at the Elbit factory in Leicester, U.K. (Haward Soper)

By Craig Murray

Monday was day eight of the protest at the Elbit Israeli weapons factory in Leicester. After seven days and over 60 arrests, fewer than 20 protestors remained. 

I learn that 46 protesters who have been arrested have been released on the bail condition that they leave Leicestershire County. Yes, the entire county.

People arrested for doing absolutely nothing but exercising the democratic right to protest, are thus prevented from exercising that right further, without a long period in jail on remand. 

What is happening here is sickening.

Protest sign outside the Elbit plant in Leicester, U.K. (Haward Soper)

The protestors have been confined to a designated area by an order under the Public Order Act 1986. One demonstrator, who left the protest on Monday to go home, was detained by police for leaving the designated area.

Three protestors approached the police to inquire — politely — why their friend was being detained. They then returned to the cordon. Thirty police then surrounded the cordon from the front and, through the woods, from the rear. They then entered and, with force, arrested the three for having left the cordon.

They also arrested two others who had never left the cordon at all, including one nervous young lady who had done absolutely nothing but stand quietly inside the designated area and had been telling fellow demonstrators how scared she was.

As is common with demonstrations, numerous motorists had been honking their horn in support in passing. The police (and I have never heard of this before) were stopping vehicles that sounded their horns, demanding to see driving licenses and vehicle insurance, taking down the drivers’ details and warning them they were liable to be charged with an offence.

I heard the details from eyewitnesses when I arrived on Tuesday evening to show support, and try to understand just what was happening. By Tuesday evening, the demonstration consisted of just nine people — three of whom were small children and three of whom were female.

Nevertheless, there were three minibuses full of police watching them, and two burly private security guards facing them from behind the razor wire of the Elbit weapons factory, each with a large Alsatian dog on a leash. The police drone that had been overhead for a week had left shortly before we arrived.

Elbit factory in Leicester, U.K. (Haward Soper)

The Elbit weapons factory is a large, non-descript modern grey building in a sprawling industrial estate outside Leicester. It has high fences and razor wire, but no identification. There is no sign with a company name. It is just labelled “Unit 13.” 

In a reminder that suppression of protest was not invented in 2022, the police are operating largely through a draconian order made under the Tory “Public Order Act 1986”. 

This legislation was former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s reaction to the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, to trades union picketing and to travellers.

The order — drawn up under the act by the police without any judicial authority — limits the assembly to a small “designated area” on the footpath opposite the Elbit factory, and specifically excludes the woodland beyond the footpath. It further prohibits the erection of structures for accommodation on the footpath, highway or any public path.

So, protestors are not permitted to be anywhere but on the footpath, and on the footpath they are not permitted to erect tents. 

Protest sign outside the Elbit factory. (Haward Soper)

The police have used this provision quite deliberately to thwart the protestors from setting up any kind of camp. The police have systematically confiscated, smashed and torn any tents, camping equipment and sleeping bags. They have even stopped protestors sheltering under a tarpaulin during Tuesday’s heavy thunderstorms.

The right of protestors to camp out has been a traditional and regularly observed feature of Western democracy, and U.K. democracy in particular, for centuries. Brian Haw was even permitted by the courts to stay encamped in Parliament Square for years. 

I myself took part in the protest camp on the Torness nuclear power site in 1978. I addressed the Occupy! camp in front of St Paul’s Cathedral in 2011. The Faslane Peace Camp is ongoing.

The level of suppression of protest here in Leicester is not consistent with British traditions of democracy. It is policing which is aggressive and hostile in a way I am simply not used to – I have had numerous friendly conversations with policemen on demonstrations in the past.

In short, this is overtly political policing which sees peaceful protestors as “the enemy.”

It happens that early on Tuesday morning, before I travelled down to Leicester, the Israeli military killed five children and three women in bombing attacks on the helpless people of Gaza. The odds are, of course, that on any given day I came, they would have killed innocents.

Elbit Systems is Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer.

The nine surviving protestors were friendly and cheerful. I was accompanied by my friend Haward Soper, who took these photographs. Haward and I left the designated area and wandered all over the place, but the police did not bother us, we being old, white and middle class.

I asked whether the protest would still be going on come Wednesday morning. I was told yes, but there are fewer people in the mornings. 

That is fewer than nine. They were, however, hoping for a big turnout this weekend.

When I was young, Palestine and apartheid South Africa were the two international injustices we most campaigned over. South African apartheid ended, but Israeli apartheid has worsened. I am still campaigning for Palestinians after 50 years. 

I am most concerned that our radical energies having been successfully diverted into the sterile ground of the identity politics of the Western middle classes. 

Palestinian is one of the most abused identities in the world. Focus on that.

Most of those arrested have been charged with public order offences. The Leicester Mercury is reporting about half are charged under the 2022 Public Order Act. They are going to need support through the court system. 

These protests are taking a stand against apartheid, against the slow genocide of the Palestinian people. They affirm the right to stand up for what you believe — a right the police are making very plain they intend to negate.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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15 comments for “Craig Murray: Extreme Policing

  1. Vera Gottlieb
    May 13, 2023 at 10:41

    We have the US telling us what to do…We have israel telling us what to do…And now we also have Zelensky telling us what to do. Who is next???

