Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Six people arrested at L3Harris protest in Northampton

The protest was against the company’s profits made from manufacturing weapons and surveillance devices
Hannah Cohen

On Oct. 12, protesters gathered at the two vehicle entries of L3Harris on 50 Prince Street, Northampton at 5.30 a.m. Barricading the top of the driveways, five people chained themselves to a boat and trailer beds, while the rest of the group filled in the space.

Around 30 to 40 people joined the protest throughout the day. Sonya Epstein, Community Outreach Coordinator at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was present at the protest. “The energy was really incredible, organizers were really welcoming to folks joining and there were strong feelings of hope, solidarity and determination,” said Epstein.

“We spent the time chanting, singing and talking about what brought us to this action and what we are hoping for,” Epstein said. “There was a lot of support shown by people driving by, many of them honking in support which was really great to see.”

Banners with “End the Military Industrial Complex” and “Rock the Boat. The Tide is Rising. All Hands on Deck.” were used by the group.

“L3Harris is Complicit in: Nuclear Armaments that could END life as we know it. Climate Catastrophe. The lethal policing at the US-Mexico Border. Waste of the US taxpayers’ money. Israel’s violence against Palestinians. Spying on US activists. Pay-offs to Congress. Manufacturing parts for military drones that kill innocent kids,” was another such banner.

People also held signs that said, “If you care about [trauma prevention, Palestine, climate, etc.] tell L3 to STOP.” Chants were called out during the protest, including “Hey hey! Ho ho! L3Harris has got to go,” “From drone strikes to Palestine, making bombs is a crime” and “Fund healthcare, not warfare.”

Epstein said that, “for the most part, we were not confronted by anyone while I was there, except for one instance where a driver leaving the [L3Harris] lot refused to stop their car when they got to us.” However, organizers were able to de-escalate the situation and let the car go.

The protests against L3Harris arose due to the company’s defense contracts and weapons manufacturing. “It was clear that they [L3Harris] were providing technology for and profiting off of war, state-sanctioned violence, US imperialism and white supremacy,” Epstein said.

Zehra Fareen Parvez, associate professor of sociology, was another protester. “I first got involved in the campaign against L3Harris while searching for political avenues to respond to the grave humanitarian crisis in Yemen. When I realized that one of the major suppliers of weapons to Saudi Arabia was literally a few miles away, I knew I had to get involved.”

Parvez believes L3Harris is a “nefarious defense contractor, facilitating death and human rights violations all over the world.” Parvez noted First Amendment rights in Massachusetts and added that in this era of war, continued racial violence and climate catastrophe, how can we remain silent.”

In a statement, Demilitarize Western Mass, a collective of “anti-war, anti-imperialist and abolitionist activists confronting the military-industrial complex in our community,” said: “We’re taking action to unpack the atrocities L3Harris is wrapped up in and strategize what it will take to confront the racist and destructive military industrial complex in our community.” They added, “We envision a world without borders, cages, and wars.”

During the protest, six people, including Epstein and Parvez, were arrested and charged with trespass, resisting arrest and disturbing the peace, though Parvez said “none of us actually resisted arrest.” The activists spent the night in Hampshire County jail and were arraigned the following morning.

According to Epstein, when they arrived at the protest, three police officers were stationed at the side and claimed that they would not arrest any of the members. Eventually, the State Police and Sheriff’s Department were called in. “We saw police officers [in groups] …they told our police liaison that they were going to arrest anyone who would not leave the blockade of the road after they issued their warnings,” Epstein said.

The police captain issued them a warning and the blockade was continued “as an act of civil disobedience.” The protesters were then cut out of the metal blockade equipment and placed under arrest.

As for the arraignment, the protesters’ attorney set a pretrial date for Dec. 14. Ten members of the community and one activist from Cambridge came out to support them during the arraignment, Parvez said.

The police officers informed the L3Harris general manager to tell the protesters that they were trespassing and needed to move. Other than that, there was little-to-no interaction with the L3Harris employees, Epstein remarked.

Both L3Harris and the Northampton Police Department were reached out for a comment. The six arrested are planning to release a statement in the following days.

“It’s always hard to tell what the impact of your actions will be. But sometimes your conscience calls you to do something, and you just have to put yourself on the line,” said Parvez.

This is an ongoing story and will be updated as more information is made available.

Mahidhar Sai Lakkavaram can be reached at [email protected] and followed on X @Mahidhar_sl.

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