Glasgow activists arrested for shutting down drone maker tied to Gaza slaughter

Activists with the Glasgow Palestine Action Network blockade entrance to Thales UK factory in Glasgow on Tuesday 23 September. (Photo courtesy of Glasgow Palestine Action Network)

Ten activists were arrested after shutting down a Thales UK factory in the Scottish city of Glasgow on Tuesday to protest the company’s relationship with the Israeli military.

It was the first direct action by the Glasgow Palestine Action Network (GPAN), a newly formed group led by women, queer and trans activists with a history of supporting the Palestinian struggle.

Staged in response to Israel’s summertime military onslaught that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, including more than 500 children, the action sought to protest “the UK economy’s ever growing military industrial cooperation with governments that flout international law,” GPAN explained in a press release. 

Thales UK— a subsidiary of the French company, Thales, which is ranked by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as the eleventh largest arms producer in the world — signed a $1.6 billion contract with Israel’s largest military technology firm Elbit Systems in 2011 to develop a new drone fleet for the UK military called Watchkeeper.

Watchkeeper is based on Elbit’s Hermes 450 model, one of Israel’s most widely deployed attack drones.

Like most weapons developed in Israel, the Hermes 450 has been tested and perfected on the people of Gaza, which allows Elbit to market its star drone as “combat-proven.”

Outfitted to carry two medium range missiles, the Hermes 450 was used by the Israeli army during its Winter 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza to deliberately target Palestinian civilians, according to an investigation by Human Rights Watch

This arrangement, which treats Palestine as Israel’s proprietary weapons laboratory, has paved the way for Israel to become the world’s number one exporter of drones.

Getting in the way

On Tuesday morning, four GPAN activists climbed to the roof of the Thales UK facility in Glasgow, where they unfurled a massive Palestinian flag as well as banners with pro-Palestine messages and refused to leave. 

Activists unfurl banners and Palestine flag at Thales UK factory in Glasgow on Tuesday 23 September. (Photo courtesy of the Glasgow Palestine Action Network)

“Drones are a key part of Israel’s military arsenal,” explained Fifi O-Hara, who participated in the roof occupation. “By allowing this factory to export drone components and other arms to Israel, the UK government is providing direct support and approval to Israel’s massacres.”

While the roof occupiers dropped their banners, activists on the ground locked themselves together using arm tubes to form human chains outside the building’s two main entrances, forcing the company to suspend operations for the day. 

Meanwhile, supporters gathered outside the building in response to GPAN’s call for a demonstration in solidarity with Palestine.

Eventually the activists were forcibly removed by police and arrested. 

Those occupying the roof came prepared to stay for days but were forced down after police deployed a mountain rescue crew to confiscate their food and water. 

Lorna Macbain, who participated in blockading the entrances, told The Electronic Intifada just after being released on bail on Wednesday evening, that it took police three and a half hours to cut the demonstrators out of the arm tubes.

All ten activists were charged with “breach of the peace” and their court date is scheduled for February, added Macbain. Though the group was aiming for a more serious charge in hopes of igniting a political trial, they are satisfied with the outcome and encouraged by the positive response from the community. 

Just the Beginning

“We had so much support from the people of Glasgow,” said Macbain. “There were tons of people outside the court. There were people on the street.” The group was especially encouraged by the support they received from Palestinians on Twitter and Facebook

“We wanted to draw attention to the fact that drones are considered peaceful surveillance tools. But what we’re seeing in Gaza and across the world, in places like Yemen, is drones are armed and being used for lethal force,” said Macbain. 

Macbain added that this action is just the beginning of GPAN’s promise to honor the Palestinian call to intensify boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel in the aftermath of the Gaza slaughter. 

​“We will continue to put pressure and raise awareness so that the workers are aware of what they’re making and the people are aware of what they’re supporting by not resisting their government,” said Macbain.

All images courtesy of Glasgow Palestine Action Network.

This post has been changed slightly since publication to clarify the fact that Thales UK is part of the French company Thales.




How ironic that a "rescue crew" was sent to confiscate food and water (surely that's a violation of human rights) of peaceful protesters! The roof protesters should have stayed until they died of dehydration, and then lawsuits should have been filed against law enforcement, the rescue crew, and the drone maker.


