Raytheon a No-Show at Walk for Hunger

This article originally appeared in the 2019 MAPA Summer newsletter

MAPA members march at the walk for hunger
The Yemen Anti-Famine Team at the Walk for Hunger, May 2019. From left, Brian Garvey, Paul Shannon, Roberta Koffman, Abby Panzica (far back), Chris Panzica, and Judy Andler.

Raytheon, headquartered here in Massachusetts, is one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world. They supply thousands of bombs and sophisticated weapons to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy whose four-year war on the country of Yemen has created the worst starvation in the world today. At least 14 million people, more than half the population, are now living on the brink of a man-made famine.

Raytheon is also a major corporate sponsor of Project Bread, a Boston-based non-profit dedicated to ending hunger here in the Commonwealth, and its annual Walk for Hunger. You read that right: Raytheon sponsors starvation in Yemen and the Walk for Hunger! If that hypocrisy hurts your head, you’re not alone.

To respond, the Raytheon Anti-War Campaign, a coalition of groups focused on ending the war in Yemen, formed our own team at the Walk for Hunger, the Yemen Anti-Famine Team. We notified Project Bread of our intentions, asking them to stop Raytheon’s corporate whitewashing and encouraging them to make a public statement condemning the company’s war crimes in Yemen. When they were unresponsive we made t-shirts, banners, and fliers and set out to present our case directly to the thousands of walkers. We also raised money for the Walk which is, ultimately, a good cause.

The response from the walkers was incredibly positive. Twenty-five of us joined the march and handed out over a thousand fliers, educating the people about the war in Yemen and encouraging them to contact Project Bread to ask about this hypocrisy. Then Congressman Jim McGovern, who happened to be speaking at the starting line, saw us, joined our protest, and donned a team t-shirt. He thanked us for being there and asked that we help promote his bill in Congress (H.R.643) which would end all arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Please ask your Member of Congress to support this crucial legislation and ask Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey to introduce a version in the Senate. Call them today at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to sign on.

We are also taking action in the State Legislature. The Massachusetts Peace and Justice Network has filed a bill, sponsored by State Rep. Denise Provost, to divest the State Pension Fund from all companies, including Raytheon, who are selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. Call your State Senators and Representatives at (617) 722-2000 and tell them to support H.2349.

Thanks to pressure from activists and walkers, officials of Project Bread have agreed to meet and discuss these matters. As for Raytheon, knowing that a team of dedicated activists was there to confront their crimes, they decided to stay home. They know their role in this barbaric war is unjustifiable. We would have preferred to engage, but denying them the opportunity to polish their image is itself a victory. The terror in Yemen is produced right here in Massachusetts. Therefore it is the responsibility of every Bay-Stater to end this war. Please contact the CEO of Raytheon, Thomas A. Kennedy, at 781-522-5899. Tell him to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia immediately.

Raytheon can’t hide. Wherever they go to promote their brand-whether it’s recruitment on college campuses, professional career fairs, or insincere participation in community events-the Raytheon Anti-War Campaign will be there to meet them, telling the public the truth about this corporation's war profiteering. We need to stand up to the military-industrial complex here in our own backyard. Millions of Yemeni lives are hanging by a thread. The time for silence is over.

—Brian Garvey recently joined the Mass. Peace Action staff as a full-time organizer.