Action Report: Northampton Die-in

Peace Advocate July 2024

by Soren Anderson-Flynn

We take gravestones for granted. They’re a formality to most people in the Global North. When someone we care about dies, we don’t give a second thought to the fact that, in almost all cases, their burial will be dignified and something will be left behind to honor them.

This cannot be said for the children of Gaza. Since October 8th, the Israeli military has killed a Gazan child an average of every 25 minutes. Every 25 minutes, for 9 months. This systematic violence has robbed thousands of families and a nation of its youth. Rubbing salt in the wound, the full-scale bombardment of Gaza and the forced relocation of nearly two million of its civilians has denied many parents the ability to give their children a dignified burial, or even a gravestone.

With the Israeli genocide leaving thousands of Palestinian children decomposing in body bags, activists in Northampton, Massachusetts, decided to respond on July 2nd.

Led by Demilitarize Western Massachusetts, an organization supported by MAPA, dozens of demonstrators flooded to 50 Prince Street: a large green hill with a seemingly innocuous manufacturing building behind it. Protestors lined the sidewalk in front of the hill and did what thousands of people have been doing for months: holding signs, chanting, and singing in solidarity with Palestinians.

The main action of this protest, however, was slightly different than what the nation has become accustomed to. In sweltering 90-degree heat, more than two dozen protesters lay down on the sidewalk and didn’t move an inch. Many of them lay next to fake bloodied body bags. Even more powerfully, many lay down in front of cardboard gravestones engraved with the names of Gazan children, aged 0 to 3, killed in the Israeli genocide. By symbolically making graves for the children who were killed and may have been unable to be buried properly, the protestors displayed the brutality of Israel’s actions.

But although the imagery of this action was symbolic, the location was not. 50 Prince Street is the site of a massive 150,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for defense contractor L3Harris. L3Harris is the 9th largest weapons manufacturer in the world and it directly profits off of the genocide in Gaza. It builds components of F-35 warplanes that attack Gaza, navigation systems for Israeli bombs, and technology for the Israeli ships blockading Gaza.

Even beyond Israel, L3Harris is a known violator of human rights. In 2008, the L3 corporation was sued by dozens of Iraqi citizens for crimes including torture and war crimes, and in 2019, the company settled a lawsuit accusing it of illegal international arms trafficking.

The demonstrators outside L3Harris in Northampton did not expect the company’s higher-ups to have a sudden moral revelation and stop arming Israel. However, by positioning themselves outside the facility, they were trying to catch the attention of L3Harris workers by using the images of gravestones and body bags: symbols of the death caused in part by the equipment the workers were making. The hope was that this could influence workers to use their labor to pressure the corporation from the inside. Demilitarize Western Massachusetts has also been holding weekly small protests outside L3Harris every Wednesday morning as workers drive in.

Disrupting the atmosphere of a calm college town like Northampton with fake body bags, blood, death, and gravestones might seem morbid and off-putting to some. But far more morbid is one of the world’s largest merchants of death hiding in plain sight within a peace-loving community. L3Harris is partly responsible for depriving thousands of Palestinian children of joy, life, and even gravestones after they are killed. Though the gravestones used by Northampton’s demonstrators are fake, the need for actual ones in Gaza, because of corporations like L3Harris, is all too real.

– Soren Anderson-Flynn is a member of MAPA’s Gaza-Israel Peace Campaign