For the protesters, it is not that the highly-skilled labor force at BIW should not have the high-quality jobs that building weapons for the U.S. military provides, but that the U.S. government spending what it does on war and destruction is misguided and wrong when the planet desperately needs a rapid transition to renewable energy and immediate respite from endless armed conflict.
Not only is the Pentagon’s war machine the largest single emitter of carbon pollution on Earth, the protesters note, but the U.S. wars that have been waged over recent decades have everything to do with a world too dependent on the dirty energy sources buried beneath the ground.
As part of an ongoing “Conversion” campaign in Maine—coordinated by a number of like-minded groups from around the state—the coalition held a press conference on Friday ahead of Saturday’s direct action to explain the basis of their vision and why they insist places like BIW need not be a source of the problem, but an essential part of the solution instead.
Dud Hendrick, a U.S. Navy veteran and one of those arrested, explained in a recent Common Dreams op-ed that those behind the behind the effort “are calling on Bath Iron Works to shift its industrial power from the production of warships to sustainable energy systems that might stem climate disruption rather than contribute to it.”
Having worked closely with the union workers at BIW for a long time, even as an outspoken critic of war and U.S. empire, local Bath resident Bruce Gagnon—also among those arrested Saturday—said at the press conference that many of the workers themselves “are quite open” to the demands to convert the shipyard to peaceful purposes. “We’d rather build something else,” Gagnon said, paraphrasing what many BIW workers have told him over recent years. “We’d rather build something we’re proud of. We don’t feel so great.”
Also speaking at the press conference was Dr. Jill Stein, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket in 2016. Stein characterized workers in the weapons industry as “victims of an economy that forces us into militarization.”
Putting the call for conversion into the context of the Green New Deal, Stein said the demand for a rapid transition should be seen as revolutionary. “It’s a revoution,” she said, “for our economy, for our climate, and it makes the wars for oil obsolete.”
Watch the full press conference:
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