Good Friday arrests at Lockheed Martin in Pennsylvania

from Ariel Gold, Fellowship of Reconciliation-USA Executive Director

Yesterday, Susan, Rev. Fahed Abuakel, I, and others finished walking 20 miles (about the length of Gaza) from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to Lockheed Martin. Gathered with families and children too young to yet comprehend the horrors of war, twenty-five of us crossed onto the property of the largest weapons manufacturer in the world. 

Some lay down holding a list of the over 13,000 children who have been killed since October 7, 2023. Others held a banner reading, “Lockheed Martin, you have blood on your hands.” I was the first to be taken into police custody.

I was soon joined by my Christian allies for ceasefire: Rev. Dwayne Bishop, Executive Director of Interfaith POWER; Shane Claiborne, who leads Red Letter Christians, Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, ED of Churches for Middle East Peace, Diana Oestreich, a former U.S. Army medic in Iraq, Lisa Sharon Harper, author of The Very Good Gospel, and so many more people of deep faith and conscience. Prayers were said and hopes that people in Gaza, especially Palestinian Christians there observing Good Friday, as my Christian allies were, would see our action and know they are not alone. 

Since the 1970s, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 has been the Israeli Air Force’s “most important fighter jet,” taking part in all of Israel’s major military assaults on Gaza. The newer Lockheed Martin F-35 is the most advanced warplane used by the Israeli Air Force. Over the past almost six months, Lockheed Martin’s fighter jets have been the instruments of death dropping bomb after bomb on Palestinian children, women, and men. As my dear friends Shane and Lisa, who I helped organize the Holy Week pilgrimage said: “As many fellow Christians bless the bombs falling on Gaza, bombs made at Lockheed Martin… we say NO, not in our name, and not in the name of our Savior. As many Christians try to defend the violence of Israel being done in planes made by Lockheed Martin, we are calling for a ceasefire and an end to the violence in the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace.”

As I said at the rally before twenty-five of us were arrested, “a central teaching in Judaism is that ‘to save a life is to save the world entire and this is because all of us, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Palestinian, Israeli, or American, are created in the image of G-d. And so, when we say ‘Never Again’, we mean never again for anyone anywhere, EVER, and right now that is Gaza.”

This war in Gaza is as much a U.S. crime as it is an Israeli crime. In fact, sixty-nine percent of the weapons, including all of the fighter jets dropping bombs, being sent to Israel, are manufactured by U.S. weapons companies, of which Lockheed Martin is the largest. 

(Photo by Carol Carmon)


Red Letter Christian photo

from Red Letter Christians

We got into good trouble on Good Friday.  Twenty-five people were arrested for a nonviolent direct action at the headquarters of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest weapons contractor, where the weapons being used in Gaza are made.  Hundreds of others joined in the action during Holy Week as members of the Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage walked over 20 miles, roughly the length of Gaza, from the Liberty Bell to Lockheed Martin.Here’s why we did it. The event was part of a global movement with similar walks happening in over 200 cities around the world, in every continent including Antarctica.  Our message is simple.  End the genocide – we need a permanent lasting ceasefire, now.  Let in the aid – collective punishment and forced starvation are evil and morally indefensible.  Release all the hostages.  And stop sending weapons and funds to Israel, weapons like those made at Lockheed Martin.  On October 7, some 1200 precious lives were lost, every one of them a sacred child of God, made in the image of God.  The world stood with Israel against the merciless slaughter and terror of October 7.  And we must not hesitate to stand against anti-semitism today.But in the days since October 7, we have watched the State of Israel pour out its wrath on the people of Gaza, killing around 200 a day, one child every 10 minutes.  Often using the Bible as a weapon to justify their revenge.  

Two wrongs don’t make a right… that’s what my momma taught me.  

