Swedish Peace Activists Repeatedly Break Into Weapons Plant
Hammered by the Swedes
By BILL QUIGLEY
hammers and bolt cutters, peace activists repeatedly broke into weapon
plants and damaged weapons in Sweden. Activists from the Swedish group
OFOG/Avrusta admitted damaging twenty high explosive grenade launchers
as well as internal parts to a Howitzer 77. Five people were arrested.
Two remain in jail. Two activists who were arrested and released were
re-arrested after they returned to the weapons plant to do more damage.
A fifth person was arrested Saturday in another break in. All are
facing trial on charges from criminal damage to trespass at places of
Members of the Swedish peace and
disarmament group OFOG/Avrusta say they have been preparing for more
than a year to carry out the actions. OFOG, which loosely translates as
the word mischief, is a network of activists working for a nuclear free
and demilitarized world. Avrusta is Disarm in English. The group
released information to the press announcing their actions and posted
videos of their entry and damage on You Tube. See:
At about 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning,
activists approached the BAE Systems weapons facility in Karlskoga,
Sweden, about 240 kilometers away from Stockholm. According to
statements to the press, they used bolt cutters cut open a hole in the
security fence and entered. They left behind a banner welcoming others
which said “The door is open – you are free to start disarming.” The
activists used hammers to damage internal parts like cooling aggregates
and hydraulic cylinders for the Howitzer 77. A fully operational
Howitzer 77 can fire 6 rounds every second for 20 minutes and has a
firing range of 30 kilometers. Inside, media reports note that the duo
managed to affix a poster to the door which said “In this factory are
manufactured weapons that are used to wage wars – Disarmament is
underway.” Disarmament activists, Cattis Laska, 24, and Pelle Strinlund,
37, were arrested and charged with trespassing and criminal damage.
Laska is a youth leader and Strinlund is a writer. Both remain in jail
pending a hearing.
Simultaneously, other activists entered
a weapons facility run by Saab in Eskilstuna, Sweden, about 135
kilometers away. According to OFOG/Avrusta, they damaged twenty grenade
launchers with hammers and then alerted guards to their presence. Anna
Andersson, 26, and Martin Smedjeback, 35, were arrested and charged with
trespass, severe criminal damage, and entering a protected national
security area. Andersson is a web developer. Smedjeback is a trainer
in non-violence. Both were released from jail on Friday.
The weapons damaged in the Saab plant
were described as Carl Gustav type grenade launchers. These are
shoulder mounted anti-tank weapons which can fire high explosive
rounds. The weapons were reportedly found in boxes labeled for delivery
to “US” and “New Delhi.” BAE has a long term contract with the Indian
government for howitzers and grenade launchers, according to reports in
the Hindu Times.
After being released from jail Friday,
Andersson indicated she was glad to be going to trial. “I look forward
to a chance to ethically and legally argue for our actions in court. I
hope one day the arms manufacturers will be charged for the criminal
damage that Swedish armaments cause in wars and conflicts around the
In a surprise move early Saturday,
Andersson and Smedjeback returned to the weapons plant where they were
arrested again. They now remain in jail.
Also early Saturday morning, a fifth
member of the group, Annika Spalde, 39, cut her way through the fence
around a weapons plant in Karlskoga and hung a banner encouraging more
disarmament actions. She was later arrested. She is charged with
severe criminal damage and trespass in a place of national security.
Spalde, who was later released, is a deacon in the Swedish church, an
author and peace activist.
BAE Systems, owner of the Karlskoga
plant, describes itself on its website as “the premier global defence
and aerospace company” with 100,000 employees world-wide and annual
sales of $31.4 billion. BAE authorities confirmed the break in.
Curiously, BAE press people in the US reported “very minor” damage while
the BAE security manager in Sweden told the press there that he
estimated damage at 50,000 euros and was not certain whether the damage
would create delays in scheduled deliveries of the weapons or not.
Saab, owner of the Eskilstuna plant,
proclaims it serves the global market with products, services and
solutions ranging from military defence to civil security. It says it
has 13,700 employees and world-wide sales of $2.5 billion. Lasse Jonsson,
spokesperson for Saab, told the media, "They have scrapped a quantity of
weapons' spare parts that awaited export. Only after the police
investigation has been completed will we be able to calculate the exact
extent of the damage caused."
Maja Backlund, spokesperson for OFOG,
was quoted in the Hindu Times: "Civil disobedience and action are most
vital parts of democratic development. Our colleagues who breached the
Saab factory managed to damage 25 grenade launchers of the Carl Gustav
brand that are in extensive use in Kashmir and other war zones in
India." OFOG also claims that some of the weapons damaged were of the
same type as used by the U.S. military in Iraq.
Members of OFOG claim Swedish weapons
exports have risen 88 percent since the US invasion of Iraq. They
further claim that the Swedish government is violating its policy of
peace and neutrality by supplying warring countries with arms.
Deacon Spalde insisted these actions
were necessary. “When your government supports an illegal war and sells
arms to dictatorships, it’s time for ordinary citizens like us to take
OFOG/Avrusta said “This action is the
first disarmament campaign in the 21st century in Sweden.” At this
point, the campaign says it consists of activists willing to risk arrest
and another fifty support people.
“Our activists have prepared themselves
for more than a year for this campaign,” said a group member who asked
to remain anonymous. “They are ready to serve time in prison if Swedish
society should fail to see that nonviolent civil disobedience to suspend
the disastrous Swedish arms exports to wars and dictatorships is less of
a breach of law than these amoral arms exports.”
More disarmament actions, OFOG/Avrusta
promises, will be forthcoming.
Bill Quigley is a human
rights attorney and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.
Bill and others at Loyola are helping the Catholic Legal Immigration
Network represent dozens of mothers arrested in Laurel, Mississippi. He
can be reached at: