By Joy First, World BEYOND War, November 17, 2023
Hatem Ahmad Hatem Al-Hissi aged 2, Jenna Hamed NaserAl-Asatal aged 1, Esraa Mu’ayyad Yousef Abu Marzouq aged 12, Hayat Abdullah Musa Al-Asatal aged 6. While I was lying on the cold sidewalk under a sheet made bloody with red fingernail polish, David Barrows’ booming bass voice called out the names and ages of children who have been killed in Gaza. I began to moan softly as I thought about these children, and then I began to cry.
The sidewalk was outside of the Raytheon corporate offices in Arlington, VA in the run up to the opening session of Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal which was livestreamed on November 12. This is a people’s tribunal, which will be trying several large corporations for war crimes. These corporations produce weapons that our government uses to cause death and destruction all over the world, but especially in the Middle East. These corporations profit through the suffering of innocent people.
The organizers of the tribunal have spent the last couple of years gathering evidence through interviews with victims, analysts, lawyers, and philosophers. There will be a series of videos released weekly over the next four months that will show how Raytheon, General Atomics, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin are complicit in crimes against humanity. These compelling videos will expose the necessity of these corporations being held accountable for their crimes. Over 1,700 people around the world registered for the opening session. (You can register to watch the videos at merchantsofdeath.org).
Raytheon, and the other companies mentioned, had been served a subpoena by the organizers of the people’s tribunal in November 2022 and refused to respond. Thus about 20 citizen activists were compelled to return to the sidewalk outside of Raytheon on November 8, 2023 at about noon. This was the first time I had been in the DC area for a nonviolent civil resistance action against war since 2018, and I was filled with anxiety, anticipation, and resolve. I knew deep in my heart that, with what is going on in the world, this is where I needed to be.
The sidewalk outside of Raytheon has been privatized. What is usually a public place for citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights has been sold to this private corporation by Arlington County. Nonetheless that did not deter us. We had a large Merchants of Death banner and many other signs. We read names of children who were killed in conflict. We remembered that large corporations are lobbying our government to keep wars going so that they can make unprecedented profits off of the suffering and death of children, women, and men. These people have names and families who love them and grieve their deaths.
Four of us laid down on the sidewalk and were covered with red-stained sheets. We had two life-size dolls laying with us who represented children. Eventually the police came and told us that we had to leave or we would be arrested. The four laying on the ground and two people holding the banner said that they could not leave. Raytheon is directly responsible for so much death and suffering and it was important for us to remain there and remind people about the war crimes being committed. After asking us to leave again, we were put under arrest. Arrested were Malachy Kilbride from Baltimore, Brad Wolf from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Alice Sutter from New York City, Phil Runkel from Milwaukee Wisconsin, and Anthony Walker and myself from Madison, Wisconsin. Our ages ranged from 28-77 years old.
We were handcuffed and taken to the station where we were processed, including mug shots and fingerprints. We were charged with trespassing, After six hours we were released. When we were finally released, our support people, Paul Magno and David Barrows, were waiting for us in the lobby. It was so good to see their loving faces and to know that they had been there with us all along.
As a grandmother, it is the suffering of the children that inspires and motivates me to take action. When we know what is happening, we have no choice but to act. It is too late to try to ignore the crimes of our government and large corporations. The videos now being released by Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal should be watched by everyone (merchantsofdeath.org). Children are dying and we are naturally grieving, but that is not enough. We must, all of us, take action today.
Joy First is a long time peace activist and doll maker. Her focus is on nonviolent civil resistance, risking arrest as she acts in resistance to the many crimes of the U.S. government. She lives in the Madison, WI area. You can reach Joy at email@example.com