In the past 170 days since October 7, over 32,000 people have been killed… 15,000 of them are children.  And over 74,000 people have been injured.  Thousands are missing under the rubble.  We are watching a genocide, ethnic cleansing – livestreamed on social media, and most of our leaders are silent or even complicit.  As Palestinian pastor, Munther Isaac has said, “Gaza has become the moral compass of the world.”  

To speak out against the violence of October 7th does not make you anti-Palestinian.  It makes you decent, human, moral, and compassionate.  To speak out against the violence since October 7th is not to be antisemitic or pro-Hamas… it is to be decent, human, moral, compassionate.  

One of the central convictions of Christianity is that there is a God who is near to the suffering, to the poor, the widows and orphans, and to all those who are victims of violence.  Jesus left all the comfort of Heaven to be born as a brown-skinned, Palestinian, Jewish baby, born as a refugee during a genocide under King Herod… born homeless in a manger, from a town called Nazareth where people said nothing good could come… arrested, terrorized, tortured and executed on a cross.  On Good Friday, Christians around the world remember in a special way that Christ is God’s act of solidarity, as he endured the most horrific violence on the cross, and subverted it with love, forgiveness, and an empty tomb.  It is Christ who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they are the children of God. It is Christ who rebuked his own disciples when they wanted to call down “fire from heaven” on the people of Samaria. And it is Christ, who scolded Peter when he resorted to violence, saying to Peter, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword… put the sword away.”  

In the Easter story, Pontius Pilate washes his hands as Christ is being killed, attempting to wash the blood off his hands and pretend he was not responsible.  So that was part of our message at Lockheed Martin on Good Friday. Our lead banner read:  Lockheed Martin, YOU HAVE BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS.” 

Ironically, Lockheed Martin covered up the large signs at their main entrance with large blue tarps and duct tape, making the point even stronger.  They literally tried to hide any evidence of their corporate logo as we gathered.   You can’t make this stuff up.

Red Letter Christians photo

We also made a banner with the numbers on it: “Over 32,000 killed.  Over 13,000 children killed.  Over 74,000 injured.”  And we all added our handprints in red paint, even little Eli added his for the babies in Gaza.  Many folks left the paint on their hands as a reminder that the genocide in Gaza is not just being done by Israel.  It is being done with funds from the United States and weapons made in the United States, by companies like Lockheed Martin.  

The US gives Israel $4 Billion a year.  And Lockheed Martin makes billions more from weapons sales, with contracts that did not begin after October 7 but have a decades old history.  Since the 1970s, Lockheed Martin has provided the F-16s and more recently the F-35 fighter jets used in Gaza.  In 5 years, Lockheed sent 102 F-16s and 50 F-35s.  They also make the M-270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, and the Hellfire missiles that have killed so many people.  In the recent assault in response to October 7th, the US and Israel agreed on a new weapons package (two months into the genocide) to supply even more F-35 and F-15 jets as well as Apache helicopters.  So yes, Lockheed Martin has blood on its hands. They have made a killing off killing.  They have turned war into a billion-dollar business enterprise.  The old saying is correct: “If you want to stop war, figure out who is profiting from it.”  

That’s why we gathered at Lockheed Martin on Good Friday.  As many fellow Christians bless the bombs falling on Gaza, weapons made at Lockheed Martin… we say NO, not in our name, and not in the name of our Savior.  As many Christians try to defend the violence of Israel being done in planes made by Lockheed Martin, we are calling for a ceasefire, and an end to the violence in the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace.

To be clear, it was a diverse, interfaith gathering – with people of all faiths and folks who aren’t religious at all but are compelled by their conscience to stand against the violence in Gaza.  We had dozens of children of all ages.  I’m guessing my little baby, Elijah, was one of the youngest at 12 weeks old.  One of them held a homemade banner that read, “US Bombs Kill Children.”  The young and young at heart put a rhythm to our call for ceasefire, as they beat on large drums together.  

