Nakba 75: Police violence won't stop Palestine Action's siege on Elbit

Nakba 75: Police violence won't stop Palestine Action's siege on Elbit
Faced with draconian new protest laws and police violence, Palestine Action and the local Leicester community remain committed to fighting the Israeli occupation and ending British complicity, 75 years after the Nakba, writes Shareefa Energy.
6 min read
10 May, 2023
A protester holds a Palestinian flag in front of police lines as Palestine Action demonstrate against Elbit Systems in Leicester, England on 2 May 2023. [Getty]

On 1st May, a siege was declared by direct action collective Palestine Action against the UAV Elbit Systems factory in Leicester, which supplies the Israeli occupation with drones to massacre Palestinians, alongside creating components for military vehicles.

Elbit is Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer, supplying 85% of the Israeli occupations’ arms and selling their drones as ‘battle-tested’ on Palestinians. It has been the target of a sustained direct action campaign by Palestine Action that has succeeded in shutting down factories in Oldham and the London HQ.

The campaign has been supported by local and national activists exerting community pressure, and even local communities have refused to be complicit in allowing these factories to continue with business as usual on their doorstep.

"In spite of the intimidation tactics and violence of the police protecting the interests of the Israeli occupation and the complicit British state, the siege continues"

During the past week in Leicester, we’ve witnessed an abuse of police powers and the disproportionate use of violence against activists. A metal police cordon was placed at the end of the road blocking the entrance to the Elbit factory and blocking the road. Protestors were steered from getting anywhere near the entrance.

Metal railings were put up outside the factory walls to keep people away, a staircase had been removed that was previously there which Palestine Action activists had used to get onto the roof with a ladder for 6 days. Private security and police patrolled inside and outside the premises.

Arrests began as soon as the siege started, mainly inside the camp site in the woods where the activists were camped, including one of the earliest arrests of a 15-year-old Muslim boy on the morning of the second day of the siege.

"It's great that everyone comes together for demonstrations, but then everyone goes home to comfort and safety, while its just a matter of time until the next bomb hit Palestine" @nadine_talaat meets with the @Pal_action activists taking on Elbit systems

— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) February 15, 2022

A total of 33 arrests were made, including the co-founders of Palestine Action. A further 5 arrests took place on the evening of 8th May when activists left the barricaded protest area in front of the premises for a moment to observe police racially profiling and stopping cars who showed solidarity with Palestine and protestors.

On Day 2 during a peaceful workshop, dozens of police officers emerged from the police cordon and surrounded and confiscated tents, including all the belongings in them. They then proceeded to kettle over 20 people, assaulting a number of protestors, including punching a 60-year-old activist in the face and attempting to violently arrest 2 Asian young men present.

It was clear that the intention behind clearing the camp was to strip the activists of their dedicated safe space and operational headquarters. But to the shame of the police, the Leicester community responded by providing sleeping bags, duvets and food for all the activists who’d arrived from Manchester, Scotland, London, Palestine and even as far as Australia to stand up to Elbit and the Israeli occupation.

In solidarity with Palestine, activists from around the world have slept outside the factory in sleeping bags with tarpaulin over their heads in the torrential rain, getting drenched. The Leicester and Birmingham community has continued to provide hot meals for the activists. In spite of the intimidation tactics and violence of the police protecting the interests of the Israeli occupation and the complicit British state, the siege continues. 

The timing of the siege is significant. Next week marks the 75-year anniversary of the Nakba, or the ‘catastrophe’, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were killed or expelled to pave the way for the creation of Israel.

75 years of massacres, of Palestinians displaced and denied their right to return home, of their native land repeatedly attacked and their rights continually infringed upon, of land theft and settlement expansion.

Britain’s role in the colonisation of Palestine can hardly be understated. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the state continues to protect those directly responsible in the ongoing occupation. 

On Tuesday 2nd May, Palestinian Khader Adnan died in an Israeli jail on day 87 of his hunger strike, protesting against being held under administrative detention without trial. This was his fifth hunger strike. The Israeli occupation has been afraid of other prisoners finding out news of his death.

Khader Adnan was a baker and a vocal activist speaking up for Palestinians held under administrative detention without trial, demanding the dignity and liberation of his people living under military occupation and victims of military invasions and repression. The Muslim community in Leicester performed a solidarity Janazah Salah to commemorate him outside the Elbit factory.

On Monday night, the Israeli occupation bombed Gaza and murdered 13 people, including 4 children and 6 women. The use of Elbit drones has resulted in another massacre. Outside the Elbit factory, people continue to gather to remember Palestinian communities and casualties living under siege and occupation.

The people will always represent what true democracy is in the face of repression, even as police powers infringes on the rights of those vocalising their dissent and frustration towards petitions and marches and living in a world where tragic loss of life is minimised.

"At a time when changes in police powers and protests laws in Britain have spread anxiety and concern over repercussions, these activists remain undeterred"

Palestine Action is a movement of activists supported by local communities inspired by the direct action of the suffragettes and other movements which managed to create change. At a time when changes in police powers and protests laws in Britain have spread anxiety and concern over repercussions, these activists remain undeterred.

Solidarity with Palestinians living under a right-wing government, facing settler pogroms chanting “yalla Nakba”, military invasions, mass arrests and administrative detention without trial, deadly raids and bombing campaigns, Palestine Action and those standing in solidarity with them are defending the right to protest against Israeli apartheid and the ongoing Nakba.

As Elbit’s ‘battle-proven’ drones continue to terrorise and murder Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza with the protection of the British state, the local Leicester community and national and international activists will not rest until this arms factory is shut down.

Shareefa Energy is a working-class poet, writer, activist and creative campaigner originally from Leicester. She was the Youth and Community Coordinator for stop and search in London from 2016-17. She has supported the United Friends and Families Campaign in various capacities since 2011. She was headline poet and facilitator for The Freedom Theatre’s ‘Through The Eyes of Women’ Feminist Theatre Festival 2022 in Jenin Refugee Camp in Palestine.

Follow her on Twitter: @ShareefaEnergy

Have questions or comments? Email us at:

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.