Over 60 People Gather, Walk, and Rally for a Peaceful, Just, and Green Transition

On the morning of Saturday, May 22nd, 25 people gathered at Pack Square in downtown Asheville to start a 9-mile walk to Bent Creek River Park on the French Broad River near the Pratt & Whitney access bridge construction site for a rally and healing ceremony. The Walk was led by Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist monks of the Great Smoky Mountains Peace Pagoda. Carrying messages on signs, pickets and banners, the walkers raised awareness of alternatives to bringing a defense contractor like Pratt & Whitney to Buncombe County: “Green Jobs = More Jobs,” “Humanize,” “People Over Profit,” “Unionize,” “Demilitarize,” “Stop P&W,” “Decolonize.”

Photos © Jeffrey DeCristofaro 2021

Tabling in Bent Creek River Park
Photo © Jeffrey DeCristofaro 2021

The walkers were greeted by Reject Raytheon AVL volunteers who had been tabling all morning. Table visitors could learn about the Reject Raytheon AVL coalition demands of governmental officials; Pratt & Whitney and its parent company, Raytheon Technologies; the potential environmental impacts of the Pratt & Whitney factory construction; and the facts about the fewer number of jobs defense industries create in comparison to other job sectors. They could also sign a petition asking for a moratorium on tax incentives for military contractors in Buncombe County.

Rally for Peace, Justice and a Green Future

Reject Raytheon AVL held a rally for the 60 people gathered to call out Pratt & Whitney and Raytheon Technologies in their complicity as war profiteers and to call for a new vision for the world–a peaceful, just and environmentally sustainable world. A Palestinian speaker linked the engines Pratt & Whitney manufactures for the F-35, F-15 and F-16 fighter jets to wars in the Middle East, most recently Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Reject Raytheon AVL member, Jenny, called out local governmental officials for their complicity in perpetuating war in the name of local job creation, and articulated the need for a “healthier, more just, more equitable, more loving, and more peaceful world.” See her speak:

Read the whole text of her speech here: Jenny’s speech

Claire, another member of Reject Raytheon AVL, gave a fiery speech about the scar on the earth created by the construction of the factory site, about the secret deals that brought Pratt & Whitney to Asheville, and about the desecration perpetuated by US wars throughout history and throughout the world. She called on us all to “Stand up and Fight Back! Together!”

Ceremony for Healing People and Planet

The final activity of the day was a ceremony, held on the bridge construction site, to heal the planet and its inhabitants. The crowd gathered as a litany for peace, composed by ordained minister Amy Cantrell, was read. Read the text here: Amy Cantrell’s Litany for Peace. After the litany, members of the Reject Raytheon AVL Coalition made offerings of peace & remembrance for the people and other living beings who are deeply affected by war’s destruction. A wreath to honor a peace-loving mother. Rose petals to honor the lives of Palestinians killed by US-made Israeli bombs. A Palestinian flag to remember the suffering of the Palestinian people. The picture of a dear friend whose family was deeply affected by the US war on Iraq. An acorn. An egg. A poem. Some flowers.