Monday, June 24, 2024

Vandalism at Elbit systems in Cambridge’s Central Square on Oct. 12. (Photo: Calla Walsh via X)

Nine people were arrested Monday as protests and vandalism at the Cambridge offices of Elbit, an Israeli company, escalated into a clash with police, according to a press release from the Cambridge Police Department.

Elbit Systems makes weapons, but the Cambridge branch at 130 Bishop Allen Drive is separate and focused on medicine, city councillors said in August. Though people protested at the site then over killings and human-rights violations in the Philippines, actions against the company were revived in mid-October during increased violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East.

Police said they were monitoring at around 10 a.m. an initially peaceful protest of about 200 people at the Central Square offices, calling it “the site of numerous protests and acts of vandalism and property destruction in recent weeks.”

“Officers even shut down a busy roadway nearby to ensure the safety of the protesters and the public in the area,” department spokesperson Robert Goulston said. “Cambridge police officers remain committed to providing ample space and opportunities for protesters to engage in freedom of speech.”

Around 11:15 a.m., though, some of the crowd broke through metal barricades and began vandalizing the business, Goulston said, some throwing “smoke pellets,” eggs and other projectiles at the officers and building.

Officers tried to arrest “numerous people” for defacing the building and the group “became hostile and assaulted the officers,” Goulston said. One officer was knocked to the ground and another was hit in the chest with a “smoke pellet,” leading one officer to deploy pepper spray as some of the crowd became more combative, he said.

Videos from the fray by Palestine Action US and activist Calla Walsh posted on the social media site formerly known as Twitter show a chaotic scene.

The arrests were made “protesting Israel’s biggest weapons company,” said Walsh, 19, on the site. “The Cambridge Police claim we ‘assaulted’ them but they violently surged on the crowd, tackled, wrestled and pepper sprayed us. These pigs only protect private property and Zionism.”

The arrested face charges including disorderly conduct “because their actions created an extremely hazardous situation for everybody present, including themselves, passersby and the officers,” police said. Those charged and scheduled to be arraigned in Cambridge District Court on Tuesday include two people from Cambridge – Walsh and Michael Eden, 27 – and two from Somerville: Vera Van De Seyp, 30, and Willow Ross Carretero Chavez, 21. Those arrested also included people from Boston, Revere, Housatonic and Bristol, Rhode Island.