Video of MLK Day protest outside Combined Systems, Inc., in Pennsylvania

Yesterday, I posted a press release by Adalah-NY, the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, which announced a protest outside the headquarters of Combined Systems, Inc. (CSI), on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Activists from the Youngstown-based Arab-American Community Center and the Coalition for Peace in the Middle East, and representatives of Students for Justice in Palestine from the University of Pittsburgh were amongst those who demonstrated outside CSI.

CSI is one of several US weapons manufacturers whose products have been used to suppress popular protest movements in numerous countries, including in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and on the streets of Oakland during the Occupy Wall Street protests. Specifically, CSI’s “extended-range” tear gas canisters have been used at close range in the occupied West Bank to kill and injure Palestinian and international protesters. 

A few local news reports picked up the story of the protest yesterday, including the Meadville Tribune which reported:

“Silence is betrayal,” “End chemical warfare,” “Democracy for all” and “Honor Dr. King and the right to protest oppression” were just some of the signs carried by protesters.

Why about two dozen people chose to march two miles on a cold Monday morning from downtown Jamestown into rural Mercer County was straight-forward, according to Werner Lange of the Coalition for Peace in the Middle East.

 “We’re here to try to put an end to one of the major weapons manufacturers whose products have killed countless people,” said Lange, who also is a professor of sociology at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. “It’s time to put a spotlight on it.”

The protesters picketed peacefully Monday in front of Combined Systems Inc. of Jamestown, a maker of tear gas, smoke munitions, other non-lethal and lethal munitions and crowd-control devices. The company’s production complex is located two miles west of the borough on Route 58.

The Tribune added that while CSI’s director of security said the company would not offer a statement about the protest, he “accepted a small box” from the protesters, which had a birthday cake inside.

The cake was for Jacob Kravel, the company’s president and founder, whose birthday was Monday, Lange said. The box contained the names of those killed by CSI products, Lange said.

CSI’s security director added that the company’s CEO and other officials “were unavailable as they were to attend the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show)” in Las Vegas this week. 

Leah Humes of Edinboro told the Tribune that “she chose to participate because of brutality not only abroad, but here with police clashes with anti-Wall Street protesters around the country … This takes it to the source of people who make the weapons that have hurt or killed people protesting oppression.”

A video report of the protest was produced by local news channel WYTV-33, and can be viewed by clicking here


Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).