On 7 February, over 150 students and staff gathered outside the L3 Harris factory in Home Farm Business Park after a mass walkout organised by the Students’ Union and University of Sussex Friends of Palestine in conjunction with the University and College Union (UCU). Protesters wielded signs calling for an end to the genocide in Gaza, and demanding the factory – which is a manufacturer of weapons technology currently being used on Palestinian civilians – be shut down. Brighton’s liberal reputation seems at risk, as protesters raise awareness of the city’s hypocrisy. This is the latest in a series of large demonstrations against the company. As well as demonstrations outside of its Moulsecoomb branch, there have been protests against the company across the globe, including in Massachusetts, United States, and Ontario, Canada.

The company, L3 Harris Technologies, is the sixth largest arms company in the United States. It claims to “provide next generation capabilities for a next generation fighter,” and has come under heavy scrutiny, culminating in a number of local protests. 

Image: Alvin Kwan

Central to this local outcry is a planning application submitted by L3 Harris to make permanent a temporary extension to their Moulsecoomb factory built in 2018. Despite the initial extension permission having only been granted for five years, the company has surpassed this five year permission and have now applied to make the change permanent. More than 600 local people have submitted objections to this application so far. 

Furthermore, this extension application was made the same year that the company announced its partnership with the Israel Aerospace Industries’ ELTA Systems Group on 20 March 2023. Their partnership involves the production of bomb rack units and explosive munition release systems at their factory in Moulsecoomb, which are then used to create the F-35 Lightning II fighter jets used by Israel in their occupation of Gaza.

With the Palestinian death toll now recorded at over 27,000 people and more than a quarter of the population of Gaza starving, the violence in Palestine seems far from over. As the violence continues so do protests against it, including on campus at the University of Sussex. Although the university has stated that it “does not take an institutional position on complex global events,” the Students’ Union has unanimously passed a motion declaring their solidarity with Palestinian liberation. 

As well as continuing weekly protests on campus campaigning for a ceasefire across the region, students at Sussex have now focused their attention at the local arms factory. 

This is not the first time that L3 Harris Technologies has been linked to humanitarian atrocities. A United Nations enquiry previously found fragments of a “high explosive” bomb engraved with the company’s previous name, EDO MBM Technology Ltd, at the site of an air raid against civilians in Yemen. This incident, which involved the destruction of a water pump factory, was described as having “violated international humanitarian law”. Furthermore, the Commercial and Government Entity number found on the fragment can be linked not just to L3 Harris Technologies as an international company but to the very factory in Moulsecoomb, Brighton.

Brighton and Hove is one of many cities connected by the City of Sanctuary UK network. As a part of this initiative, the council emphasises its commitment to “building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.” 

Despite these grand claims, the actions of Brighton & Hove City Council, who not only initially permitted this initial extension but have also allowed L3 Harris to violate the terms of that permission, hardly reflect the City of Sanctuary sentiment. Local students and residents alike have called for the council to reject the current planning application, with some going as far as to demand the Moulsecoomb factory be shut down altogether.

Image: Will Gaffney

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *