Socialist Worker

Eamonn McCann on the victory of the Raytheon 9 anti-war protesters

Issue No. 2106

Eamonn McCann speaking from inside the Raytheon building

Eamonn McCann speaking from inside the Raytheon building

On 9 August 2006, nine Northern Irish anti-war activists occupied the Derry offices of Raytheon, one of the biggest arms manufacturers in the world, and destroyed its computers.

Their action was sparked by anger at Raytheon’s complicity in Israel’s bombing campaign against Lebanon.

The Raytheon 9 won a massive victory when they were acquitted of charges of criminal damage earlier this month.

Campaigning journalist Eamonn McCann was one of the nine protesters. He spoke to Socialist Worker about the case

There has been considerable controversy about Raytheon ever since the company announced that its factory was coming to Derry in 1999.

Raytheon specialises in producing hi-tech bombs, missiles and battlefield control systems.

It sells arms mainly to the US government. But it is also one of the largest suppliers of the Israeli army.

The immediate cause of our occupation of the Raytheon factory was the bombing of Qana in southern Lebanon on 30 July 2006.

This came at a time when the United Nations secretary general and even the archbishop of Canterbury were calling upon George Bush and Tony Blair to at least pose the idea of a ceasefire. But they adamantly refused.

They wanted Israel to finish crushing Hizbollah and the Lebanese resistance forces.

In the midst of this, a bomb was used to destroy an apartment building in Qana leading to the deaths of 28 people.

We were almost certain that this was a Raytheon bomb. In campaigning against Raytheon we’d acquired a great deal of knowledge about what it was producing and where it was selling it.

We held a meeting of the Derry anti-war coalition and decided to occupy the building. Our intention was not just to protest about what was happening in Lebanon – it was much more practical than that.

We believed that we could in effect decommission the factory, disrupt production and delay the ability of Israel to rain down further death on southern Lebanon.

We were aware that Israel was running short of some of the weapons that Raytheon was delivering and that encouraged us in our belief that we could have some effect on Israel’s ability to wage war.

We smashed Raytheon’s computers and used a fire extinguisher and other equipment to take out their communications hub.

The charges levelled against us were affray and criminal damage. The charge of affray was thrown out because key to the charge is that you severely frighten people by your behaviour.

We demonstrated in court that there was no evidence that we had frightened anybody.

Then we fought the criminal damage charge. Of course, we didn’t deny doing any of the things we were accused of.

In fact we said on the first day that we did all of the things we were accused of and that we would have done more if we could.

I stood up in the witness box and said that we regretted that we couldn’t have done more.

Our defence was not a moral defence – it was a political defence. We didn’t say that this was a protest because we were angry at Israel’s actions. We said that this was a genuine, serious effort to disrupt the supply of arms to Israel.

Our argument was that Israel was committing war crimes and that our action was intended to prevent this larger crime.

If you hear the sound of a child being brutalised in the house next door and you rush in to smash the door down and save the child, should you be charged with breaking and entering? Obviously not.

In the same way we were trying to save people in Lebanon who were being criminally attacked by Israel.

We presented lots of evidence. This included documents from the Norwegian government about why it had withdrawn investment from Raytheon, journalism by Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn, and lots more to back up our argument.

We explained what Raytheon’s weapons were and what they were used for.

We were not required to establish as a certainty that these things were happening. We were required to show our belief that these things were happening.

And we showed that we had a genuine belief based on reasonable evidence.

The jury accepted that we believed that Israel was guilty of war crimes and that our action was intended to hamper this. We were vindicated.

I hope the case will lead to a wider campaign over Raytheon. In light of the court’s decision, there is now a case for Raytheon to be investigated to determine whether it is a criminal enterprise.’

For more information on the case go to »

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Tue 17 Jun 2008, 18:38 BST
Issue No. 2106
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