And we carried the signs and banners.  We had posters with large images of the devastation from the bombing, and the shattered lives… each one branded with “Made In the USA.”  And we carried six large black signs with the names of the children, a reminder that they are not just numbers.  Every one of them has a name, a precious child made in the image of God.  We carried thousands of those names onto the property of Lockheed Martin… an act that was part religious ceremony, part street theater, part public lament.  

As we crossed over the blue line that designates where the public property ends and the private property of Lockheed Martin begins, we were given a warning that we were trespassing and could face arrest.  The folks with the names of the children laid down on the ground, a profoundly moving posture in the rich tradition of “die-ins.”  Others of us began to sing.  Several participants unrolled yellow “Crime Scene Do Not Enter” tape and roped off the entrance, calling it what it is – the scene of a crime, a war crime. On the other side of the boundary we laid several dozen red roses.  One after another, kids and adults brought those flowers over the blue line and laid them on the names of the children – it was all so powerful and moving.  

As the police began arresting us, we sang hymns and freedom songs – “Down by the Riverside” and “We Shall Overcome” … and “Ain’t Gonna Let Lockheed Martin, Turn me ‘Round.”  And we said the “Lord’s Prayer” which had a new ring to it as we said the part about forgiving us “our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” as we were arrested for trespassing.  

As we began the procession onto Lockheed Martin, I reminded the group of these words of Martin Luther King (whose assassination we remember on the anniversary this week), as he said this: “There is nothing wrong with a traffic law which says you have to stop for a red light. But when a fire is raging, the fire truck goes through that red light, and normal traffic had better get out of its way. Or when a man is bleeding to death, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed.”  

Red Letter Christian photo

There is a fire raging in Gaza, and we need brigades of ambulance drivers who will ignore the red lights of the present system until the emergency is solved.  That’s why we were willing to go to jail.  

And it was also Dr. King who reflected on how he was initially troubled to go to jail – but then he looked at history and saw what good company he had.  Indeed, all the way back to Jesus on that first Good Friday.  And Christians have been making good trouble ever since, stirring up holy mischief and challenging the systems that crush other people.  So, it was an honor to go to jail on Good Friday.  As John Lewis once said, when we get into good trouble we can smile in our mugshot because we know that we are on the right side of history.  

Without a doubt, our children and grandchildren will ask us what we did to try to stop the genocide in Gaza.  I am trying hard to be able to honestly answer them – everything we could, including going to jail.  In fact, I’ll tell my little boy Eli – it was your first protest.  And I know it will not be his last.

On the citation we were given, we have been charged with Disorderly Conduct, and underneath the charge is a section called “Nature of Offense” and they wrote that the police officers wrote this in that section: “Defendant created a physically offensive condition by an act which served no legitimate purpose”.

Red Letter Christian photo

There was a crime committed at 230 Mall Blvd, but it was not prayerfully putting our bodies in the way of the flow of weapons of mass destruction.  The crime was happening inside the headquarters of Lockheed Martin.  And that was the act that was “offensive” to God and to all of us who care about life.  

We will not build a better world by killing other people’s children.  It’s time to get in the way of the business of war.  And for many of us, we do this holy work in the name of our Savior… that brown-skinned Palestinian refugee from Nazareth… Jesus the Christ.  
Violence is always evil, no matter what flag it’s wrapped up in. 

Let us continue to work for peace… and do all we can to interrupt the war… and grieve every life lost… and commit ourselves to building a world where every person is sacred.



On Good Friday, Dozens of Activists to Risk Arrest at Lockheed Martin in Call for Ceasefire in Gaza

What: Protest Lockheed Martin’s role in Gaza Genocide

When: Friday, March 29 at 10:00 AM 

Where: Lockheed Martin, King of Prussia, Philadephia

Convened by: Red Letter Christians, Freedom Road, Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Society for Faith and Justice, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and more

Philadelphia, PA—On Friday, March 29, 2024, the Good Friday holiday, a coalition of activists of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and other faiths, as well as atheists and agnostics, will protest outside Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing plant in King of Prussia, PA, near Philadelphia. As the war in Gaza, after more than five months, shows no end in sight, has killed 32,000 people, and has created the worst situation of famine in recent history, the activists feel it is imperative to take all peaceful measures possible, including risking arrest, to draw attention to the role U.S. weapons manufacturers are playing in the commission of genocide. 

