A group of pro-Palestine protestors gathered outside Bath Iron Works (BIW) Friday in Bath, Maine, demanding that the shipyard “stop arming Israel’s genocide in Gaza.”
BIW is a subsidiary of General Dynamics, one of the largest defense companies in the world and private sector employers in Maine, and was recently awarded a $58 million contract by the U.S. Navy for services for new destroyers through 2024.
A BIW spokesperson declined to comment on the protest.
Friday’s protest comes just over two months since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,200 Israelis.
Since the Oct. 7 attack, Israel has engaged in an ongoing bombardment and ground invasion of the Gaza Strip in an effort to completely eliminate Hamas.
Participating organizations in the protest included Maine Voices for Palestinian Rights, Students for Justice in Palestine groups from various colleges in the state, the Communist Maine Party for Socialism & Liberation, Portland CONFRONT, and the Maine Natural Guard.
According to the event’s Facebook page, the demands and “Principles of Unity” of the protestors included the following:
- We demand that Maine’s elected officials call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza;
- We call for an end to apartheid in Israel and an end to US military aid of Israel;
- We believe that the voices of Palestinian people must be centered in the struggle for Palestinian liberation;
- We support the liberation and freedom of all oppressed peoples;
- We recognize the inherent connections between the oppression of Palestinian people and settler colonialism in the United States.
“BIW makes deadly warships that act as delivery systems for nuclear weapons that serve US military-imperialist interests, and they’re made right here in New England,” the protest’s event page reads. “We must not allow the genocidal machine to continue.”
One flyer distributed at the protest was targeted towards local IAM machinist union members, the largest union at BIW:
A counter-protestor and Vietnam veteran at BIW Friday held a sign reading “Long live Israel,” and “Push Hamas into the Sea!!! Build more Navy ships to protect Israel.”
“Well it’s strange that all these people down here for this protest against Israel didn’t say as word, were quiet as a mouse, when Hamas — Palestinian Hamas — went into Israel and slaughtered 1200 people,” the pro-Israel counter-protestor told the Maine Wire.
At one point during the protest, participants laid down and blocked the middle of the road, with some protestors covering themselves in white sheets splattered with fake blood.
A police officer overlooking the protestors blocking the road declined to comment.
Republican State Rep. Austin Theriault, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maine’s 2nd District, issued a statement Friday morning condemning the protest.
“Socialist Pro-Hamas groups are picketing Bath Iron Works for its role in making the world a safer place for America, our allies, and the Jewish people,” Rep. Theriault said. “I can’t believe that this is happening in Maine, but it is happening and we need to fight back against it.”
“There is no place in Maine for people who support an anti-Semitic terrorist organization that rapes and murders innocent people. Hamas is a terrorist group, and Bath Iron Works keeps America safe. It’s that simple,” he said.
Theriault also came to Friday’s protest, in his words to “stand up for the employees and the people that work [at BIW].”
“I feel very strongly that Bath Iron Works makes our country stronger, the people that work here are patriots, and they care about their community, they care about their kids, and they care about their future,” he said in a video posted to X Friday.
Green Party 2024 presidential candidate Jill Stein was also in attendance and gave a speech at Friday’s protest.
When asked by the Maine Wire why she came to BIW to attend the protest, Stein said “Maine is just leading the charge in so many ways.”
“Maine is our communities, Maine is America, Maine is a lot of people talking to each other, talking to their neighbors trying to figure our way through this,” she said. “This is a very big crisis, really, in American foreign policy and in just our moral role in the world.”
When asked what she would do if elected president to address the Israel-Hamas war, Stein said that she would “support international law.”
“This is a very difficult, complicated problem, and the body of international law has developed coming out of the Second World War in order to deal with exactly this kind of situation, and to be sure that ‘never again’ is ‘never again’ for everyone,” she said.
“There’s international law that supports human rights, that ensures countries cannot be occupied, and you cannot have an apartheid state where certain people can have citizenship and other people can’t,” she added.
Stein said that her approach could lead to a diplomatic solution and an assurance of security for both Israelis and Palestinians.