Activists Who Smashed Up Arms Factory Acquitted on Necessity Defense

I mentioned the story of several activists who broke in to the ITT/EDO-MGM arms factory in Brighton, England earlier that year to destroy equipment involved in the manufacture of parts for fighter jets, guided missiles and bombs.

The activists were arrested and brought to trial and charged with conspiracy to cause criminal damage. They made a “necessity” defense based on the fact that the company was supplying military equipment to Israel that it was using in its assault on Gaza, which was taking place at the time of the activists’ action. One of the activists said before his assault on the factory, “I don’t feel I’m going to do anything illegal tonight, but I’m going to go into an arms factory and smash it up to the best of my ability so that it cannot actually produce munitions and these very dirty bombs that have been provided to the Israeli army so that they can kill children.”

Last month, all of the activists were acquitted. One of the “decommissioners” reacted to the verdict by saying: “It’s a real victory for the anti-war movement, The jury were presented with the facts and they supported our motivations. If people in Britain knew the truth away from media manipulations they would all support our actions.”

The Vote

From the issue of The Vote:

Tax Resistance Protest

The thanks of our League are due to our courageous fellow-member, Miss Mary Anderson, for the splendid opportunity provided by her for carrying our gospel into new quarters. The quiet little village of Woldingham, one of the beauty spots of England, has been thoroughly roused by Miss Anderson’s spirited protest against the tyranny of taxation without representation; and a great gathering of its inhabitants attended at the sale of her goods on .

Our energetic and honoured workers, Mrs. Snow and Mrs. Fisher, most ably seconded Miss Anderson in organising the protest. By the courtesy of Messrs. Jarrett, the King’s officers, whose consideration and forbearance call for our kindest appreciation, the sale was to have been held on the village green, close to Miss Anderson’s residence; but owing to the inclement weather, the adjacent public hall was “commandeered” for the ceremony. In spite of an incessant downpour, the hall was packed with an appreciative audience.

The sale was conducted, laughably enough, under the auspices of the Women’s Freedom League and the Women’s Tax Resistance League; for, on obtaining entrance to the hall, Miss Anderson and Mrs. Fisher bedecked it with all the insignia of suffrage protest. The rostrum was spread with our flag proclaiming the inauguration of Tax Resistance by the W.F.L.; above the auctioneer’s head hung Mrs. [Charlotte] Despard’s embroidered silk banner, with its challenge “Dare to be Free”; on every side the green, white and gold of the W.F.L. was accompanied by the brown and black of the Women’s Tax Resistance League, with its cheery “No Vote, no Tax” injunctions and its John Hampden maxims; while in the front rows, besides Miss Anderson, the heroine of the day, Mrs. Snow and Mrs. Fisher, were seen the inspiring figures of our President and Mrs. [Anne] Cobden Sanderson, vice-president of the W.T.R.L.

Mrs. Huntsman took the chair as soon as the sale was completed and the necessary sum realised. Mrs. Despard and Mrs. Cobden Sanderson were the principal speakers, Miss Boyle expressing the acknowledgments of the two Leagues and of Miss Anderson to the King’s officers for carrying out the stern duties of their office with so little unpleasantness.

A resolution, proposed from the chair, and carried with only one open dissentient, was couched in the following terms:— “That this meeting supports Miss Anderson in her protest against the tyranny of taxation without representation, and calls upon the Government to include women in the Franchise Reform Bill.”

At the close of the ceremony the goods, bought in by her friends, were presented to Miss Anderson, who briefly returned thanks, and expressed her intention of maintaining that form of protest.

Among those present were Miss F[lorence].A. Underwood, looking very well and sunburnt after “holiday” with the Scottish campaign; Mr. Snow, to whose kind support no words will do justice; Mrs. [Kate] Harvey; Mrs. [Emma] Fox-Bourne and her son and daughter-in-law; Mrs. Lawrence and her little sons; Miss Charrington; Mrs. Robert Barr and her daughter and son-in-law; Mr. and Mrs. Galbraith, Colonel and Mrs. Eales, Mrs. O’Sullivan, Mrs. Croad, Miss Watson, and other well-known residents of the neighbourhood.

The next event of a similar kind to which we may look forward is the breaking of Mrs. Harvey’s barricade at Bromley. Mrs. Harvey, with the greatest resolution, has kept the King’s officer at bay for months; and she should be heartily applauded for flying the flag of resistance, and invading with suffrage protest and propaganda so notorious a centre of anti-suffrage activity as Bromley. It is hoped that all good Freedom-Leaguers and all good Tax Resisters will rally in force to the protest when the final act is being played.