Protesters blocked the entrances of defense contractor L3 Technologies, seven arrests

Photo by Hannah

Protesters take aim at city defense contractor L3 Technologies

by Alexander Macdougall
Staff Writer
Published: 10/12/2023 4:42:37 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Around two dozen protesters blocked the driveway entrances to defense contractor L3Harris Technologies on Thursday, using a boat and two boat trailers, chaining themselves to the makeshift barricades and holding up signs including “Rock the boat. The tide is rising. All hands on deck.”

The use of boats to block the entrance to the 50 Prince St. building at Village Hill Northampton symbolized that the day of the protest, Oct. 12, is the day that Christopher Columbus first landed on the island of Hispaniola in 1492. The protest was organized by Demilitarize Western Mass against L3Harris, a publicly traded technology company and defense contractor headquartered in Florida that counts the U.S. and Saudi Arabian militaries among its client base.

The protesters remained there for at least six hours before State Police and Northampton police began removing them. Police used saws to free the demonstrators who had chained themselves and arrested seven people.

The protest also occurred amid the early stages of a war Israel is waging against the Islamic militant group Hamas in Gaza, following an unprecedented terrorist campaign launched by hundreds of militants against Israeli citizens in neighboring parts of Israel that claimed more than 1,000 lives. More than 1,000 Palestinians have also been killed, and the U.S. government has pledged its support for Israel in the war.

Although plans for the protest at L3 Harris on Thursday had been in the works before the beginning of the war, its outbreak has only heightened the urgency among many of the protesters for their cause, they said.

“It gives it a new dimension,” demonstrator Clara Wagner said. “It really solidified how concrete the violence feels, and the importance of letting people know that we’re not comfortable with just allowing it to happen.”

Protesters arrived at L3Harris around 5:45 a.m., placing themselves at the entrance, with some chaining themselves to the boat trailers. Paki Wieland, a longtime activist in Northampton who has also protested in Washington, D.C., and internationally, was among those willing to be arrested at the demonstration.

“Here’s one of the biggest defense contractors in the country, and this country of ours is all about making war,” Wieland said. “My hope is that by exposing these people who are making money from war, they could convert and use all this brilliance they have, all this great technology for the planet and for the people.”

In a press release, Demilitarize Western Mass said it hoped to disrupt the profits made by the company and demanded it either close down or convert to doing peace work. It also called on residents and elected officials of western Massachusetts to get behind their cause and also for the company to compensate its workers impacted by the protest, acknowledging they had a right to be paid in spite of the disruption the protest caused.

L3 Technologies declined to comment Thursday, citing company policy.

Nick Mottern, a spokesperson for Demilitarize Western Mass, said the company would be better off providing technology to support issues such as averting natural disasters caused by climate change, and that its current operations stood for many of the things the organization is against.

“This place brings together many concerns about war, about racism, about quote-unquote border security,” Mottern said. “This company is really standing in the way of progress, and basically human rights.”

Those arrested, including Wagner and Wieland, are scheduled to be arraigned Friday, Mottern said.


     Anti-war activists protest outside L3Harris Technologies in Northampton

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – A group of local anti-war activists staged a protest in Northampton at L3Harris Technologies Thursday morning, blocking access to the facility for workers there.

The group Demilitarize Western Mass staged this protest, assembling at 5:30 in the morning to block access to the defense contractor’s parking lot, demanding that the $17-billion tech manufacturer and defense contractor make major changes. They brought with them three boat trailers and a boat, lining them up on public property at the intersection of the parking lot and the street.

Then, two women chained themselves together through a hole in the side of the boat and additional demonstrators locked themselves to each of the trailers. They are taking a stand against L3Harris’ work as a defense contractor, saying they don’t want weapons and equipment of war produced in their town.

“Basically we are calling on L3Harris to convert from war work to peace work,” said Nick Nottern of Demilitarize Western Mass. “A lot of people who work here are talented, imaginative and hard working people and I imagine that they wish they were making something else.”

“It makes me feel sick to know this is happening where I live, in a community that upholds such progressive values,” said Sonya.

22News asked the demonstrators how tensions were throughout the morning, they said there was a few angry exchanges with a long line of employees trying to access the lot. Once Northampton Police negotiated off-site parking and began to monitor the situation, things cooled down.

The protestors said they aren’t moving until L3Harris promises they will move from war work to peace work. They added that they have been planning this demonstration for months and that the sudden escalation between Israel and Hamas only makes it all the more apparent that the industrial war complex needs to end.

22News contacted L3Harris for their response to the protest but have yet heard back.