Vermonters Blockade Military Contractor in Vergennes Over Role in Gaza

As anyone who lives within earshot of Burlington Airport can attest, the instruments of wars thousands of miles away can be found even here in Vermont.

Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of military aviation giant RTX (which also owns Raytheon and Pratt & Whitney), operates a factory in Vergennes, employing hundreds of people. Collins has proven a reliable profit center over the past several years, crucial for maintaining shareholder confidence in the company, formed in a 2018 merger that created the second-largest military company in the world. On the back of robust Collins earnings last year, RTX announced in October a $10 billion share buyback for investors.

Meanwhile, those on the receiving end of RTX armaments have less cause for celebration. The Israeli military’s blockade, bombardment, and invasion of Gaza after the October 7 Hamas attack — ongoing for more than 100 days now — has cost more than 23,000 Palestinian lives. South Africa has alleged before the International Court of Justice that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

The billions of dollars of weapons and military equipment bought by the Israeli government — and by the U.S. government on Israel’s behalf — include a myriad of RTX equipment and munitions. Collins itself produces key systems for the F-35 fighter jet, of which the Israeli military is a major purchaser. The American Friends Service Committee, which runs an ongoing report on RTX activity, recommends that investors and managed funds divest from the company.

The road between destruction in Gaza and RTX performance on Wall Street runs through Panton Road, Vergennes, where more than fifty protesters blocked the entrances to the Collins Aerospace factory on Monday.

Scheduled to coincide with a shift change at the plant, traffic snarled as picketers denied access to the Collins parking lot. Signs reading “Stop the War Machine” and “Genocide: Made in VT” were stretched across entrances.

In a press release, one of the protest organizers, April, said, “Weapons manufacturers like Raytheon depend on us to make profit, so they use fear to keep us divided. As an American Jew, I reject solutions that pit Jews and Palestinians or Arabs against each other. We build safe communities through solidarity.”

At 3:40 pm, shortly before Vergennes Police arrived, a man driving a black pickup truck struck at least two people with his vehicle as he was leaving the rear Collins parking lot, despite the fact that protesters were allowing vehicles to depart. Vergennes Police talked with protesters but took no immediate actions and made no arrests. The picket ended around 7:00 pm, after the plant closed for the day. It appeared that only one car managed to enter the parking lot of the many that attempted during that time.

Located between major aerospace and military contractor hubs in Connecticut and Quebec, Vermont has long been seen as a key node in regional supply chains and a region for additional growth in the sector.

This is also far from the first time military contractors have been targeted by locals who oppose Vermont’s role in wars abroad. In a now-infamous action, peace activists blockaded a General Electric plant in Burlington in 1983 to halt its production of machine guns that were being shipped to right-wing death squads in Central America. Then-mayor Bernie Sanders had them arrested.

A picketer holds a sign linking the military-industrial complexes between Vermont, Atlanta, and Palestine.

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