  2. Roslyn Ross
    May 12, 2023 at 22:38

    What many do not realise is that Israel tests its weapons on the men, women and children imprisoned in the Gaza concentration camp – the world’s largest open-air prison as a UK Prime Minister and others have described it. Slaughter a few non-Jews in Gaza who have nowhere to run and then sell your weapons to the world.

    • Richard Simpson
      May 13, 2023 at 09:56

      Indeed, if not war crimes, then surely crimes against humanity.

  3. CaseyG
    May 12, 2023 at 22:31

    The novel,”1984,” showed what the new world would be. Of course it took longer than expected for the People of the World to understand——but evil begins slowly and ends so quickly by imprisoning the populace both mentally and physically.

  4. Lily
    May 12, 2023 at 05:09

    If King Charles Ill would be a true king ( like in a fairy tale from Hans Christian Andersen ) he would – on his coronation day – set Julian Assange free.

    But he is no true king.

    • Vera Gottlieb
      May 13, 2023 at 10:42

      No, he ain’t…Just another royal parasite of society.

  5. Michael Kritschgau
    May 12, 2023 at 05:08

    Why this isn’t mainstream news? Other protests like environmental activists gluing their “hardworking” hands to the concrete or paintings are paraded daily everywhere…
    As I’ve stated previously: the activist movements like the climate doom, the LGBTQ+, the feminist and so on are just smoke screens to divert attention of the public from the criminal actions taken abroad by the West.
    I have a soft spot for Israel but that doesn’t mean Israel isn’t beyond any mistakes or brutal actions.

    • Richard Simpson
      May 13, 2023 at 09:57

      Well said, they are diverting our attention from their crimes.

  6. Patrick Powers
    May 12, 2023 at 02:06

    You think that’s bad? US police just killed a protester.

  7. Andrew Thomas
    May 11, 2023 at 23:32

    I fully expect that Keir Starmer will soon call a press conference to announce that all of those arrested have been thrown out of the Labour Party. Unless, of course, they had already resigned in morally correct disgust. Or had seen through it from the moments they came of age.
    One also wonders if any of the bobbies had been trained, as so many of the militarized cops in the US, in Israel or by members of the IDF or other Israeli entities.

  8. Red Star
    May 11, 2023 at 18:23

    52 arrested in London at the weekend for protesting – or because the police thought they might protest – against our unelected monarchy. They (the Esthablishment via its members in parliament) are trying to make protests and strike action illegal.

    • Valerie
      May 11, 2023 at 21:31

      And no doubt they will succeed. I have seen nothing of these protests in Leicester anywhere in MSM UK main papers. But plenty articles of the anti monarchists arrests.
      Cracking down to supress any outrage. Their tactics are devious to boot.

    • Valerie
      May 12, 2023 at 12:35

      And this today from a piece by Monbiot in the Guardian:

      “Government analyses and others have been strongly indicating for many years now more and more social disruption due to an accumulation of factors mostly clustered around strains on people of the breakdown of earth’s systems and the resulting socio-economic breaking points.

      But in a country like Britain, the governments must also be expecting severe social disruption due to decades of policies that favour the rich over the non-rich. Bigger and more prisons and expanded and expanding police powers are part of the response to the expected social upheaval.”

      Certainly interesting times.

      • Michael Kritschgau
        May 13, 2023 at 05:52

        As I’ve stated previously, Valerie, it is the West who arrogantly assumes that there is a breakdown of the Earth’s systems. This is not true. There is a breakdown of the West’ systems since it is the West who brutally tries to disturb systems all over the world (albeit somewhat successfully).
        BRICS+ is proof that the rest of the world which is not alligned to the West’s globalist ideology has a different mindset. Sure, the BRICS+ societies are not perfect but their cultural and societal functions are mostly intact.

        Same with Eastern Europe. Its culture, which mostly centers around Christian Orthodoxy and traditional family is still intact. The West cannot say that these other systems are breaking down. They are not. In fact, there is a growing stance over national identity and old cultural values in the East as the West pushes for the destruction of these values as well.
        The East is not blind to the collapse of the West’s old cultural values and it is bracing itself for what is coming from the West. The East also has the lessons of the Ottoman yoke and communist oppression and knows how to keep intact its values.
        The West never experienced oppression to the extent the East did and so it is much more vulnerable to self-destructive tendencies and to the projection of what happens in its society all over the world.
        The West’ systems are collapsing, not the whole world’s.

  9. Lafayette Bon Tom
    May 11, 2023 at 17:52

    The democratic right to protest has been abolished in both UK and US. At least on this side of the pond, that’s been obvious since you had to go to a free speech cage in order to speak where you could not be heard. And that was decades ago. The right to free speech, or to protest your grievances against your government is as gone as your right to self-determination. You will be ruled by whom we say rules you, and you will like it, or at least be quiet about it between your long overtime work shifts.

    We are fighting a war to defend democracy, don’t you know. And we can’t have such pinko ideas like protest and free speech because we are at war to defend democracy and freedom. And if you can’t understand that, then we just have to lock you up … in the cause of democracy and freedom. And if you make too much noise even from your incommunicado prison cell, we have ways of silencing you … because we are defending democracy and freedom.

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