The activists who are planning risk arrest include the following faith leaders: 

  • Shane Claiborne of Red Letter Christians 
  • Lisa Sharon Harper of Freedom Road
  • Ariel Gold of Fellowship of Reconciliation
  • Rev. Mark Thompson
  • Susan Smith, Fellowship of Reconciliation
  • Diana Oestreich, Former Iraq Army medic, founder of Wage Peace
  • Leslie Callahan, St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Philadelphia
  • Kathy Kelly, Nobel Prize-nominated founder of Voices in the Wilderness

Visuals at the protest will include a large banner reading, “Lockheed Martin: You Have Blood on Your Hands,” as well as images of the destruction in Gaza with the words, “Made in the USA.” The activists decided on Lockheed Martin as the site of their protest as Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest weapons manufacturer, supplies the Israeli government with a wide variety of weapons, including fighter jets, attack helicopters, and missiles. Many of these weapons are given by the U.S. to Israel through the almost $4 billion Israel receives annually in Foreign Military Financing.

Prior to the protest on Good Friday, Between March 24 (Palm Sunday) and March 29 (Good Friday), when Christians around the world remember the crucifixion of Jesus, followers of Jesus and friends will walk 20 miles (almost the length from Gaza City to Rafah), approximately four miles per day from the Liberty Bell to Lockheed Martin in King of Prussia; observing the ‘Stations of the Cross’ on each day. The Philadelphia pilgrimage is part of the global ‘Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage’ movement. These spiritual acts of resistance, including direct action, aim to send a message urging the Biden administration to call for a ceasefire and stop or condition weapons exports to Israel being used to kill and maim civilians and violate human rights.


“One of the central convictions of Christianity is that there is a God who is near to the suffering, to the poor, to all those who are victims of violence,” said Shane Claiborne, founder and director of Red Letter Christians.  “On Good Friday, Christians around the world remember in a special way that Christ is God’s act of solidarity, as he endured the most horrific violence on the cross, and subverted it with love, forgiveness, and an empty tomb.  As many fellow Christians bless the bombs falling on Gaza, bombs made at Lockheed Martin… we say NO, not in our name, and not in the name of our Savior.”

“This Lenten, Ramadan, and Purim season, I am proud to be part of a cross-faith coalition of people committed to the knowledge that war is an abomination in the eyes of G-d,” said Ariel Gold, the first Jewish executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest interfaith peace and justice organization in the country. “Judaism teaches that to save a life is to save the world entire, as we are all created in the divine image of G-d. Since the horrifying attack on Israeli citizens on October 7, Jewish pain has been weaponized to justify a slaughter so horrific that Holocaust scholars have identified it as a ‘textbook case of genocide.’ When we pledge ‘Never Again,’ it must mean never again for anyone anywhere and this is why I will be putting my body on the line this Good Friday to attempt to stem the bloodshed and turn the tide towards peace.  

“We walked the length of Gaza from the Liberty Bell to Lockheed Martin and every step was a prayer. Prayer is solidarity,” said Lisa Sharon Harper, president and founder of Freedom Road, a faith-based consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap in the U.S. and inside the church. “Jesus taught us to pray in solidarity with his disenfranchised people in The Lord’s Prayer. Then he asked his disciples to pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane. As we walked we called on the powerful to use their power for the sake of the disenfranchised. And when we walked through depressed West Philadelphia, we joined our prayers with theirs; prayers for freedom from an American brand of colonization that comes in the form of eminent domain and neglect and over policing. On Good Friday we face Lockheed Martin, the military power that enforces the American empire. That, too, is a form of prayer.”