Barclays Bank will be back in the spotlight today at Newport Magistrates Court, when 4 activists stand trial on charges of aggravated trespass. The activists were arrested when they occupied the Newport branch of Barclays as part of the anti-NATO week of action organised by Stop NATO Cymru at the beginning of September. The trial is set to last for a day and a half. All defendants have plead not guilty to all charges
On Friday 5th September this year, scores of people occupied the bank on Newport high street. They held banners calling on Barclays to divest from the arms trade and to stop investing in Israel’s war crimes.
The protest was part of a campaign, called for by Palestinians in Gaza, aimed at persuading Barclays to pull its money out of Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest military company which manufactures the unpiloted drones used to bomb Palestinians in Gaza.
During July and August 2014, 2,150 Palestinians were killed as Israel carried out another massacre of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza strip. Entire neighbourhoods were destroyed and mosques, market places, UN relief compounds and schools were deliberately targeted. There was no safe place for the 1.7 million people in Gaza to take shelter from the Israeli bombardment. Israeli drones, carried out over 800 major strikes.
Barclays has been condemned in recent years for its excessive use of tax havens, for creating a special ‘tax avoidance division’, for paying well below the nominal UK rate of corporation tax and manipulating the Libor rate. But this protest was more reminiscent of those which plagued Barclays through the 1970s and 1980s when the bank was heavily invested in apartheid South Africa.
The activists claim that Israel’s drone programme is dependent on the investments of companies like Barclays. They called on customers and staff to boycott Barclays, just as anti apartheid campaigners did over
30 years ago.
The occupation of Barclays had been timed to coincide with the NATO summit. Elbit’s drones are also used by NATO members. The company is part of a partnership manufacturing the Watchkeeper drone for use by the UK military.