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The Asheville Holiday Parade in North Carolina returned to downtown on Nov. 20 after being cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual occasion that brings out families and members of the local business community among the attendees this year saw participation from Reject Raytheon activists.
The Reject Raytheon AVL coalition, a collection of activists from several local organizations, were in attendance to bring focus to community concerns over the construction of a new manufacturing plant that will produce parts for military and civilian jet engines. Activists carried picket signs and banners with messages ranging from concern for the environment to the need for radical change.
“We don’t wanna take away from a good time, but we do want to take the opportunity to help people understand that there is a climate emergency in this world that we live in,” said Ken Jones, a local organizer interviewed by Liberation.
The group of activists were able to interject themselves into the tail end of the parade before police diverted them onto the sidewalk, then rejoined the parade in the streets at its mid-point, chanting, “System change, not climate change,” “Climate change—shut it down,” “War machine—shut it down,” “Pratt and Whitney—shut it down,” “Raytheon—shut it down!” The activists drew applause and cheers as they continued following the parade route.
The activists from several organizations, including the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Democratic Socialists of America, Jewish Voice for Peace and Code Pink, as well as other local organizers and concerned citizens, came together to form Reject Raytheon AVL in the wake of an October 2020 Buncombe County Commission meeting where a previously secret deal to bring aerospace manufacturer Pratt and Whitney—a division of military industrial giant Raytheon—to southern Buncombe County was announced to the public.
The 1.2 million square foot plant, scheduled to begin operations in 2022, will produce turbine airfoils for both commercial airliners and the F-35 stealth fighter, and is being built with more than $100 million of state, local, and private subsidies.
At the holiday parade, Reject Raytheon activists focused their message on the climate emergency and its links to the military industrial complex. “Ashevillians need to understand that the most vulnerable communities, the communities we claim to stand for by passing the illusion of reparations, those communities are going to be hit the hardest by climate change,” said Jenny Genevida, an activist with Democratic Socialists of America, referring to the City of Ashville’s reparations initiative.
Claire Clark, organizer with the PSL, said to Liberation, “The U.S. war machine is by far the world’s largest institutional polluter, responsible for more annual carbon emissions than 140 entire countries. War corporations like Raytheon rake in billions in profits every year from the destruction of our planet.”
She went on to say, “Some might criticize the decision to bring our message to a family-oriented event like this parade, but the holidays have traditionally been a time when Americans reflect on our deepest values and imagine a better world. Today, we marched for peace and a future for our children; what could be more in the spirit of the season than that?”