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Making Beautiful Trouble: Reject Raytheon AVL

On Display at Firestorm Bookstore, 1022 Haywood Road, Asheville. Reception on Sunday, November 12 4 PM with speakers and refreshments.

Here in Western North Carolina we live in a world where the beauty of nature stuns us every day, if we but look. As a nature photographer, it is my joy to create magical images of the mountains, trees, wildflowers, and weather in this ancient land we inhabit. As a photojournalist, my lens if focused on moral beauty, witnessing the acts of those who commit their time and resources to protecting the Earth and humanity; who have the courage to stand up to the powerful and the wealthy when necessary; who act out of love and deep wisdom.

Those working for peace do well to remember that whatever one does in the outer world is fruitless if one does not first create peace in oneself. Fighting against war can be an oxymoron, creating more of what one is protesting against, unless the work comes from a place of peace within. I first met Ken Jones after deciding to shoot, as an independent photojournalist, the Earth Day event in 2022. The vision and scope of his work and those who work with him impressed me greatly, and since then I have shown up for many of the actions of the organization he founded, “Reject Raytheon”. Ken is a man of peace, both inner and outward. May the work of Reject Raytheon flourish and the message of peace be spread wide.

Here's is Ken Jones' statement to accompany the exhibit: "The Reject Raytheon movement sprang from the November 17, 2020 meeting of the Buncombe County Commissioners where they unanimously decided to give $27 million in tax incentives to Pratt & Whitney (P&W). At the meeting, 22 of 23 people making comments were opposed to the incentives. It was obvious that a secret deal had been made before public comment was solicited.

Those in opposition at that meeting included representatives from Veterans for Peace, Sunrise, and the Democratic Socialists of America. We got together soon after that meeting, named ourselves Reject Raytheon AVL, and got busy speaking out in public about our elected officials giving money to a division of Raytheon Technologies, the second largest war corporation in the world. We soon learned the full scope of state, local, and private subsidies amounted to over $100 million.

Since then, we have been in the streets, in the papers, on TV, on social media, and at community events, calling out the many negative local effects coming from the sell-out, including the lost opportunities for investment in local businesses, likely exploitation of a non-unionized labor force, and damage to our local environment.

We also take seriously Raytheon’s role in promoting and profiting from US war-making around the world. The P&W plant will be making engine components for fighter jets used by the US and sent to many countries in the global arms trade. We see them used in Palestine, Yemen, and now promised to Ukraine as part of US war escalation there. Raytheon produces all kinds of weaponry for the war machine, including nuclear.

We also understand that Pratt & Whitney, as a giant in the aerospace industry, contributes greatly to the climate emergency we face on this planet. And we know that the military-industrial complex, its benefactor and beneficiary, is the largest institutional producer of carbon on the planet.

We refuse to be silent or complicit about this agent of death in our community. The P&W plant has now been built, but we will continue to shine the light of truth on what it does and what it is part of. We will also advocate for better alternatives to foster local employment and economic development than the current plan to recruit even more aerospace industry into our beautiful mountain region

Peace, justice, and harmony with the Earth are not just possible. They are the only way we will survive as a species. We are in it for our children and grandchildren and generations to come."

1. Earth Day Action, April, 2022. Eight of us lined up across the construction road to block trucks coming and going from the Pratt & Whitney site. Our banner read: “Make Wind Turbines, Not War Machines.” Cheered on by a crowd of supporters on the bridge above the road, the “Earth Day 8” shut the road down for two hours, after which police issued citations for misdemeanor trespass. Charges were subsequently dismissed.

2. Global Peace Wave Rally, June, 2022. We represented the East Coast of the United States in a 24-hour rolling demonstration for peace that circled the globe, one time zone at a time. Each of us took a turn speaking on a live Zoom feed to an international audience about Raytheon’s war profiteering presence in our community and our stance for the conversion of the US war industry to peaceful purposes.

3. Divest from Death Demonstration, November, 2022. In solidarity with a national call to action from The Dissenters, we showed up at Wells Fargo, which is a primary funder of war corporations as well as fossil fuel corporations. Capitalism is the driving force behind the military-industrial complex and the climate emergency.

4. Ribbon-cutting Ceremony at the Pratt & Whitney Plant, November, 2022. We greeted the local, corporate, and state dignitaries as they arrived for their media event, full of self-congratulations for bringing this war profiteer to Buncombe County. They bragged about jobs, but we know very well that more jobs would be created if the $100 million in subsidies handed over to P&W were given to local health, education, clean energy, or infrastructure efforts. No need to have blood on your hands in order to generate good jobs.

5. Asheville Holiday Parade, November, 2022. We joined together with 14 other local organizations dedicated to peace, justice, and harmony with the Earth, as the “Only One Earth Coalition”, to express our belief that a better world is possible. Reject Raytheon AVL carried banners that read: “Stop (W)Arming the Earth” and “For a Peaceful, Just and Green Transition.”

6. Biltmore Farms Offices Demonstration, December, 2022. We demonstrated in the heart of Biltmore Park, calling out oligarch Jack Cecil and his corporation for donating 100 acres of forest to Pratt & Whitney for its 1.2 million square foot jet engine component plant. Here, a couple of Biltmore Farms employees threatened to call the police if we didn’t leave the privately owned Park. We stayed.

7. Merchants of Death War Tribunal Car Caravan, February, 2023. As part of national action, we drove around town with car signage calling out Raytheon, the second largest war corporation in the world. We delivered “subpoenas” to the Chamber of Commerce, Biltmore Farms, and Pratt & Whitney for their roles in supporting and profiting from war crimes committed around the world by the U.S., especially in Yemen, Palestine, and Syria.

8. Chamber of Commerce Bannering, February, 2023. We want the Asheville community to know that the recruitment of multinational corporations in the military-aerospace industry by the Chamber as part of its economic development strategy is irresponsible, short-sighted, and exploitative. These types of jobs are not good jobs: they come at the expense of the victims of our wars, the workers in a non-unionized plant, and our precious environment.

9. Pratt & Whitney Plant Demonstration, February, 2023. Where once there was a lush forest, now is an industrial behemoth set up to profit from U.S. wars. One of our banners is an actual photo of the wasteland created at this site after removing the trees and before the plant was built. Another banner shows a photo of an F-16 fighter jet dropping bombs on Gaza. Pratt & Whitney engines power F-16s and F-35s. Despite low-ball estimates by company executives, it is probable that over 50% of the local plant’s production will be for military aircraft (as is the case in its Connecticut plant now).

10. Mardi Gras Parade, February, 2023. We joined the Only One Earth Coalition behind the Brass Your Heart Band to party whilst we proclaimed, “Climate Emergency, Awaken to the Magic of Only One Earth.” The U.S. military, along with its war industry, is the largest institutional producer of carbon in the world. We can’t abate the climate emergency unless we stop the wars. Stopping the wars means ending the war profiteering done by Raytheon and its ilk.

11. Bridge Bannering to Stop Cop City, March, 2023. The violent policing and judicial abuse we see in Atlanta are the domestic face of our uber-militarized society. The same corporate interests that drive imperialism abroad also drive suppression of dissent at home. We reject not just Raytheon, but also the classist, white-supremacist, chauvinistic, patriarchal system it represents, in all of its manifestations.

12. Pratt & Whitney Bridge Vigil, April, 2023. The road to P&W is ironically named Frederick Law Olmsted Way, after the father of landscape architecture who believed designs should promote a healthy society . We are part of a national movement called War Industry Resisters Network, that consists of 40+ local organizations that take action against one or another war corporation. All of us join with the Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal in indicting these corporations for their war profiteering. May justice prevail.

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