The Nashua NH Telegraph

12 Arrested in Peace Protest at Sanders

Thursday, December 11, 1997

Telegraph Staff

Activists mark Human Rights Day with protest outside Sanders, citing its role in arms sales to foreign nations.

NASHUA - Peace activists protesting Lockheed Martin and its subsidiary Sanders for making weapons sold to nations that abuse human rights threw ashes on a company sign, tried to leaflet employees and chanted peace slogans before 12 were arrested Wednesday afternoon.

One protester was arrested for tossing ashes at a police officer assigned to cover the scheduled civil disobedience, police said. No one was injured.

The hour-long protest, which began after noon, involved about 75 people outside Sanders' Canal Street facility, where 1,600 people make electronics for defense and other purposes.

Earlier, the protesters staged a rally in front of the Civil War monument on Library Hill with speeches intended to raise awareness about human rights violations and U.S. weapons sales around the world.

New Hampshire Peace Action and other pacifist groups said they targeted the local employer and its parent company because Sanders makes components for weapons, such as Lockheed's F-16 fighter. Some of those jets and other Lockheed arms, protesters said, are sold to foreign nations that have used them to kill civilians and put down democratic factions.

Among other charges, the protesters said Lockheed F-16s sold to the Turkish government have been used to bomb Kurdish villages in southern Turkey and northern Iraq.

Participants included peace activists from around the Northeast, including college students and veteran protesters. Among them was 75-year-old Lois Booth of Canterbury, who stood outside Sanders and said: "Too many people are making things designed to kill. It's the largest item in our (federal) budget."

The event was well planned. Organizers had met last week with Sanders security officers and Nashua police, telling them that participants planned to break the law by trespassing in order to get their message across.

After making their points with words on Library Hill -- under a monument dedicated to Civil War soldiers -- the protesters set off for the short walk down Canal Street to the Sanders facility. There, they chanted peace slogans, waved signs and, according to protesters, "gave the company the bird" -- a peace dove fashioned out of sticks and bedsheets and carried by three people.

Stopping on the public sidewalk outside, organizer Sean Donahue of New Hampshire Peace Action read an "indictment" charging war crime violations against the company. When he gave a verbal signal, he and the other arrestees marched across Canal Street toward the employee entrance to the footbridge that links the parking lot with the plant.

They were met by security officers who warned them they were trespassing. Some went right to the large Sanders sign and tossed a bucket of ashes, then flowers and paper doves. Others marched toward the company entrance where they tried to interact with employees returning from lunch. Others sat down once they entered Sanders property. One by one, the protesters were led -- some forced police to carry them -- to a waiting police wagon, where they were handcuffed and photographed before being brought to jail en masse.

By evening, police Sgt. Len Kulikowski said only two of the 12 assented to being bailed. The other 10 opted to stay in jail pending arraignment Thursday, he said.

A Sanders spokesman defended the company.

"For the better part of 45 years Sanders has been producing defense electronics for all the branches of the U.S. armed forces," said spokesman Joe Wagovich. "Electronic countermeasures have saved the lives of American air crew members around the world."

He said about 90 percent of what is made at Sanders is sold to domestic customers.

In addition to defense work, the company produces electronics for telecommunications, space electronics and other equipment, he said.

Protesters see the company's work differently. They point to Lockheed sales to nations such as Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, where, they say, governments routinely commit human rights abuses.

They also protested the congressional lobbying efforts by U.S. companies like Lockheed Martin that have opened up Latin American markets for high-tech weapons sales.

"Due to Lockheed Martin's successful lobbying that ban has been lifted. The countries of Latin America are going to enter an arms race ... in our own back yard," said a rally speaker, Jennifer Washburn, an analyst with the World Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

"Injustices of this kind are happening everywhere," said Adam Block, a UNH student with the Student Environmental Action Coalition. "I'm trying to do my part to stop it whatever way I can."

One of those arrested, Guy Chichester, a well-known New Hampshire peace and anti-nuclear activist, said he was taking a stand against "violence in the society in the U.S. and the world. A lot of it is led by U.S. policy" that encourages military buildup, he said.

"Militarism sets the stage for gun battles in the streets by children in our country," he said.

Chichester, who ran as a Green Party candidate for governor several years ago, advocates "peace conversion" and diminishing U.S. spending on defense to 10 percent of current levels.

Among the speakers at the Library Hill rally was Alan Nairn, an American journalist who suffered a skull fracture when an Indonesian soldier in occupied East Timor hit him in the head with the butt of a U.S.-made rifle.

Nairn said he was covering the funeral of a civilian killed by Indonesian soldiers when some soldiers attacked mourners and killed more than 200 people. American-made transport planes and rifles were among the weapons used by the Indonesian military to kill civilians during the occupation of East Timor, he said.

"It's a moral outrage ... but it's also a pocketbook issue in the U.S.," Nairn told the crowd. "We need to be making these weapons because it creates jobs ... When the Nazis built the gas chambers, that created jobs."

He also took it a step further, saying that oppressive regimes such as that in Indonesia keep wages low, creating an inducement for U.S. shoe companies to move jobs from this country overseas for the cheap labor.

"If Americans knew the facts," he said, "they wouldn't stand for it."

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