A few days ago re: EU armaments to Israel ,I submitted a contribution entitled
"Full of Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing" (W. Shakespeare). I strongly
urged that all advocates involved read THE SPOILS OF WAR.... by John Tillman at that time. (With thanks to the late Chalmers Johnson, in his
bibliography to BLOWBACK.0

Once more, we learn that whatever is fed us in rhetoric may be full of
holes. Thales UK is a French subsidiary (of w3hat co/corporation) and provides drones to Israel etc. (see article).

The enormous and complex world arms market must be made clear in
the way this article has done. As English Victorian writer "Lewis Carol" once
wrote, "Do you mean what you say, or say what you mean?"

We look to EI and BDS to uncover these intricate company relationships
and contracts / "agreements".

The position of Labour in the UK would be of interest. Or...
are they satisfied to take "jobs" murdering of Palestinians?

Peter Loeb, Boston, MA USA


My admiration to all those involved, keep up the good work, guide everyone to the ISM website and get them to read Ramzy Baroud's "My father was a freedom fighter, Gaza's untold story"

Make them aware of support from Archbishop Tutu, Nelson Mandella, President Jimmy Carter and others.


While their own nation is Occupied by Britain and has been for more than 3 centuries and under its heel for 800+, AND the referendum on Independence just failed miserably, these poor activists have allowed thenselves to become mere pawns in a geopolitical dynamic that has absolutely nothing to do with then or their nation. Britain, the nation whose policy(ies) they have targetted in relation to Israel is up to its neck in Warcrimes and atrocities and has been ever since it willingly became America's neutered poodle. Worry more about things like that Iraqi hotel clerk in Basra whose brains literally came out his nose when SAS randomly chose him after a squadmate had been wounded by insurgents.


While I agree with you that the British state has also been guilty of war crimes, I'm puzzled by your claim that the Israel/Palestine conflict has nothing to do with the people in Britain. It was a British government grandee, Lord Balfour, who promised British support for the establishment of a 'Jewish state' in Palestine, years, it should be noted, before the rise of fascism. His motive was the furtherance of British interests in the Middle East and the Zionist leadership had promised to protect British imperial interests if they were granted their own state. During the British Mandate Britain did everything in its power to frustrate the legitimate political aspirations of the Palestinians. The British army used great brutality against them. The present British government at Westminster uses tax-payers money to provide weapons, military advice and money to the state of Israel despite the war crimes that state has committed against the Palestinian people - this makes Britain complicit in those war crimes. The young Glasgow protestors are displaying humanity and integrity in opposing this criminal complicity .


To Caitlin Ni Chonaill:

We have only begun. The role of the UK (etc.) is not in doubt as many sources have

As I pointed out above, the next steps are to know the truth. This begs for
more than demonstrations which were a great beginning. We need to know
the relation of Thales UK to the British government NOW (funding, interlocking
directorates ??), the nature and funding and profile of the as yet undefined
"French subsidiary", similar information on the French co/corporation along with
its location, size, governmental relationships etc.

Can BDS in all these countries assist us in these investigative actions ?

If the US is involved in any way, can this be documented? (I suspect so based
on policies consistent with past US policies bugt have no FACTS!)

Besides Israel, who profits and how (in addition to how much)?

What are the positions of labor organizations in thjis matter in the UK and
France in particular?

Why was the manufacture of dones subcontracted by French companies
out of France? (And what side is labor on re: the murder of Palestinians
for cash by Israel?)

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA


Perhaps our experience of political disenfranchisement due to our lack of independence might be why we tend be be empathetic to world issues in Scotland. Even when we vote, we don't have the power to vote against warmonger if the rest of the UK votes for them, so we protest their actions. Apartheid had nothing to do us in the same way, yet we renamed a main square in Glasgow where the SA embassy was to Nelson Mandela Square, so as long as the embassy refused to accept the name change, got no mail, long before the UK government ever spoke out. We have our problems here, and the desire for independence a lot of us have is not to do with nationalist sentiment but for the opportunity to create something better. We're proud that we're the left wing part of Britain, that has kept education and healthcare as free as possible and we're happy to stand up to the rest of the UK and America and speak out against what we believe is wrong, be it apartheid, the British government's participation in wars in the world or the occupation of Palestine. We're not pawns, we're just not a particularly insular country. Even if we did get this better country we hope for one day, it would mean nothing until we see a better world for everyone. We're not Palestinian? Ok. We're human though, and that's the only thing necessary to care about human rights and peace, so it does have something to do with us.


Whilst police officers with rope access skills may have been involved in this incident, this should not be confused with voluntary mountain rescue. Scottish Mountain Rescue was not involved in this incident in any way.

Rania Khalek

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Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized.