Thursday, May 15, 2008
Greetings Fellow Peace and Justice Activists,
We, a group of peace and justice activists in the Burlington area, decided we needed to share with the wider community recent experiences and thoughts that have come out of our recent civil disobedience at war-profiteer General Dynamics. We hope this letter will articulate our concerns with the State of Vermont’s reaction to non-violent protest.
On May Day a group of activists living in Burlington: students, farmers, artists, teachers, social workers, stone masons, and others, organized a peaceful occupation of the lobby at General Dynamics’ Armament and Technical Products Burlington branch headquarters. Acting in solidarity with the International Longshore and Warehouse Unions west coast port shut-down and in reaction to the mass murder and ecological destruction in Iraq, we entered General Dynamics with three demands.
The first demand was to give back all state tax breaks to the people of Vermont; General Dynamics, despite posting earnings of $573 million in the first quarter of 2008, has received over $3.6 million in tax breaks from the state of Vermont in the last five years. Millions of dollars that could better go to feeding, housing, and providing healthcare to those Vermonters who are in desperate need. Secondly, we asked GD to stop the manufacturing of gatling guns, missiles and other weapons of mass-destruction; since the 1980’s war profiteers (it was General Electric before General Dynamics) have been designing and manufacturing the gatling guns and missiles that have murdered men, women, and children all around the world, from El Salvador to Iraq. Vermonters want an economy based on peace and justice, not a recession cased by war and war-profiteering. Lastly, we asked GD to stop contributing money to political campaigns; our own anti-war Congressman Peter Welch has received at least $3500 from GD. War-dollars and the influence they bring have no place in our political landscape.
From 3:30 in the afternoon to 8:15 we peacefully sat-in the lobby of General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products, asking to speak with a representative of General Dynamics. “No comment” was the official line from the GD corporate bosses, and after reading the “notice of trespass” the Burlington police, Chittenden County Sheriff and Burlington fire department removed us from the lock-boxes, processed, and released us.
While, for the most part, our interactions with the Burlington police department were professional and even quite amicable (some police even voiced support for our cause) our dealings with the state’s prosecutor have been less so. Threats and needless acts of intimidation greeted us at our arraignment. While the district attorney’s office was not successful in forcing $1000 in bail to four of those arrested District Attorney Donavan expressed his desire to seek from us over $6000 in “restitution” costs: $4043 to pay for City of Burlington police and fire personnel, $890 for the Chittenden County Sheriff and (outrageously) $1228.17 in cleaning costs to General Dynamics themselves. We have yet to see what, if any, plea bargains the state will place on the table for this trespassing charge but it seems obvious to us that we are to be made example of through the court. The State wants to send a message to Vermonters working for peace and justice that civil disobedience will no longer be tolerated.
Why has the state decided to pursue this action more vigorously? How much pressure is the District Attorney under from war-profiteers and other war-mongers in our state?
How will heavy and burdensome ‘restitution costs’ impact dissent in Vermont; how will they effect war resistance and the fight for social, economic, and ecological justice?
Thank you for reading reading this letter. While we all knew the possible consequences of partaking in Non-violent Civil Disobedience at General Dynamics, and are willing to accept the consequences to ourselves, we all felt that raising our case to the wider community could help everyone better prepare for the action needed to end the war and bring peace and justice to Iraq and Vermont.
While we are still planning our course of action for the court system, we welcome any and all support. Feel free to call the District Attorney’s office in Burlington if moved to do so! And please come to a meeting to plan our effort to stop GD’s weapons manufacturing.
GD out of Iraq! Peace Economy Now!
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Seven Days Coverage of 5/1/08 General Dynamics Civil Disobedience
May Day Musings
Last Thursday, May 1, thousands of workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in Los Angeles stopped working in protest of the Iraq War. The strike, according to Democracy Now!, was the largest since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
"It's astonishing and wildly encouraging that a West Coast labor union would show more guts and determination than the U.S. Congress," wrote a Los Angeles writer on the web newsletter CounterPunch, "in publicly defying a Republican administration."
