PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — More than 100 people spent their Thursday afternoon protesting in downtown Providence to show their support for Palestinians.
The demonstration was part of a global call for a cease-fire in the war in Israel.
The protesters marched, chanted, and waved signs outside the Textron building on Westminster Street to condemn the corporation for its contract with the U.S. military. The signs had messages like “Free Palestine” and “End All U.S. Aid to Gaza,” while the crowd could be heard chanting, “Textron, Textron you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide.”
“I can’t in good conscience sit and watch thousands of innocent civilians be bombed and even more be injured, and just allow it to happen and allow my tax dollars to continue to fund it,” protester Allison Roberge said.
Andira Alves, of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, helped organize and lead the protest. She said these demonstrations have made her hopeful that public opinion is shifting in support of Palestine.
“We’re already seeing a shift, even in the last 72 hours, in this last month,” Alves said. “It was very different fighting for Palestine in 2014, 2019 even, and the public consensus is ‘free Palestine.'”
But not everyone was pro-Palestine. Jeffrey Gladstone said he was there to try to educate the protesters.
“I’m out here because I am a committed Jew,” he said. “Not only Israel is being attacked, but Jews are being attacked. This isn’t just anti-Zionist. This is antisemitism.”
Textron works with the United States Department of Defense, which published a statement last week saying the U.S. government is currently “focused on getting Israel the military capabilities it needs.”
On Thursday, the company released a statement saying it “respects the right of people to engage in peaceful and lawful protest,” but also takes pride in its work.
“We take pride in supporting the U.S. military and our U.S. allies with our technologies and products, following all laws and regulations related to foreign military sales,” the statement continued. “As a multi-industry company with locations in 25 countries, we are also proud of the role we play in our communities, particularly our headquarters community of Providence.”
The building was wrapped in plastic. A spokesperson for Textron told 12 News it wasn’t related to the protest, but rather part of their remediation efforts after the exterior was vandalized twice last week.
Two Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) students were arrested after the words “kills kids” were found painted in bright red letters below the company’s logo. About a day prior, the phrase “Free Gaza” was also spray-painted, along with red spots of paint.
On Thursday, the White House said Israel agreed to pause military operations in the Gaza Strip for at least four hours at different times to allow civilians to evacuate.
The Israel Defense Forces posted on social media that the pauses did not amount to a cease-fire.
On Wednesday, 20 protesters were taken into custody during a demonstration at Brown University. Dozens of people were singing and praying outside the main administration building as a group of students staged a sit-in protest inside.
The university said it’s listening to students and working to address their concerns.