On the morning of Thursday, October 12, members and supporters of the Demilitarize Western Mass collective created a blockade at 50 Prince Street, Northampton, in front of L3Harris (the local subsidiary of weapons giant.) L3Harris is the ninth largest weapons manufacturer in the world, and this direct action is in protest of this part of the military industrial complex in the region, particularly their role in violence abroad and carceral surveillance systems.
The blockade consists of protesters locking themselves to a large boat and three trailers, preventing cars from entering either of the driveways to L3Harris. They intend to maintain the blockade to cause disruption to L3Harris’ profits and manufacturing, as well as increase public awareness of L3Harris and its role in perpetrating violence. The protest also includes community members congregating for an on-site rally, featuring signs and chants against L3Harris and the violent systems to which they contribute.
Zehra Parvez, one of those risking arrest, learned of L3Harris while searching for political avenues to respond to the grave humanitarian crisis in Yemen. “When I realized that one of the suppliers of weapons to Saudi Arabia was literally a few miles away, I knew I had to get involved. When my kids or grandkids one day ask me what I did while my country was complicit in one of the worst genocidal humanitarian crises of my time, I can look them in the eye and say I did the right thing.”
As a longtime supporter of Palestinian and Saudia Arabian rights, Parvez says, “I’ve been writing to Congressional reps, walking in marches, and signing petitions for thirty years. Direct action against the military facilities themselves is a stronger and much louder way to be heard and express my solidarity.” L3Harris has contracts with almost every branch of the U.S. military, as well as ICE, CBP, and IDF, and US police departments. Just a few of the projects they’ve been involved in include: supplying surveillance technology to the U.S.-Mexico border, contracting tanks and bombs used by the Israeli Defense Force to kill thousands of civilians in Gaza, and creating cell-site simulator technology that police use at protests and direct actions campaigns to identify people and track their movements.
Paki Wieland, also risking arrest, has traveled the world in numerous acts of peacemaking, from getting humanitarian aid into Palestine through the Rafah border, to visiting families of drone strike victims in Afghanistan. “The desperate situation we face must be named and changed, so we can have a just and peaceful world. L3Harris, one of the merchants of war, has no place in our backyard. We must do whatever we can to change this economy based upon war and suffering.”
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