Meanwhile, back in the only state president Bush hasn't visited, the Vermont AFL-CIO issued a statement of support for the striking West Coast workers. And on Saturday, May 3, the Old Labor Hall in Barre filled up a for a lecture by Amy and David Goodman.
Amy is the acclaimed host of labor-friendly Democracy Now! Her brother, a Waterbury resident, is a freelance journalist who's married to Democratic House Rep Sue Minter. Amy and David are now touring the country in support of their third co-written book, Standing Up to the Madness, which documents the work of unlikely citizen activists.
Like, for instance, Connecticut librarians who take on the Patriot Act.
On Saturday, before ceding the stage to his intrepid "big sister," David informed his audience that the Old Labor Hall's current name is incorrect. It used to include the word "socialist," he insisted. A UVM grad student essay confirms that the building, which was built in 1900, was originally named the "Socialist Party Labor Hall."
In other May Day news: Two local journalists had their reporting featured nationally. Benjamin Dangl's story on a recent protest at the General Dynamics facility in Burlington, "Vermont Students Join May 1 Protests," has been posted at The Nation's website. Dangl is the author, most recently, of The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. A video by Sam Mayfield, community relations coordinator at CCTV, was featured yesterday on — you guessed it — Democracy Now!
Monday, May 5, 2008
Please watch the Democracy Now coverage, organize your community around building a Peace Economy instead of War Profiteering, find your local war profiteer, and take them down! Here's a quick list of War Profiteers to start with: Boeing, Blackwater USA, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Electric, CSC/ DynCorp, Science Applications International Corporation, Raytheon, United Technologies, Halliburton, and Lockheed Martin.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
New 5/5/08: http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/84437/
As you can see in the previous entry, formatting Dangl's article with Blogger's crude tools proved quite challenging. Sorry, Mr. Dangl.
Friday, May 2, 2008
Independent Journalist Sam Mayfield's Video Footage
Independent Journalist Benjamin Dangl's Coverage
reprints of the same article in various new sources:
|Vermont Peace Activists Occupy General Dynamics Weapons Plant|
|Written by Benjamin Dangl|
|Friday, 02 May 2008|
| On May 1st, International Workers’ Day, ten peace activists in Burlington, Vermont entered General Dynamics and locked themselves together in the main lobby of the building in protest against the company’s weapons manufacturing and war profiteering. University of Vermont student Benjamin Dube, one of the dozens of other activists present at the event, leaned out a window of the lobby, and pointed to the GD building, explaining, "This is the gas tank of the war machine, and we are the sugar." |
The demonstrators entered the lobby at around 3pm, and proceeded to lock their arms together with PVC piping, duct tape and other materials. According to a press release put out by the group, the activists were demanding that "General Dynamics stop giving campaign contributions to the politicians responsible for regulating it, stop making Gatling guns, missiles and other weapons of mass destruction and give back the $3.6 million dollars in Vermont tax breaks General Dynamics received in 2007."
While activists at GD chanted slogans such as, "Hey GD, what do you say, how many kids did you kill today" and "GD out of the Middle East, No Justice, No Peace," banners against GD and the Iraq War were set up on three major streets and highways in the area. This anti-war action in Burlington took place at the same time thousands of dockworkers at 29 major ports across on the west coast refused to go to work in protest against the Iraq War. In March, Vermonters in Brattleboro and Marlboro passed a measure in town meetings to arrest George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for crimes against the constitution if they ever arrived in either town.
Rachel Ruggles was one of the activists locked down in the GD lobby. Wearing a green bandana and glasses, this 19 year old from Vergennes, VT, and student at the University of Vermont, said "we are participating in this non-violent direct action to get attention and make a statement against the Iraq War, to say we don’t support GD’s war profiteering... GD is not contributing to the peace economy. The money from their tax breaks should go back to the Vermont community."
