Near the Home Farm Road junction on Lewes Road, a large banner with the words ‘Peace Camp’ is visible, marking the presence of the autonomous group ‘Brighton Peace Camp’ who declare they are occupying the space as a protest against the nearby L3Harris weapons factory in Moulsecoomb and the manufacturer’s role in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The camp was initially assembled on 16 March, which marked 161 days since 7 October. Numerous workshops were held throughout the week and the camp was decorated, “creating a space the council would feel ashamed to destroy.” The public were invited to join them on Saturday 23 March for a performance by The Agitators Jazz Band, further induction, a discussion on antifascism in Brighton, and a stop L3Harris Campaign Teach Out with food.

Joy is seen to be an important aspect of the protest, according to the organisers of the camp. Not only does it ensure the wellbeing of the individuals participating, but is a stark juxtaposition against the institutions which they challenge. It is deemed as “tactical frivolity.” The band was invited to take part for this reason. They had originally formed over three years ago as part of Extinction Rebellion (XR) and have been known to host mock funerals for extinct species. Their Facebook page states they also support related progressive causes, such as the plight of the Post Office workers and the Palestinian movement as a whole. 

The induction served as a means to share how the camp is sustained and how they can be welcoming to all. While some participants may choose to stay the night, all are free to come and go as they please. However, there is a rota in place to ensure that a minimum amount of people remain on site at all times. Illegal substances are not allowed, making it a family friendly space. In solidarity with other religions, they aim to be vegan, with alcohol free areas and a prayer tent. Food has largely been acquired through donations from locals, including hot meals. Maintaining the integrity of the surrounding area is also a key tenet, so foraging for wood is banned and recycling is encouraged. 

Anna Stavrianakis, a lecturer in International Relations at the University of Sussex, was present at the Peace Camp on 23 March. Her expertise is in the international arms trade and the UK’s arms export policy, making her the ideal facilitator for a discussion on L3Harris. The camp is part of a non-hierarchical collective named ‘Brighton Against the Arms Trade’ which is “committed to ending the murderous trade in weapons,” according to their blog. It has also been recognised that the camp needs to exist alongside other forms of protest such as marches and petitions to have a higher probability of achieving their mission.

While the land on which the tents are set up is council-owned, it is not illegal to reside there unless a court notice is issued otherwise. On 21 March, it was reported that the Brighton & Hove City Council had intentions to remove the camp, but by 23 March, no official correspondence was given. Additionally, to ensure the safety of all individuals, the organisers have set up a liaison with the police but will attempt to not otherwise engage with them.

There has been little to no backlash, which comes as a surprise to the organisers; the local community has embraced the camp. Pedestrians have been known to stop for short conversations while drivers beep their horn and shout words of encouragement as they pass by. 

There is a history of weapons manufacturing in Brighton. In 2005, EDO MBM was a company that created bomb-release components for fighter jets. However, they were instead used in Iraq. Protesters responded by setting up a camp, also by Home Farm Road, as both L3Harris and EDO have occupied the same building. At the time, the camp was not well received by the local government. They attempted to evict the peace camp, used the Public Order Act powers to arrest protesters. In return, the demonstrators lodged 13 complaints against Sussex Police as they were seen to be in breach of a High Court civil injunction and were accused of harassing peaceful protesters. Solicitors said that there was shown to be “biased political policing aimed at suppressing freedom of expression and collusion with EDO”, for which the company agreed to pay thousands of pounds for.

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