SOMERSET Council’s Taunton headquarters has been defaced by pro-Palestinian protesters and taxpayers’ money will be spent on cleaning it up.

Images surfaced on social media early on Monday morning (March 18) of red paint and graffiti smeared across the front of County Hall on The Crescent.

Palestine Action has claimed credit for the protest, which focussed on one of the council’s commercial investments which has been linked to the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip.

Somerset Council has condemned what it has described as “criminal damage” of its property and confirmed that taxpayers would be left to pick up the cost of the clean-up.

Palestine Action describes itself as “a direct action network of groups and individuals” who target companies “complicit in Israeli apartheid” against the Palestinian people, causing for such companies to be evicted from their existing premises and shut down.

The pressure group previously disrupted a council executive committee meeting held at Deane House in February, with protesters calling on the council to evict one of its existing tenants within the Aztec West 600 office block n the outskirts of Bristol.

The offices at Aztec West 600 – near junction 16 of the M5 – were purchased by Sedgemoor District Council in 2020, with Somerset Council inheriting the investment when it assumed power in April 2023.

The current tenant, Elbit Systems, is an Israeli-based defence contractor which has supplied the Israeli army with equipment since 1966.

Palestine Action sprayed ‘Elbit Out’ and ‘Evict Elbit’ in multiple places across the front of County Hall, along with hand prints and ‘blood on your hands’ being left on one wall.

A Palestinian flag was also left hanging over the front door of A Block, with red paint being sprayed across the first floor.

A local spokesman for the protesters said: “By taking Elbit’s money, our council has Palestinian blood on its hands.

“By default, they’ve made the whole county of Somerset complicit in the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

“We refuse to stand by whilst the council continue to ignore our requests to evict Elbit.

“For the Palestinian people at the other end of Elbit’s weapons, we will continue to take action until the council kick Elbit out of Aztec West 600.”

Somerset Council had agreed to sell off its commercial investments – including Aztec West 600 – as part of its annual budget, which was approved by councillors in late-February.

Regarding the damage to County Hall, a spokesman said: “We believe this incident relates to a legacy commercial investment by Sedgemoor District Council, which we have already agreed to dispose of.

“While we respect the right of individuals and groups to protest, we strongly condemn this criminal damage on a grade two listed public building which will need to be removed at taxpayers’ expense.”

The council has not provided a public estimate of how much it will cost to clean up the protesters’ work.

Avon and Somerset Police is appealing for information following the incident. Due to the nature of it, officers are carrying out reassurance patrols. Call 101 with reference number 5224069394.