General Dynamics is a national company whose branch in Burlington produces, among other things, Hydra-70 rockets and missile launchers. Mike Ives, a journalist with VT based Seven Days, wrote in March of this year that, according to General Dynamics company spokesperson Tim Haddock, GD employees in Burlington "manufacture the "Goalkeeper Close-In Weapon System." The "Goalkeeper" is a 14,000-pound gun that's mounted to ships and can fire up to 4200 shots per minute of "missile-piercing" ammunition."
According to Time Magazine, St. Louis-based General Dynamics is the top defense contractor in the US. The Bush administration’s "War on Terror" has been good for GD business. In 2007, GD’s revenues were $7.8 billion, with $382 million in profits, an increase of 33% since 1983. GD also has a particularly close relationship with the Pentagon; 94% of its contracts come from the US government.
During 2007-2008, Vermont Democratic House Representative Peter Welch received $3,500 in donations from General Dynamics. An online petition in protest of this campaign contribution to Welch is available to sign here.
While holding a bag of bread and fruit for those inside the lobby, bearded, 20 year old activist, Dube said "it’s becoming clear that after five years people are against the war. And throughout New England there are weapons manufacturers making it possible for the US to subjugate the Iraqis." He participated in the protest at GD in part because in spite of all the economic needs in the US, hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent in on the wars abroad. "Our government is not dealing with the problems in our economy and global warming, and at the same time we’re giving tax breaks to weapons manufacturers like GD." Regarding the importance of the group’s tactics, Dube said, "We are trying to renew the focus of anti-war activism more on the complicity of our communities in war."
Peace activist Jonathan Leavitt was quoted in the press release as saying. "While our state struggles with [Governor] Jim Douglas’ budget cuts and layoffs, gas prices, affordable housing and lack of health coverage, war profiteers like General Dynamics steal tax breaks from working families. We’re here today as Vermonters to say no more handouts for war profiteers."
Dozens of activists remained in and around the GD lobby for over six hours, chanting slogans, waving signs and sharing food. The protesters in the lobby said they would not leave the building until their demands were met. However, officials from GD refused to speak with the activists. Burlington Lt. Emmet Helrich said "Nobody from General Dynamics is going to talk to you, that’s a fact." The activists in the lobby were arrested at 8:45 when the police went in to cut them loose.
Meanwhile, GD continues to reap enormous profits on the Bush administration’s wars. On May 2, the national company was awarded a $51 million dollar Abrams Tank contract.
See this video of the May 1st action at General Dynamics in Burlington, VT. Filmed and edited by Sam Mayfield:
For more information, see
Photos by Benjamin Dangl
click link for video
Demonstrators Arrested At War Protest
Unlawful Trespass Charges Issued At General Dynamics' Burlington Plant
POSTED: 11:34 pm EDT May 1, 2008
UPDATED: 12:05 am EDT May 2, 2008
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BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Burlington police were called to the General Dynamics Armaments and Technical Products plant on Lakeside Avenue Thursday afternoon after a group of war protesters locked themselves inside the lobby of the building.
There were 10 protesters inside the building and an additional 10 to 15 outside.
Officers said they repeatedly and unsuccessfully asked the demonstrators to leave the interior of the building.
Additional personnel, and several members of the Burlington Fire Department were called to the scene.
The demonstrators inside the plant were eventually placed under arrest.
They had placed devices on their arms, locking them together. Police had to extract them before removing them.
They have all been processed on charges of unlawful trespass, and released.
They will be in court next week.
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Thursday, May 1, 2008
May 1, 2008
Ten war protesters arrested outside a Burlington business Thursday night. Forty people for "Peace Economy Not War Profiteering" staged themselves at General Dynamics. The company makes military equipment.
Some even broke in and chained themselves together inside the building. Police ordered them to leave, warning they'd be arrested otherwise.
"I feel like the much greater crime is General Dynamics theft of taxpayers money that money needs to be put back into public schools that desperately need it," Protester Jonathon Leavitt said.
Nearly 25 officers the Burlington fire department and the Chittenden County Sheriff's office were all on scene. Now those ten protesters arrested all face trespassing charges.
For those who refused to give police their information, they will be locked up overnight.Fox 44 video