Students from the Fund Education Not War group at Sheffield University were dragged from the Octagon Centre where they were protesting the companies Augusta Westland, Airbus, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, Thales and Ultra Electronics who were exhibiting at the university’s engineering careers fair. Some of the students were injured as a result.
— Lauren Archer (@_laurenarcher) November 5, 2013
Fund Education Not War released this statement about the event:
On Tuesday 5th November the Fund Education, Not War campaign and a number of other groups on campus will be holding a protest at the Engineering Careers Fair. We are protesting the presence of a variety of companies, all of whom are directly involved in the production and sale of arms. These companies are: Augusta Westland, manufacturers of military helicopters; Airbus, whose military business unit produces planes for military transport; BAE Systems, responsible for “developing some of the most technologically advanced defence, security and aerospace systems on earth”, and selling them to some of the most repressive and anti-democratic regimes in the world; Rolls-Royce, producers of military jet engines, with ‘50,000 engines in service with 500 airlines, 2,400 corporate and utility operators and more than 100 armed forces’; and Thales, and Ultra Electronics, both of whom manufacture essential components for military drones.
Our primary focus is on Thales and Ultra Electronics, due to their current complicity in the Obama regime’s extrajudicial murder of thousands of civilians in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and more broadly in the Middle East, using unmanned drones. Added to this, Thales continued to supply the Mubarak regime with lethal weapons even as world watched them being turned on peaceful protesters in Tahrir Square. Fund Education, Not War protested their presence at Careers Fairs in March yet the University has seen fit to invite them back to the Octagon again this academic year.
In October 2012, the Students’ Union passed a referendum to implement a policy which states unilateral opposition to the involvement of the arms trade in the Union and University. The policy mandates the Students’ Union to resolve to declare opposition to the University’s dealings with all arms companies, and lobby the University to end all dealings them, including in careers fairs and in advertising. Full policy: http://www.shef.ac.uk/union/you-run-us/policies/current/index.php#educationnotwar
Over 50% of Thales’ total sales come from selling defence and military equipment around the world, including countries that committed major human rights concerns, such as Saudi Arabia. Thales is a major manufacturer of drones: unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles whose use is becoming increasingly common. These drones have assisted strikes outside conflict areas and have helped caus many civilian casualties. Ultimate Electronics are proud to announce that they have been “the supplier of the controls that fly the Predator [drone] since its inception.” As such they are equally complicit in the mass murder waged by the USA, without any remit, over the last few years in the name of ‘the war on terror’. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism recently published a list of children who have been murdered by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, two countries which are not conflict zones and as such should not be subject to attack by these machines – not only has this happened, but the fatalities of innocent children have resulted. The full list can be found here, and includes names of entire families who were murdered by drones: http://droneswatch.org/2013/01/20/list-of-children-killed-by-drone-strikes-in-pakistan-and-yemen/ The University of Edinburgh have set a precedent recently in divesting all shares in Ultimate Electronics – we commend this action and urge our university to do the same.
The University prides itself on being a values-led organisation; however, its continued liaison with arms companies responsible for the murder of innocents around the world throws this claim into serious disrepute. In light of continued refusal by the Careers Service to stop inviting arms companies to its careers fairs, Fund Education Not War will be holding a peaceful protest highlighting the grim reality that stands behind the friendly front of the Thales stall at the fair, naming each recorded child victim of a drone attack. This will emphasise the ruined lives and devastation that the machines which this company builds, have caused.
Fund Education Not War calls on the University to follow the lead of others such as UCL and St Andrews and end its links with the arms trade. We call for the promotion of ethical alternatives to jobs with arms companies and want to dispel the myth that they are a good source of graduate recruitment and “needed” at our careers fairs: the arms industry accounts for fewer than 3% of jobs taken by engineering and science graduates, and whilst the defence market worldwide is worth a trillion dollars annually, jobs in green industry and the environment are worth at least eight times as much. The arms trade is a declining industry in Britain with many jobs increasingly sourced outside of the country; the University should move with the times and listen to the opinions of students and act on policies that are democratically implemented by the Students’ Union.
Our University should also be responsible within the wider community for the companies it chooses to liase with, and this means not inviting arms companies to its careers fairs. By the time you have finished reading this statement, at least one person will have been killed as a result of armed conflict around the world.