Raytheon plant occupied by 9 Derry women!

Date:

There was the whiff of something in the Derry air. The constantly rising civilian death toll in Gaza had already produced the same outpourings of rage on the streets of Derry as it had around the world. Thousands of signatures had been gathered calling on Raytheon to be given the boot, while ever larger crowds had gathered for vigils at the cenotaph, marches through the city, rallies at the Guildhall and at a nonviolent blockade of Raytheon itself. Now more and more of us were becoming determined that we do not have to resign to feelings of helplessness in the face of Israel’s war atrocities. Our burning rage was igniting something positive.

There was the definite smell of something very good cooking among those who had been to the last Derry Anti War Coalition meeting. There was a buzz about the evening before when text message went around asking people to meet the next day at a location not far from the Raytheon plant. Something serious was going to be done, and there were a hell of a lot more of us around to do it this time. We all made plans to go down there to see if we could support, or perhaps do more.

I was just putting on my shoes the following day when the next text message went around. “9 women from the Derry Anti War Coalition have gained access 2 the building of Raytheon Systems. Please cm 2 Raytheon 2 support them”. This was followed by “ 9 women chained together between doors in Raytheon, get down when you can”. Unbelievable! I ran out and jumped into my friends car while sending-on the text to as many people as possible, my shoelaces were still undone.

One of the people I sent the text to was Helen Deery who had asked to be kept informed of protests. Helen had been very pleased to hear about the “Raytheon 9” sabotaging the Raytheon mainframe 3 years ago and was delighted when the Belfast jury acquitted them because it accepted their defence that it was done in order to impede further war crimes being committed.

Helen knows a thing or two about powerful military machines killing unarmed civilians. In May 1972 her 15 year-old brother Manus was murdered by the British military while eating a bag of chips with some friends in the Bogside. As is usual in these cases, the State “investigated” itself and exonerated itself. Helen would have a very keen sense of what it feels like for ordinary people to be treated as expendible sub-humans.

She also knows that the state doesn’t just grant justice out of the goodness of its heart. Justice has to be fought for by ordinary people, hard. I knew she’d be delighted with the news of the occupation. And I was delighted with myself for being able to pass-on this information.

At this point I was outside Raytheon, where a large crowd had gathered in support of the women inside. The Police, frustrated that the 9 women had out-manoeuvred them, were trying to re-establish their authority by being heavy-handed. Then my phone rang. It was Helen Deery “ I’m in here, ya dose!” . The 9 women in there where not your usual suspects, your tie-died Citizen Smiths or your yoghurt knitters; they were 9 ordinary working class women of different ages and political experience!

Outside, the police arrested 5 people, assaulting one pregnant woman in the process. The media would do their usual job in focusing on the arrests instead of the occupation or the reasons for it. After 5 hours, the 9 women eventually emerged to raptuous applause from the crowd, but only after securing an undertaking from the police that they would not be arrested or charged and that bthe police would instead investigate Raytheon for its complicity in Israeli war crimes.

No one seriously believes that the Police are going to go anywhere with that, but it allowed the women to make the point that it is the Raytheon Corporation and the likes of the Israeli State that are the real criminals in this world, not the ordinary people who fight back. Not bad for an afternoons work and an unplanned action by 9 women, I said. Not so, said Goretti Horgan of the DAWC, “We had planned it deliberately as 9 women, as a kind of follow-on from the Raytheon 9, who were all men, to show that women of all kinds can also take direct action”.

The 9 women have since been told by the cops that a file has been sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) with a view to pressing charges for “burglary, criminal damage and common assault (!)” but all are well prepared to fight that, just as the Raytheon 9 fought and beat the charges against them. A great day then for direct action, for women’s struggle, for anti-militarism, and for working class politics. More of this kind of stuff please!


This article is from Workers Solidarity 108 published in March 2009

The rest of WS108 can be read online or downloaded as a PDF file

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