The six activists arrived at H&K’s Nottingham warehouse building before any employees turned up. Using D-locks and arm-tubes, one pair locked themselves to the staff entrance while another pair blockaded the goods gate. Meanwhile the other two gained access to the roof and hung anti-arms-trade banners on the front of the building.
One of the banners accused H&K of “arming repressive regimes” while the other, a German banner displayed in solidarity with anti-arms-trade campaigners from H&K’s home turf, translated as “arms exports are facilitating murder”.
This action succeeded in shutting the company down for the whole day. Employees and deliveries were turned away; the phones went unanswered; no arms deals were done. H&K Managing Director Mike Thornton arrived to personally ask the blockaders to leave but they remained in place until they were cut free by police specialists.
It took police six and a half hours to remove the blockade and nearly eight hours to get the protesters down from the roof. A supportive employee of the company next door to H&K tried to bring mugs of tea to the blockaders, but was prevented by police, who falsely claimed that they could use Section 14 of the Public Order Act to deny the protesters food and drink.
Heckler & Koch was targeted for this action because of the company’s sales of weapons to armed forces that are known to commit human rights abuses, and because of the company’s licensing of other countries to manufacture H&K weapons – a strategy that allows the company to evade arms embargoes and profit from the sale of weapons to repressive regimes.
These concerns were set out in an open letter from the Shut Down H&K campaign to Heckler & Koch in December 2009. The company has yet to reply to the letter.
After being removed from the arms company’s premises, the six activists were arrested and taken to Nottingham’s Bridewell police station. They have been charged with Aggravated Trespass and subjected to bail conditions that prevent them from associating with each other. Their first court appearance will be on Tuesday 2nd March at 09:45 at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court.