Home Joy First: Ordinary citizens lay down to take on Northern Virginia war profiteers
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Joy First: Ordinary citizens lay down to take on Northern Virginia war profiteers

Joy First
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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 just a tiny fraction of the names and ages of children who have been killed in Gaza by weapons stamped “Made in USA.” 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 in the run up to the opening session of Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal, which was livestreamed on Nov. 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 stakeholders. 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. More than 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 all refused to respond. Thus about 20 citizen activists felt compelled to return to the sidewalk outside of Raytheon on November 8, 2023 at about noon. 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.

We grieve for each soul lost to violence and, as US citizens, we bear responsibility for those killed by weapons given or sold by our government to others who then slaughter children.

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. We are from several states and 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.

As a grandmother, it is the suffering of the children that inspires and motivates me to take action. When we know what is happening and we accept responsibility as Americans, we have no choice but to act. Some lobby, some write, some offer nonviolent direct action. All of us can participate and, when we do, we make a difference.

Joy First, [email protected], is a grandmother and long-time peace activist.

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