LYSTRUP, Denmark, 5:45 a.m., Nov. 14 — Groups of onlooking neighbors huddled from the wind and rain on the street corners of Hovmarken Road, home to one of the United States’ key weapons-manufacturing partners of the deadly F-35 warplane. A coalition of anti-war, anti-imperialist and climate activists were staging a nationally-coordinated blockade against Danish weapons manufacturer Terma Group early Tuesday morning.
Over 50 activists assembled outside Terma’s main Aarhus headquarters in Lystrup, Denmark, blocking four main entrances from 5:45 a.m. until noon and effectively restricting over 700 employees from entering the factory for the entirety of the workday.
Irritated employees paced up and down the long line of idling passenger cars and tractor-trailers awaiting a solution from the East Jutland police, although no arrests were made. Demonstrators wielded banners asserting “Stop the Genocide” and “Terma: Allies in Innovative War Crimes,” mocking the company’s slogan. As organizers fielded police negotiations in the silhouettes of increasingly angry employees, activists chanted their mantra, “Børn i Gaza har ret til et liv (Children in Gaza have the right to live).”
Coalition members simultaneously blockaded entrances at Terma’s Søborg department outside of Copenhagen. In a press release, the coalition has described itself as “united in opposition to the genocidal Israeli war apparatus and to Terma’s direct contribution to the suffering in Gaza.”
“The world’s biggest [non-nuclear] bomb was used several years ago in Afghanistan. They killed a whole village — children, elders, innocent women…. I lost a lot of my family in the war in Afghanistan,” Sohrab, an Afghan taxi driver living in Aarhus, said at the demonstration.
“Who is the victor here? It’s those who are producing these weapons.” Sohrab initially passed by the demonstration on his daily taxi route. He later returned with carafes of hot coffee and trays of cookies for the demonstrators. “If you are producing weapons that are killing innocent people, then you are as guilty as the people doing the killing.”
The activist coalition has made weighty demands of Terma employees and executives: Cease production of weapons parts used by the Israeli military and immediately terminate your agreements with F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin, which supplies the Israeli genocidal apparatus; Full transparency — publish all information about Terma’s activities and communicate that information in a way that allows the people of Denmark to understand the full extent of what the company is doing; and take control of your production facility and convert it to one that benefits people and the environment in Denmark and globally instead of destroying them.
Terma has yet to comment on the Nov. 14 blockade.
Who is Terma Group?
Terma manufactures components essential to the stealth F-35 fighter jet. The Danish company produces the warplane’s air-to-ground pylon mechanism responsible for deploying missiles capable of a nuclear payload, as well as multi-mission 25mm machine gun pods. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have a fleet of over 75 F-35 fighter jets, many of which are currently conducting deadly airstrikes throughout the besieged Gaza Strip. The IDF’s use of the warplane has been connected to previous war crimes, according to Human Rights Watch.
Terma has been working with American arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin to develop the F-16 fighter jet since 1976. In 2013, Terma and Lockheed Martin signed a long-term contract confirming exclusive rights to produce “composite and bonded assembly parts” for the F-35. Terma also has contracts with other American weapons companies, like General Dynamics, Marvin Engineering and Northrop Grumman. In the past fiscal year, Terma has claimed over $328 million in revenue with 92% of business conducted outside of Denmark. “North and Central America remains a crucial aspect of Terma’s growth, constituting more than 50% of total revenue,” states Terma’s 2022-23 Annual Report.
David, a stateless Palestinian living in Denmark, said that the Terma demonstration is not just about the current war in his homeland.
“We are refugees,” said David. “My parents, grandparents, and I have lived in 15 different countries. We have never had the opportunity to have a passport or citizenship in any of these countries. My passport says I am stateless.”
Palestinians constitute the world’s most extensive stateless community. As of 2018, of the 13 million Palestinians worldwide, nearly 8.7 million have been forcibly displaced.
“The Danish government has risked the lives of a lot of Palestinians threatening to send them back to where they come from. But they can’t. There is nowhere called ‘stateless,’” said David. “For me, being here means demanding human rights, here in Europe, and all over the world. As Palestinians we haven’t had our human rights for over 75 years.”
