‘Protest Repression – Made in England’: Extinction Rebellion join with allied groups to prevent access to arms factory

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This morning, protesters from Extinction Rebellion, Women of Colour – Global Women’s Strike and Global Justice Rebellion have prevented access to an arms factory that produces equipment including tear gas and rubber bullets. The factory is owned by the PWD Group, which was part of Chemring Defence UK until June last year. A parallel protest is taking place in central London at the entrance to the Department for International Trade, the government department responsible for arms export licences. 

The protestors are calling for the Department for International Trade to stop licensing exports of tear gas and rubber bullets.

Protests were staged across the two sites, blocking entrances to the Department for International Trade and an arms manufacturing site in Derbyshire with umbrellas, echoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and a large banner reading ‘Protest Repression: Made in England’.

The UK has multiple factories that export tear gas and rubber bullets globally, including to Hong Kong and the USA, where protestors claim they are likely to have been recently used to violently quell protests. The PWD Group is one of those which export to Hong Kong and the US where pro-democracy and anti-police brutality protests have been violently suppressed in recent weeks.

The UK has a licence to export CS Grenades to 49 countries and various forms of crowd control ammunition, to 65 countries, including to Hong Kong, Chile and the USA where they are likely to have been recently used to violently quell protests. [1]

“On the one hand Raab condemns the Chinese government for new security measures that represent “a flagrant assault on freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful protest for the people of Hong Kong,” said Dr. Lynne Jones OBE, Child Psychiatrist.

“On the other hand, Hong Kong is one of the 49 countries to which HMG  allows the export of tear gas, made in this country which has already been used on these protestors and no doubt will be again. The hypocrisy is staggering. Let’s be clear: Using tear gas on unarmed protestors anywhere in the world is a flagrant assault on democracy and should be stopped.”

US media have reported that at least 100 law enforcement agencies used some form of tear gas against civilians protesting police brutality and racism in recent weeks [2]. Meanwhile a study by a leading medical group found that at least 20 people have suffered traumatic eye injuries after being hit by rubber bullets and other projectiles during recent demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police [3].

Former Detective Sergeant in the Metropolitan Police and member of Extinction Rebellion, Paul Stephens, who took part in the protest in London, said: “We sell coal to our neighbours yet boast about phasing out coal power stations in the UK. We sell weapons of war yet live in relative peace. We export tear gas and rubber bullets to violently suppress Black Lives Matter protests in the US and pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, yet in 30 years of police work I have never seen them deployed on London streets. We put profit above life and it is time for this to stop.”

CS Gas is banned for use in wartime by the Geneva Convention yet it is used frequently to disperse peaceful protestors, journalists and children [4]. There are clear indications that the gas is not ‘less than lethal,’ with concerns being raised about its effects on teenagers’ menstruation, miscarriages and lethal lung complications in those exposed at protests [5] [6].

“Schools teach that justice and democracy are British values, yet people who fight for these values globally are being subject to bodily harm by products from British companies” said Jacqueline Bond, a teacher taking part in the protest in London today.

“We are facing an intersection of global crises: climate breakdown, COVID-19, racial injustice and economic inequality are all driving ordinary people to take to the streets, many of them young people. Their right to protest peacefully and make their voices heard, without the use of harmful weapons by security forces must be protected. The UK must cease to facilitate this erosion of the right to protest.” 

Notes to editors 

[1] UK export licences approved for military goods including selected items to since 2008: https://www.caat.org.uk/resources/export-licences/dashboard?item=tear+gas%2Friot+control+agents,crowd+control+ammunition,CS+hand+grenades

[2]  Here Are the 100 U.S. Cities Where Protesters Were Tear-Gassed: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/16/us/george-floyd-protests-police-tear-gas.html

[3] Serious Eye Injuries at Protests Spur Calls to Ban Rubber Bullets: https://www.wsj.com/articles/serious-eye-injuries-spur-calls-to-ban-rubber-bullets-11592070374

[4] Tear gas fired at peaceful protesters including children in Hong Kong, ITV News:

[5] Protesters Say Tear Gas Caused Them to Get Their Period Multiple Times in a Month: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/protestors-say-tear-gas-caused-early-menstruation

[6] Facts About Riot Control Agents Interim document: https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/riotcontrol/factsheet.asp


How are you going to keep people safe during Covid-19?

The difficulty of decision-making during the uncertain time of a global pandemic: We feel a duty to balance peoples’ safety in minimising mass gatherings with the urgent need to rebel and hold the UK Government to account on their inaction on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

It is our priority to advise people of the risks before they take part to ensure safety where we can. We will provide safety guidelines, as we aim to do for all of our actions, about following public health advice. Currently, as lockdown lifts, we feel it is safe and of grave necessity to hold a Rebellion in our cities at this time. If for any reason the situation changes and there is a second wave of coronavirus, we will adapt to the situation and assess the best way forward when that time comes. 

What if we have a second wave of coronavirus?

Currently, as lockdown lifts, we feel it is safe and of grave necessity to hold a Rebellion in our cities at this time. If for any reason the situation changes and there is a second wave of coronavirus, we will adapt to the situation and assess the best way forward when that time comes. 

About Extinction Rebellion

Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and abrupt, runaway climate change. Societal collapse and mass death are seen as inevitable by scientists and other credible voices, with human extinction also a possibility, if rapid action is not taken.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:

  1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

What Emergency? | Extinction Rebellion in Numbers |This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook 

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About Rising Up!

Extinction Rebellion emerged from the Rising Up! network, which promotes a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm. Change needs to be nurtured in a culture of reverence, gratitude and inclusion while the tools of civil disobedience and direct action are used to express our collective power.

About Global Justice Rebellion

We are a group of activists who believe that economic and social justice cannot be separated from the climate movement. We often coordinate with Extinction Rebellion, but we have a different view of the climate crisis. We believe that the main driver of the climate crisis is the way rich countries (the Global North) loot and subjugate poorer (the Global South) countries to exploit their resources and people. We view the climate crisis as the largest attack on the poor by the rich in human history. Climate crisis will affect your pay cheque, your rent, and your life. 

The crisis can only be solved by a mass movement of those directly affected by it throughout the Global North and Global South. This is because whether you are a hard-working single mum living in a floodplain in the UK, or whether you are a farmer in the heavily polluted Niger Delta, the same few people and companies are destroying both our worlds. We need system change, not climate change – we need to begin an unprecedented campaign of action.

Please email rebellion.globaljustice@gmail.com to get in contact with us

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