Saturday, July 20, 2024

A peaceful protest is held Saturday at the Central Square, Cambridge, office of the company Elbit. (Photo: Sue Reinert)

Activists seeking to shut down the Cambridge office of Elbit Systems of America because of its weapons business held a “Block Elbit Block Party” on Saturday on the lawn in front of Cambridge City Hall. About 200 to 300 people sat on the grass, made signs, organized a letter-writing campaign and wrote sidewalk chalk messages such as “Bombing Children is Not Self Defense,” among other activities.

Speakers at City Hall condemned Elbit’s work as an Israeli company for the Israeli military and with contracts to supply the Philippines military with weapons. About 40 protestors walked three blocks from City Hall to Elbit’s office at Prospect Street and Bishop Allen Drive carrying a Palestinian flag and signs. There they listened to a speaker call for Elbit’s departure and chanted slogans such as “Elbit is not welcome here.” Another speaker suggested actions against Google, which has an office in Kendall Square, and has come under fire for its Nimbus cloud-computing project with Israel.

Unlike a previous demonstration against Elbit on Oct. 30 when the building was vandalized and police arrested nine people, saying they had attacked officers, the Saturday protest was peaceful. Demonstrators returned to City Hall after about 15 minutes.

Elbit Systems of America, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is a subsidiary of Israel-based Elbit Systems, which is a major supplier of the Israeli military. The U.S. company opened a Cambridge office at 130 Bishop Allen Drive in December 2021 with KMC, a medical technology company it had acquired.

Cambridge officials welcomed the opening. Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui attended the ceremony and was quoted in a company press release as saying: “I am delighted Elbit Systems of America and KMC have invested in the City of Cambridge as our community continues to lead in emerging technologies for the medical and life science spaces.” Elbit said the Cambridge space would house an engineering innovation center and that it would hire 100 engineers.

KMC vice-president Derek Kane suggested in a Jan. 28, 2022, recorded interview with the engineering industry publication EE News that there are “synergies” between KMC’s medical technology work and its parent company’s work. Kane said that “for Elbit, there’s a lot of adjacency technologies with what KMC does, and what our parent company does in terms of thermal cycling, and electro optics and imaging, etc,” according to a transcript on the EE News website