Solidarity throughout Europe and beyond
Tuesday’s blockade of Terma is amongst a growing movement of direct action targeted towards the weapons industry. On Oct. 25, activists in Bristol, United Kingdom blockaded the UK headquarters of Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest weapons company. Activists blockaded Elbit on Oct. 31st, and again on Nov. 7th. (Elbit and Terma have previously cooperated on the development of airborne electronic warfare equipment.) And on Nov. 10, activists in Rochester, United Kingdom blocked the entrance to BAE systems, the country’s largest weapons company and development partner of the F-35.
British group Palestine Action is a direct-action network working to dismantle weapons companies “that arm Israel’s genocide of Palestine;” it also has a sizeable U.S. branch. In the United States, activists staged demonstrations at the Elbit office in Cambridge, Massachusets on Oct. 18 and in Boca Raton, Florida, at Real-Time Laboratories, a subsidiary of Elbit, on Nov. 9. Within the first week of November, peace activists in Oakland, Calif., and in Tacoma, Wash., temporarily blocked weapons ships carrying weapons for Israel.
Back in Europe, on Nov. 2, a coalition of Belgian airport-worker unions declared they would refuse to handle weapons destined to Israel. On Nov. 6, over 1,200 dock workers belonging to the Organization of Port Workers of Barcelona declared “not to allow the activity of ships containing war material” in order to “protect the civilian population, whatever the territory”.
On Nov. 8, dock workers of the Autonomous Collective of Port Workers (CALP) planned to block the San Benigno Gate port in Genoa, Italy.
“Let’s also think about the trade of arms that are forcefully returned to the port; on this too we are not and will never be indifferent. We too know how to fight a war,” stated CALP spokesperson Josè Nivoi.
The Nov. 14 demonstration in Lystrup, Denmark, attracted a diversity of activists ranging from participants of climate groups like Extinction Rebellion, to political organizations such as Socialistisk UngdomsFront (Socialist Youth Front), Enhedslisten (Red-Green-Alliance) and the Kommunistisk Parti (Community Party). However, no particular group claimed responsibility for organizing the demonstration.
The action assumed an internationalist character with many of those risking arresting being foreign nationals. Alana, a 20-year-old Australian law student, said she was inspired to participate because her friends in Sydney had participated in the Nov. 11 blockade of Israeli container ships attempting entry into Port Botany. “It’s ridiculous, the amount of money that has been spent on the military and genocide,” said Alana.
Many of the direct actions targeting weapons companies may be seen as a result of the recently-surging trend in European rearmament. 2022 marked the steepest yearly increase in military expenditure in Europe in the past 30 years, according to Stockholm International Peace Institute. In 2021, the Danish Parliament voted to increase Danish defense spending from 1.5% to 2.0% of GDP by 2033, meeting NATO defense investment guidelines. Consequently, the Danish Armed forces signed a 30-year agreement with Terma Group exclusively securing “all future air and missile defense procurements” in Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe islands.
“[Denmark] used to be for peace,” said Astrid, the mother of a protestor in the blockade. Astrid explained that she noticed the 2001 Iraq war signaled a major change in Danish foreign policy and public opinion towards war. In 2001, the Danish Parliament abolished compulsory military service in place of a professional army.
“As a Dane, I believe we should stop making weapons. Terma’s technology could be used in a more beneficial way for everybody,” said Astrid, who supports her daughter even when she risks arrest. “Very few people will take a day off to demonstrate for peace,” she said. “My message is stop all wars; no more weapons; all children have the right to live, no matter what.”
Blind Indifference of the Merciless World
It was not only youth who partook in the blockade. “They must take responsibility for what this industry is doing,” an older Communist peace activist said, holding back tears. “You must find something else to do than killing kids.”
She held a sign reading, “Men den nådesløse verdens blinde ligegyldighed (But the blind indifference of the merciless world),” the final line of a poem by Halfdan Rasmussen, a Danish poet and resistance fighter of German occupation in the Second World War.
The poem reads:
Ikke bødlen gør mig bange
Ikke hadet og torturen
Ikke dødens riffelgange
Eller skyggerne på muren
Ikke nætterne, når smertens sidste stjerne styrter ned
Men den nådesløse verdens blinde ligegyldighed
It’s not the executioner that scares me
Not the hate and the torture
Not the rifle barrels of death
Or the shadows on the wall
Not the nights when the last star of pain crashes down
But the blind indifference of the merciless world
The activists have declared that if Terma does not meet their demands, the blockades will continue and intensify.