A General Dynamics Mission Systems recruiting event at the science and engineering complex was cut short Monday night when students and community protesters broke up the event with chants and civil disobedience.
General Dynamics, an aerospace and defense company, is the sixth largest defense contractor in the world with billions of dollars in annual revenue. It manufactures tanks, ships, tankers, business jets, intelligence and surveillance technology, missiles, rockets, nuclear missile components and more. Its main client is the US Department of Defense, although it also does business with foreign governments and private companies. General Dynamics Mission Systems is the security and technology arm of General Dynamics.
Monday’s recruiting event was scheduled to last from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., but was cut short around 6:30 p.m., after protesters interrupted recruiter presentations in the SEC atrium. The event was smentored by a handful of General Dynamics representatives and attended by about four students, according to one of the participants. The protesters numbered at least 20 and included undergraduate and graduate students and members of the local community.
In response to protesters’ speeches and chants, General Dynamics recruiters initially moved their briefing from the SEC atrium to a smaller venue in Anderson Hall. After the protesters also broke up this meeting, the recruiters packed up their materials and left.
In the atrium of the SEC, protesters drew attention to a 2018 air strike in Yemen, where guided missiles manufactured by General Dynamics struck a school bus and killed 40 children.
“Imagine that you are 10, 12 years old, coming back from a school trip, and all of a sudden a bomb falls on your head and kills your whole class.” a protester shouted into a megaphonedrowning out a presentation from a General Dynamics recruiter about vacancies in the company.
Tom Crosson, director of public affairs at General Dynamics Mission Systemsdid failing to offer a direct answer to Daily questions about the 2018 Yeme drone strikenm Instead, he shared a link to the “Corporate Responsibility” of the company’s 2021 sustainability report.” The report affirms the the company’s respect for human rights, a value which, according to it, “is embedded in all levels of [its] Business.”
Maya Morris, a Tufts manager and one of the protest organizers, held a sign that read, “US-made bombs are killing Yemeni children.”
“General Dynamics exists to profit from wars. It is the basis of their existence. Morris told The Daily. “If there’s no war, they can’t make money; they cannot profit. It doesn’t matter what industry you work for under General Dynamics. The basis of their existence is to earn money by selling weapons.
As General Dynamics recruiters prepared to move their event to Anderson Hall, Lt. Moses Curry of the Tufts University Police Department informed protesters that they were violating the student code of conduct by disrupting the space of study in the atrium of the SEC. The demonstrators agreed to move their demonstration outside the front porch of the SEC, where they continued to chant and deliver speeches for another hour.
Jeff Parente heard about the protest through Massachusetts Peace Action, an anti-war nonprofit organization. He served in the US Army for eight years and is a member of Veterans for Peace.
“As a military contractor – as a member of the military-industrial complex – [General Dynamics enables] our government and military to continue all of these actions around the world, all of the drone bombings,” says Parent. “If it weren’t for these companies coming out with all these innovative new weapons – the drones and the smart bombs and all that stuff – the military wouldn’t be able to do it all. If it weren’t for things like drones, we would need more real military in countries, and that might make people question things.
In an email to The Daily, Crosson defended General Dynamics’ corporate mission and values.
“Our philosophy is rooted in five values: honesty, trust, humanity, alignment, and value creation,” Crosson wrote. “Our employees form a community of people dedicated to this philosophy. It is our philosophy that drives us to be good stewards of the investments in us of our shareholders, customers, employees and communities.
While most of the protesters demonstrated outside, three students followed the recruiters into Anderson Hall, where they continued to question the company’s business model and values. The three students were called out of the room by Curry, who asked them to identify themselves. Curry told the students they had disrupted a legal meeting by impersonating the recruiters in order to gain access to the relocated briefing. A student replied that he had correctly declared his identity to the recruiter as an engineering student in order to enter the room.
When the students refused to give their IDs or share their names, Curry told them, “We have cameras everywhere. … We will be able to identify everyone.
“We’re not trying to threaten you in any way,” Curry added.
Dr. Karen Panetta, Dean of Graduate Studies in the School of Engineering, hosted the recruitment event. In a written statement to The Daily, she explained that she was open to hearing what the protesters had to say but disapproved of their methods.
“We celebrate students with diverse perspectives, and I personally greeted student protesters for respectful speech. Invited visitors were also happy that the protesting students were present at the event to discuss their views,” Panetta wrote. “Dishonesty, intimidation, bullying and vulgarity do not command unanimity or respect and are not characteristic of a peaceful protest. These behaviors only serve to divide and alienate people and have no place at Tufts.