Activist groups and Corrie family call for International Day of Action against Caterpillar on April 13

On the second anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death, her mother, Cindy, at a memorial to honor Rachel and other Peacemakers. To her right are Rochelle Gause and Serena Becker, both founding members of ORSCP and leaders of the Western Washington Caterpillar action. (Photo: candio)


Olympia, WA. — Olympia friends and supporters of Rachel Corrie and her family have called on concerned people worldwide to join them in demonstrating on the International Day of Action Against Caterpillar, April 13. They hope that a vigorous turnout will not only send a strong message to Caterpillar but will also send a positive message of solidarity with the Corrie family as they go forth with what is sure to be a long and difficult landmark legal struggle against the equipment manufacturer.

Sustained and vocal public pressure has been a key factor in many of the smaller victories that the Corries have already won on behalf of Rachel; and it is felt that what happens on the 13th will be a factor in shaping the debate over corporate responsibility in the future.

A CAT D9T, the model that was used to crush Rachel Corrie in Rafah.

On March 15, nearly two years after the killing of Rachel Corrie under an American made, Israeli driven CAT D9 military bulldozer in the Occupied Palestine Territories [OPT], Rachel’s parents, Craig and Cindy Corrie, have pressed forward in their quest for accountability from Caterpillar.

With legal assistance from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington State alleging that “Caterpillar Inc. violated international and state law by providing specially designed bulldozers to Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) that it knew would be used to demolish homes and endanger civilians.” [1] The Corrie family has also initiated historic lawsuits against the State of Israel, the Israeli Defence Forces and the Israeli Defense Ministry for their role in Rachel’s death.

CCR Attorney Jennie Green commented, on the case, “The Caterpillar lawsuit charges Caterpillar with its role in the war crimes, the extra-judicial execution of Rachel, her wrongful death and the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment she suffered before her death. We have charged Caterpillar, because as other U.S. courts have held, corporations, when they take part in human rights violations and war crimes, they can also be held liable.” [2]

The position of the Corries is that they “hold Caterpillar complicit in the death of Rachel.” They have written letters to James Owens, CEO of Caterpillar, requesting a meeting to talk to him about Rachel. Cindy reports on the response by Mr. Owens who said “he understood our position but had no reason to meet with us.” [3]

Picture taken between 3:00-4:00PM, 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Rachel Corrie (L) and Nick (R) oppose the potential destruction of this home (to the west of the Doctor’s home where Rachel was killed). In the instance pictured, the CAT D9 bulldozer did not stop and Rachel was pinned between the scooped earth and the fence behind her. On this occasion, the driver stopped before seriously injuring her. (Photo: Joseph Smith/ISM Handout)


In April of 2004, on another International Day of Action, the Corries presented at CAT headquarters in Peoria, IL only to be turned away by 17 riot police, according to Craig Corrie’s count. [2]

International Day of Action

On April 13, the international protest is centered on a Caterpillar shareholder meeting in Chicago where a resolution has been brought forth by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) addressing the sale of bulldozers to the Israeli military. The massive armored machines are used by the IDF for home demolitions, ripping up roads, power, water and sewage lines and for other acts of collective punishment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) — all considered war crimes under the Geneva Convention.

The call to action is being issued by JVP and SUSTAIN (Stop U.S. Tax-Funded Aid to Israel Now) [4] and is officially supported by over 30 other well known groups including Amnesty International, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Christian Peacemaker Teams, the Presbyterian Church USA, Not in My Name, and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the group Rachel Corrie was affiliated with while in Rafah.

Organizations worldwide are expected to sponsor their nonviolent protests at regional CAT locations to highlight the company’s human rights violations. At least 40 demonstrations are planned in the US alone. STOPCAT says they want to “send the board of directors and the CAT dealerships a strong message that cooperation in human rights abuses will not be tolerated.” [5]

Western Washington targets the Harnish Group

The Western Washington action is being led by the Olympia Rafah Sister City Project (ORSCP). People are being asked to gather at the state’s largest Caterpillar distributor, NC Machinery, in Tukwila, Washington at 2 pm for a creative, nonviolent, and family-friendly event. [6] The demonstration is planned as a regional effort and great attention is being paid to both strategy and publicity both pre and post event. According to the ORSCP, the Harnish Groups had a revenue of $450 million from Caterpillar sales and rentals in 2004 and is being asked to “lend its weight to this important campaign.”

A letter from ORSCP requesting a meeting to discuss their position has been sent to John Harnish, CEO of The Harnish Group, Inc., owner of NC Machinery. The letter was endorsed by over 40 organizations including the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, and Veterans for Peace-Rachel Corrie Chapter 109. [7]

Broad-based support for the ORSCP was evidenced by the number of national and international groups signing onto the letter, they range from the Middle East Children’s Alliance, three chapters of Women in Black (Maryland, Vienna, and Australia) to the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace in Ontario. Individuals have also been encourage to write the Harnish Group directly to voice their concerns about Caterpillar’s human rights abuses.

