Pro-Palestine protesters call to halt UK arms supplies to Israel on May Day

Pro-Palestine protesters call to halt UK arms supplies to Israel on May Day
An activist group said over 1,000 workers have been blockading the UK Trade Department in London and BAE Systems’ arms factories in Scotland and Wales
3 min read
01 May, 2024
Workers for a Free Palestine organise nationwide protests including London, Glasgow, Lancashire and South Wales to call on the UK government to stop arming Israel [Workers4Pal]

Protesters across the UK took place on Wednesday to mark May Day and urge London to end the export of arms to Israel amid its brutal offensive which has killed over 34,500 Palestinians - the majority of which were women and children.

Workers for a Free Palestine, a leading organiser of the nationwide protests said that over 1,000 workers and trade unionists demonstrated outside the British government's Department of Business and Trade London offices, as well as the BAE Systems’ arms factories in South Wales, Lancashire and Glasgow. 

According to Scottish news outlet The National, over 100 people attended the Glasgow demonstration where all five entrances to the BAE Systems site in Govan were blockaded and another entrance to other neighbouring sites.

Another 900 demonstrators were spotted outside the UK sites owned by the region's leading arms manufacturer. 

The New Arab has also approached the Department of Business and Trade for comment. 

In various videos that circulated online, protesters could be seen wearing the traditional keffiyeh scarves and waving Palestinian flags as drums were played amid slogans calling for an end to links with Israel.

Lukas Slothuus, a Sussex University researcher and attendee of the London protest, shared his support for calls to ban arms sales to Israel. 

"The [Workers for a Free Palestine] protest at the Department of Business and Trade in London this morning - they issue licenses for weapons production in Britain, weapons that are sold to Israel to commit genocide against Palestinians," he wrote in a post on X. 

"No to British complicity in genocide, boycott Israel now!"

According to the organisation, the blockade of the Department took place in solidarity with civil servants responsible for overseeing arms exports to Israel. These civil servants had requested last month to "cease work immediately" over fears they could be complicit in war crimes in Gaza.  

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents civil servants, has said it will consider taking action to prevent its members from working under such conditions.

Wednesday's protests also marked May Day, or International Workers Day, as part of a wider workers action targeting entities that continue to arm Israel. 

Just days prior, it was announced that a legal challenge filed by Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq and UK-based Global Legal Action Network in December is set to proceed later this year, demanding the UK to stop granting licenses to Israel.

Additionally, over 600 lawyers, academics and former judges including three former Supreme Court judges have issued a letter addressed to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that the UK is complicit in breaching international law by producing weapons and components to Israel. 

The British government concluded in April that it could keep sending weapons to Israel as UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron had rejected pressure to suspend exports over charges of humanitarian violations in Gaza.

London has approved over 487 million pounds ($614 million) of weapon sales to Israel since 2015 in so-called single-issue licences, while companies export more under open licences, according to arms control groups. 

The United States, by far the largest provider of weapons to Israel, has also rejected calls to suspend shipments despite rising frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conduct of the war.