On Wednesday 6th March, a group of protestors blockaded the BAE Salmesbury site to mark 150 days since the start of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The blockade included members of No Arms Lancs and was intended to halt workers at the Salmesbury site from getting to work.

The BAE Salmesbury factory in Lancashire produces the rear fuselage component of the f-35 fighter jet which is sent to Israel to be used against Palestinians.

In an exclusive interview with a member of No Arms Lancs who wishes to stay anonymous, I was informed of the reality of these protests.

‘It’s a 5am start for us, we get there before people go to work and block the entrances with banners, people, chants, marching, and we physically stop people from going to work in an attempt of direct action to stop the flow of arms going to Israel,’ the member stated.

‘’We really don’t want to be doing this. It’s a very early morning get up and also we’re stopping people from going to work which of course inconveniences them’.

However, those who participate in the blockages see this inconvenience as mandatory to hault the production of arms companies:

‘If people in the UK don’t stand up to these arms companies […] we don’t show that we don’t consent to genocide being allowed to happen in this country […]

‘this is a physical way in which we can stop weapons going to Israel, so for us we find it as the most direct and important way to do something to make a difference.’

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been called an ‘epic humanitarian catastrophe’ by United Nations, with Gaza’s healthy ministry releasing the official number of Palestinians killed at over 30,000 deaths.

Humanitarian supplies have been cut off to Gaza, being blocked by Israeli forces who have caused border shut-downs. Due to this, starvation is rampant.

The World Food Progamme’s chief economist, Arif Husain, stated: ‘People are very, very close to large outbreaks of disease because their immune systems have become so weak because they don’t have enough nourishment’.

However, the war starts on our doorstep, the No Arms Lancs member stated, informing of Lancaster University’s own relationship with BAE systems.

‘Essentially we’re being told that this conflict is happening on the other side of the world from us, but it’s not. It’s happening in Preston, it’s happening right on our doorstep. Our university has a long history with working with these companies.’

A recent report published by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) highlights the working relationship Lancaster University (LU) has with BAE systems.

The report states that  £1,408,434 has been spent by the LU into ‘Action on Armed Violence Research Funding’. The value of Military/Industrial Partnerships collected from the dED database stands at £2,235,325.

Lancaster University announced that it would be divesting from the fossil fuel, tobacco and arms industries in 2021.

The CAAT report states that the LU has held no investments into arms companies ‘that were listed under the request in the last five financial years […] such as BAE System and Rolls Royce’.

However, the No Arms Lancs member points out that Lancaster University has ‘agreed to share research with [BAE Systems]. They’re building campuses with them. It’s constantly working with them and we need to get the idea that what’s happening with Isreal and Palistine isn’t happening on the other side of the world it’s something that starts here.’

 Lancaster university has collaborated with the University of Cumbria and BAE Systems to create the Burrow Learning Quarter (BLQ), set to open this year (2024).

In March 2021, staff at Lancaster University protested against the university’s collaboration with BAE systems, creating and circulating a petition to call an end to the relationship.

According to the CAAT report, a spokesperson from LU ‘cited the contribution of LU’s relationship with BAE to local economic development, and justified LU aiding BAE Systems to recruit high-skilled individuals on the basis of BAE being the largest employer in Barrow’.

On the Lancaster University website, it is expressed that Ly have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with BAE Systems, defined by GOV.UK as a ‘statement of serious intent – agreed voluntarily by equal partners – of the commitment, resources, and other considerations that each of the parties will bring’.  

‘This conflict starts here with the weapons that are built here and sold to over there,’ were the No Arms Lancs member’s closing words.

‘We have a responsibility to the people of this country to say we don’t stand for genocide.’

Lancaster University has commented:

‘As part of our commitment to engagement, our graduates’ employment, and to our regional economy, the University works with an increasingly diverse range of partners and businesses. Our work with BAE Systems underpins a range of activities, including research into sustainable technologies, and deepens our engagement with regional business, enhancing business growth and opportunity. We also support our academics’ freedom to identify and associate with legitimate organisations as part of their research activity and for our students to make their own informed choices about where they work.’

We reached out to BAE Systems but they did not respond.

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