In its letter, ORSCP talks about the killing of Rachel Corrie, gives facts about the uses of D9 bulldozers by the IDF and how this use contradicts both the values statements of Caterpillar Inc. and NC Machinery. ORSCP requests that the Harnish business adhere to its promise to be “uncompromising in our adherence to moral and ethical principles. We do what is right, even when it is not the easiest solution.” ORSCP points out that Caterpillar’s own Code of Worldwide Business Conduct states that the company’s commitment to financial success “must also take into account social, economic, political and environmental priorities.” [8]

Above: Detail from NC Machinery’s corporate values, from their website. Harnish Group Inc. (HGI) services, rents, and sells new and used Caterpillar machines and parts in Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, and the Russian Far East. The group operates 11 equipment branches and 10 construction and industrial rental equipment stores under the names N C Machinery Co., N C Power Systems Co., Tractor & Equipment Co., Machinery Power & Equipment Co., and the Cat Rental Store.

The group requests CEO John Harnish support the Jewish Voices for Peace shareholder resolution as well as the demand by Human Rights Watch to cease the sales of militarized Caterpillar bulldozers to Israel. They also look for a public statement of concern about the use of the deadly machines. “This letter to you is inspired by our serious concern for the welfare of the people in the Middle East, but also by the need for all of us to work together and take responsibility for the deplorable actions that occur in our names. We strive to continue the peacemaking work of our fallen friend Rachel Corrie, and of those who came before her. We hope you will not let us down.”

The group recognizes that “Mr. Harnish and NC Machinery alone cannot change Caterpillar’s role in the Occupied Territories. With this in mind we have made requests of Mr. Harnish that are reasonable steps that he can take to communicate his concerns about the misuse of Caterpillar bulldozers in the OT and their violations of international law, Caterpillar’s code of conduct, as well as NC Machinery’s code of conduct.”[8] The group reports no response.

“Caterpillar’s reputation for making a difference in the world is something we are proud of as a company—and as individuals. Whether it’s caring for the safety of our fellow employees, improving the communities in which we live and work, or sustaining the environment we all share, Caterpillar people are fully committed to and engaged in good corporate citizenship. We are doing well by ‘doing good’ all around the world.” - Jim Owens, Chairman & CEO of CAT

Change is possible

One of ORSCP’s founders and a lead organizer of the April 13th event, Rochelle Gause, believes that events like these will ultimately make a difference. In an in depth article she wrote about Caterpillar, Gause stated, “This campaign is winnable. The labor practices of this company are notorious,” she explained, “including strike breaking and union busting providing strong opportunities for cross issue solidarity. Sales to the Israeli military represent a very small part of Caterpillar’s business and, unlike military contractors, Caterpillar sells primarily to civilians making it a company vulnerable to public pressure.”[9]

At a March 19th protest marking the 2nd anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Gause offered moving words about Rachel Corrie’s continuing influence. “Remembering Rachel is not about seeing her as beyond human, as separate from ourselves, Rachel’s memory represents a potential in each one of us to make a brave stand for compassionate justice. The question is not how did Rachel become so spectacular, but what is keeping us from reaching our own courage, preventing us from taking our own stand for justice, acting in solidarity with people outside of ourselves and realizing the power that we as Americans hold.”

The International Day of Action is an opportunity to fulfill this vision and connect with others and within oneself to remember Rachel and let her family know that the world stands in solidarity. The volume of the turn out will also send a strong message of care and hope to the people of Rafah and the OPT; every day is a day of resistance for them as they face the horrendous damage of American made Caterpillars paid for with American tax dollars.

candio. lives in the Northwest and has an art and writing career spanning two and a half decades. Her work has been found on the street and in museums. For the past two years she has written about the Palestinian Solidarity movement in Olympia, WA. She can be reached at candy@candio.com.

Footnotes

1. Press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, who are representing the Corries against Caterpillar.
2. Democracy Now! interview. The video segment has rare footage of Rachel speaking at a mock trial accusing George Bush of war crimes. It was held by the Children’s parliament in Gaza: Interview 1 | Interview 2
3. Interview with Cindy Corrie, 4 April 2005.
4. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Stop U.S. Tax-Funded Aid to Israel Now (SUSTAIN). Of particular note: The JVP site has a pdf of the 23-page CAT complaint filed by the Corries in United States District Court in Washington state. The CAT Destroys Homes site has more info on the day of action and an article discussing the JVP resolution.
5. For more information on the STOPCAT campaign see www.stopcat.org.
6. For information on the Olympia action sponsored by ORSCP, including links and a letter from Cindy Corrie about CAT, see www.orscp.org/weblog.php?id=C0_20_1.
7. Letter sent to the Harnish Group written by ORSCP,/A> and endorsed by ‘Multiple signers representing the Rachel Corrie Foundation, ORSCP, OMJP, Code Pink, Veterans for Peace’ and many other groups.
8. From ORSCP press materials.
9. This is from a
front page article written for the local press by one of ORSCP’s founders, Rochelle Gause, who also had worked with Ms. Corrie on local actions.

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