Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Protester explains recent demonstration

On Monday, April 15, Tax Day!, I participated in a “disruption event” up in Burlington as part of a group of Vermonters who, in solidarity with Palestine, gathered at Burlington’s “Innovation Center” to protest Marvell Technology’s role in Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine and genocide in Gaza.

We were acting in concert with a national call to disrupt the economic flow between the United States and Israel. Since Oct. 7, the federal government has sent hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Israel. The taxes that we paid on the 15th are going to support genocide overseas instead of taking care of the desperate needs of Vermonters such as healthcare, housing and education. Many people in Vermont are surprised to learn that there are multiple companies that have direct contracts to supply the Israeli military with technology and weaponry. 

We chose Marvell Technology because they design and develop custom processors and communications chips for weapons systems for the Israeli and U.S. militaries with the support of our tax dollars. In 2021 they received $74.9 million in U.S. Department of Defense contracts. These integrated chips are used in small, first-person view drones, like the Matrice 600 and LANIUS, that fly with explosives, machine guns and AI technology. The Human Rights Monitor has confirmed dozens of civilian deaths from Israel’s “small killer drones,” built with integrated circuits, some made by Marvell Technology, and paid for by American taxpayers. They are also used in the “Where’s Daddy” Israeli operation that follows targeted individuals and then carries out bombing when they return to their family’s home. Marvell has its second-largest research and development center — as well as numerous distributors and at least one sales office — in Israel. 

We took this action to demand that Marvell Technology cuts its ties to Israel and stops supporting genocide. 

Our plan was simple, disruptive, and not destructive — one group of protesters volunteered to go into the offices at Marvell, drop flyers about the apartheid government they are supporting, spray some silly string and fling red glitter around using tubes and balloons, then leave. The other group of us were to drop a banner reading “Genocide: Made in Vermont,” raise signs and chant. Important to note about the “Innovation Center,” is that it houses many other offices including the V.A., the Vermont IRS, and a pediatrician’s office. Our action was limited to the Marvell offices, leaving the other businesses out of the direct fray. We weren’t banking on the extreme fear of glitter from people who design instrument of death, and sleep well at night.

Things were going smoothly outside, aside from the building manager who came outside, irate, demanding that we leave his property. Which we did — by walking two steps backward to the public sidewalk — then setting up the protest. He however, proceeded to call the Burlington Police Department. Inside however, things were taking an unexpected, and hyperbolic, turn. Within two minutes of the inside crew walking into the offices, a Marvell employee pulled the fire alarm, triggering a building wide evacuation. Thus, disrupting the entire building. 

When we got into the office, glitter was thrown, flyers were dropped, silly string was sprayed, and panic ensued. The protesters were met with aggressive physical responses. Video taken indoors shows one protester holding a banner reading “Marvell makes Gaza Hell,” was repeatedly pushed as they stood unmoving, chanting along with the rest of the protester, “Marvell do tell, who dies at the hands of your Intel?” Another protester had their personal speaker pulled straight from their hands, and most shockingly, the walking cane of an octogenarian de-escalator was pulled away from him. As the protesters were leaving the office, a Marvell employee picked up the phone, called the building security office and stated that they were being “invaded and bombed,” by people throwing “hazardous substances (you know eco glitter and silly string),” asking “should we pull the fire alarm?” (Yes, we all caught the irony of a company providing bombs for an occupying force terrified over visitors throwing glitter “bombs” around their safe office thousands of miles away from the physical conflict.) Moments later, the fire alarm pealed throughout the entire building. We exited the building along with the employees to sounds of the chanting coming from the loudspeaker that the outside crew had set up. 

The police immediately detained a number of the inside protesters, corralling them in the rain along the curb, being held on the premise of needing to check the security footage to ascertain which of us had pulled the alarm. One of the police officers confiscated a glitter bomb to see how it functioned, and here let me advise any reader not to put the opening of the tube pointed at your face. Unless you’d like a glitter facial.

I won’t judge, if that’s what you want. 

Once it was ascertained that it was in fact a Marvell employee who had pulled the alarm, tickets for trespassing were handed out, and questions from the detained protester over pursuing fines and charges against the person who did pull the alarm — illegal in the state of Vermont if no fire is present — were ignored by the police, the protesters were released. 

At the end of the day, at the end of any protest of this ilk, I feel comradery, and I feel sadness. At least 50,000 deaths (official numbers haven’t been released since late January because all the record keepers have been killed, and no outside observers have been allowed in by the Israeli government), the fact that groups of people have to stand outside with signs, walk into offices, and take to the streets all across the world to say, “Hey, genocide is wrong,” is disheartening. It’s disheartening not because we have needed to speak-up, but because we’ve been ignored at every turn by the people who have been voted into office ostensibly to amplify the voice of the people. 

The fact that as child, growing up in a Quaker community, we whispered “Palestine,” and now as an adult we are shouting it from all corners of the world is wondrous sea change. 

I will continue to do the very least that I can do to combat the use of my money, my resources, and the wellness of my soul. I will speak out, I will help organize, and will recognize that the struggle for liberation, from the Congo to Iran to Chile to etc. is bound together. As always “Woman, Life, Freedom. As in, Free Palestine.” 

Sepi Alavi

Weybridge

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