Activists indicted over New Hampshire Elbit protest – Mondoweiss

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Three activists have been indicted for participating in a protest at Elbit Systems of America in Merrimack, New Hampshire last November. Elbit is Israel’s largest private arms supplier.

Sophie Ross, Bridget Shergalis, and Calla Walsh are facing charges of riot, conspiracy to commit criminal mischief, burglary, and conspiracy to commit falsifying physical evidence for climbing onto the company’s roof and defacing the building with paint. Each charge is a Class B felony and could carry a three-and-a-half to seven-year prison sentence.

A fourth woman, Paige Belanger, was arrested in January over her involvement in the protest.

Charges against the protesters were originally brought by prosecutors at the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office, but State Attorney General John Formella took control of the case in January.

“We took these cases because of the important civil rights and public protection interests involved,” Formella told the NH Journal at the time. “We will do everything we can to ensure that these cases are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and that justice is served.”

Just two weeks after the protest Formella had announced that the state’s civil rights was bulking up in an effort to assure New Hampshire was “welcoming to everyone.” During that announcement, Formella openly claimed that the targeting of Elbit was antisemitic.

“A hate crime is a criminal act that’s motivated by animus towards a protected class — someone of a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin,” he told reporters. “A Civil Rights Act violation is either a threat of harm to someone or a threat of property damage or trespass based on animus towards a protected class. And a bias incident is maybe someone using a slur or something like that.”

Elbit has been a consistent target of protests from the group Palestine Action. The United States branch of the group, Palestine Action US, has carried out multiple actions against the weapons manufacturer since Israel’s assault on Gaza began in October.

“Palestine Action US urges the people of the world to internalize these numbers with the gravity they merit, to recognize the profound terror and grief Palestinians have been experiencing for generations, and to direct action where we live to put a stop to this 75-year-long naked genocide still unfolding before our eyes,” reads a statement put out by the group at the start of their campaign. “As long as we allow Elbit to operate in our communities, every one of us has blood on our hands.”

Elbit employs hundreds of people in New Hampshire and maintains close ties to local politicians.

“What happened at Elbit in Merrimack yesterday was an act of vandalism – not free speech,” tweeted Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) shortly after the protest. “At a time of rising antisemitism in America, this must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I’m grateful to law enforcement for keeping Elbit employees safe.”

Shaheen has been targeted by the antiwar group CODEPINK for taking political donations from Elbit.

A week after the action, state GOP lawmakers showed up outside the facility to welcome employees.

“It’s really troubling to see the progressive left seize on this movement of criminal anarchy, one that is also antisemitic,” former New Hampshire Senator and current gubernatorial candidate Kelly Ayotte told reporters. “People of goodwill need to let our Jewish neighbors know — let Israel know — that we stand with them.”

Many Palestine solidarity organizations have called for the activists to be freed.

“The Merrimack Three’s direct action called attention to the web of interconnected, profit-motivated systems responsible for maintaining US hegemony across the globe,” reads a January petition signed by dozens of group. “Demonstrating against this Elbit facility helped to reveal the corporations in our neighborhoods that are directly involved in the ongoing genocide in Gaza.”

The defendants are scheduled to appear in court on February 29.

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