A protest action was held on Friday morning, Dec. 22, 2006, in front of and along the sidewalk of a huge complex of office buildings, housing the national headquarters of Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest producers of cluster bombs. Over a million of these lethal weapons were used by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in the recent war this past summer in Lebanon.
As activist Patrick J. Elder began to give a talk about the corporation’s role in the making and distribution of the deadly cluster bombs, he was interrupted by a group of three or four Montgomery County, MD police officers. They were yelling at him to “get off the grass.” Elder, who was standing next to Gail Murphy, of the Code Pink group, immediately complied with the officer’s request. While Elder was standing on the sidewalk discussing the need for such a hostile attitude by the police, one of the officers walked directly up to him and in a very aggressive manner pushed him hard with both of his arms to the ground. Mr. Elder fell over on his back. Although he didn’t appear to be injured, he was visibly upset by the unprovoked attack, which was captured on video.
Ms. Murphy quickly rebuked the officer in question for his over-the-top behavior, as did Kevin Zeese of DemocracyRising.US Mr. Elder, it is fair to say, was both shocked and outraged by the officer’s conduct. He indicated that he wasn’t going to file a criminal charges against the assaulting office, but that he might file a complaint with the Montgomery County police department over the totally unnecessary incident. Mr. Elder, and some of the other more than 35 protesters, did let both the officer involved and his supervisor, who showed up later, know that he “needs training.” Mr. Elder added: “We’re not disturbing the peace. We’re disturbing the war!”
The activists, many of whom live in the neighborhood, started their rally at the Davis Public Library, near the Lockheed Martin facility, at 9:00 AM. The protesters then marched, in a light rain, from the library for about a half mile to the corporation’s headquarters. They carried boxes, dressed up as coffins and draped in black, along with signs and banners depicting the victims of the IOF’s bombings in Lebanon. They also chanted slogans, like: “Stop making cluster bombs! Stop killing children!” Montgomery County, a suburb of Washington, D.C., is located just north of the Capital Beltway. The Peace Action Montgomery group was the main sponsor of the demonstration.
According to Larry Callahan, one of the organizers of the rally: “Cluster munitions manufactured by Lockheed Martin contain several hundred explosives, grenade-like bomblets. A high number of the submunitions do not explode on impact and become ‘de facto’ land mines threatening innocents for years to come…These weapons kill and maim thousands of civilians every year…We demand the weapon-makers stop making cluster bombs and compensate victims or leave the neighborhood…” The corporation, Lockheed Martin, reported “sales of $37.5 billion in the year 2005, and pretax profits of nearly $3 billion. It employs about 140,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in producing…the world’s most lethal [military] weaponry. Its CEO, Robert J. Stevens, took in nearly $16 million in compensation in 2006.”
Background on the cluster bombing of Lebanon: Peace activist Kathy Kelly was in that country during the time of the terror bombings of the civilian population by the IOF. She gave a talk on Nov. 20, 2006, at UMBC campus. Kelly said: “In the last four days of the Israeli-Hezbollah War, Israel dropped 1.2 million cluster bombs. Does that fact relate to us? Well, if you go to Hopkins, MN, there is a plant there, Alliant Techsystems, that produces cluster bombs. I asked one of my friends there if they knew anything about the plant having a contract with Israel? She said that they go there on ‘a vigil’ and that on some days, the ‘Israeli flag’ is flying over the plant. They always fly the flag of ‘the country’ they are doing business with. So, do you see? If 1.2 million cluster bombs are dropped, then that is great for business for the Alliant Techsystems company. They can make 1.2 million more!”
Lockheed Martin is also an integral part of the Military-Industrial Complex in the U.S., whose growing negative influence over our federal government, ex-President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about in his famous 1961 “Farewell Address.” Curt Goering of Amnesty International has labeled Israel’s massive bombing campaign in Lebanon, including its use of over a million cluster bombs on the civilian population, “a war crime.” His group is pressing the UN for a full investigation.
Finally, after the police attack on Mr. Elder, Kevin Zeese took the microphone to defend the Constitutional right of peaceful dissent. He told his fellow protesters: “Lockheed Martin is the largest defense contractor in the world, but it is only part of the problem. We have to deal with the reality of a very large military industrial complex that is the most lethal in world history and the most politically powerful in world history…Controlling both [political] parties. Producing weapons of mass destruction that have never been seen before in human history…We have a strong peace movement that is growing…We don’t feel intimated by this kind of police activity. We’re still here. We’re still getting our message out. We’re still succeeding in our goal today.”
WILLIAM HUGHES is the author of “Saying ‘No’ to the War Party” (Amazon.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.