By Tomáš Tengely-Evans
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Students joined walkouts for Palestine, workers blockade BAE arms factory

The walkouts and protests came ahead of the fourth national demonstration for Palestine in London
Issue 2881
Workers wearing masks stand behind a banner forming a barrier to the BAE systems factory in Kent

Supporters of the Workers For A Free Palestine group block entrance to BAE Sytems factory in Kent (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Hundreds of university students across Britain joined walkouts for Palestine on Thursday and Friday.  

The protests at Bristol, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Oxford and other universities on Friday came the day before the fourth national demonstration in London—which organisers expect over half a million people to join.

Around 200 students protested in Edinburgh and staged a “lie-in” on the campus. They heard speeches, including from a Palestinian who is a member of the UCU university workers’ union.

In Oxford, several hundred students marched through the city centre, chanting, “From al-Aqsa to Gaza, long live the intifada.” They staged a sit-in at Westgate, a major shopping centre in the city.

Chants of, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and, “Free, free Palestine,” rang out outside Birmingham University. Hundreds of students joined the protest organised by the Palestine Society and Socialist Worker Student Society (SWSS).

Around 150 marched in Manchester, chanting, “Your profits, are covered, in Palestinians’ blood.”

The previous day students joined walkouts at the London School of Economics (LSE) and other universities.

Meanwhile, over 400 trade unionists blockaded a BAE Systems arms factory—which supplies Israel—in Kent earlier on Friday.  

Supporters of the Workers For A Free Palestine group descended on the plant in Chatham, Rochester, at 7am. They blocked the site’s entrances, chanting, “1,2,3,4 occupation no more—5,6,7,8 Israel is a terrorist state”, and, “BAE must be stopped, no more bombs must be dropped.”

Harriet, a health worker from east London, told the PA news agency, “Behind us is the BAE factory where some central components of the fighter jets that Israel is using to bomb Palestine are made and then they are shipped to Israel and become a part of the killer fighter planes.

“The more than 10,000 Palestinian civilians that have been killed in the last couple of weeks are literally at the mercy of these weapons.

“We’re trying to turn workers away who are coming to do their job which is assembling those weapons and we’re trying to stop deliveries getting in and out of the factory which so far has been successful. We’ve turned quite a few workers away.

Harriet added, “I think this has been a long month and it’s been a very long 75 years for Palestine. I think people are getting rightly so angry and I think fatigued of the genocide but not of fighting it.”

The blockade included health workers, teachers, hospitality workers and others from the Unite, Unison, GMB, NEU, BMA and UCU union.

Alexandra, an NEU member, said, “As a teacher and trade unionist it’s impossible to stand by and watch as our government supports Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza, including with arms from this very factory.

“As a teacher, seeing 185 schools and other educational institutions in Gaza bombed is utterly heartbreaking.”

Meanwhile, over 20 people at a secondary school in Hackney, east London, took part in a lunchtime protest for Palestine.

And over 100 workers and students joined a walkout in solidarity with Palestine at the University of York.

Let’s get onto the streets in our hundreds of thousands on Saturday—and keep up the militancy with station sit-ins, student strikes and workplace walkouts and actions.

  • March for Palestine, Saturday 11 November, assemble 12 noon at Hyde Park (on Park Lane) for march to the US Embassy, Nine Elms Lane, SW11 7US. Organisers are urging those attending to use Bond Street, Oxford Street and Hyde Park Corner tubes as well as Marble Arch to ease congestion.
  • Trade union bloc: assemble 11am, Speakers’ Corner

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