Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

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 arrested L3Harris activists given an extended pre-trial period

After answering for their arrest charges, a rally was held outside the District Court supporting the activists
Kalina Kornacki

On Thursday, Dec. 14, six local activists presented themselves in court following arrests for their participation in the protest barricading the entrance to the major weapons manufacturer, L3Harris, in Northampton on Oct. 12th. The six protestors are a part of the anti-war, anti-imperialist and abolitionist collective, Demilitarize Western Mass (DWM) which organized the protest.

The group was represented by Attorney Luke Ryan and stood before the Hampshire District Court for charges of disturbing the peace, trespassing on private property and resisting arrest.

Those that did not have any previous charges in Massachusetts would be offered an extension of the pre-trial probation period, Sonya Epstein, one from the group arrested, explained. This meant that for three months, the individuals would not be allowed near the L3Harris property. After three months, if the protesters followed the orders, all charges would be cleared.

For two people who had previous charges, the court deemed their case as a continuance of finding, which is when the defendant acknowledges guilt for pleading purposes, but the court does not enter a guilty finding. Instead, the case will continue and will only be dismissed upon completion of certain conditions — in this case, staying away from the L3Harris building for three months.

With these options, none of the protesters will be going to trial. Zehra Fareen Parvez said that the group “considered going to trial to have an opportunity to provide context [as] to why we did this and to kind of push against the idea that there wasn’t anything wrong or criminal about [the protest.]

“But I think given the way that the judicial system works and given that we all feel really invested in continuing this work, [the choice made] felt like a better option,” she added.

DWM and its members will continue protesting in front of L3Harris, Epstein said. They added that “whoever could go there, should be there.” While there are acts of putting pressure on the manufacturer, the activists are also working towards educating the community.

“L3Harris is right in our backyard and making people question if that’s something they’re okay with.” Epstein said. “A continuation of action is there.”

Priscilla Lynch, another arrested protestor, said, “There are other things, simply beyond going to L3Harris. There’s a whole court of public opinion. We write Op-Ed [pieces] and letters to the editor, just reminding people of what [L3Harris is supporting].”

After the court hearing, a rally was held outside the District Court. Protesters chanted, “one, two, three, four, occupation no more. Five, six, seven, eight, Israel is an apartheid state,” “Not in our names, not in our time, no more weapons for Israel’s crimes,” “Free, free Palestine,” and “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. L3Harris has got to go.”

Susan Lantz, an activist focusing on military and nuclear weapons for 20 years, said how “thrilled” she was to see the youth present at the rally. “It is very refreshing and very nice to see this engaged population.”

The protesters were there to support the defendants, but to also call on residents and elected officials of western Massachusetts to stand with DWM in demanding that L3Harris close or convert to producing that “which improves, not destroys, humanity.”

They also ask that L3Harris use its profits to pay workers impacted by the protest in full, including for hours they were unable to work. “DWM recognizes their need for meaningful work and survival and denounces the systematic factors that force talented individuals to make a living through war profits,” they explained.

“It’s tempting to decide that we can’t do anything about this stuff,” Parvez said. “It’s easier to sit quietly [on] our computers, instead of going out and taking material action no matter how small it is. But right now, our government is fully backing a right-wing apartheid regime … so my question is, how do you not go out onto the streets and shout with our hearts and use our bodies to block intersections and driveways?”

As the protesters continued the chants, many were asked to call Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren and demand they make a statement for a permanent ceasefire. While both senators have made statements in favor of a ceasefire, there have been no further actions taken.

DWM activist Jennifer Scarlott said “I’m here for the defendants to applaud their courage and to support them in any way I can. I’m here for free Palestine [but] I’m not against an Israeli state. I think Israelis will be safer and more secure in a sort of confederation with Palestinians, where everybody’s human rights are protected and respected.”

Lantz discussed how well planned the protest against L3Harris was and how the community should be more involved. “[We’re] in Northampton, supposedly a peace-loving community in western Massachusetts. [The community] needs to understand that in our backyard, there is this company that is making parts and things that are killing people all over the world.”

As the protests continue, DWM has no plans to stop or slow their work. “In some ways, we’re just getting started.” Epstein said.

Kalina Kornacki can be reached at [email protected].

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