Windmills Not War Machines



On Earthday, 2022 50 young and elder activists from the Asheville area gathered in Bent Creek Park on the French Broad River under banners that read: “Windmills not War Machines” and “Declare a Climate Emergency”. Our goal was to tell public officials and Raytheon Corporation that during these times of war and climate change the construction of war machines is unconscionable, and that Asheville doesn’t want Raytheon’s Pratt and Whitney division to lay waste to our forests, and endanger the climate.

A few years ago both local and state officials had worked in secret to create sweetheart deals with Pratt and Whitney enabling the company to garner tens of millions of dollars of government assistance to subsidize infrastructure for a $650 million aircraft engine factory in pristine pine and oak forest next to the Blue Parkway. Also cooperating in this giveaway was Biltmore Farms, which was part of the Vanderbilt legacy and lies next to the iconic Biltmore Estate, the most visited tourist destination in the eastern United States. Biltmore Farms sold 100 acres of its forest to Raytheon for $1.00. The factory among other things will build military aircraft engines for the F-35 fighter jets, which have been responsible for untold destruction and deaths in the Middle East. Since the US military also produces more green house gases than any other single organization on the planet, this factory may very well undermine the possibility of the US doing what’s needed to prevent runaway climate chaos. (We also know that Dominion which supplies fracked gas to Asheville, has a permit application to install a 12″ gas pipeline under the Blue ridge Parkway, which lies less than a mile from the factory. This pipeline will feed the eight gas furnaces the factory needs.)

On Earthday we gathered for a rally with speakers and music next to the river. Afterward, while the raucous Brass Your Heart band led many of us from the park up onto the bridge over the Blue Ridge Parkway, a group now called the Earthday Eight walked through the woods onto the only road into and out of  Raytheon’s construction site.  We kept the road blocked for two hours. About 50 dump trucks,  backhoes, pickup trucks and other vehicles backed up in both directions, clogging the road. Raytheon security showed up early on, trying to bully us into leaving. We stood our ground with signs and banners, and told them we’d only leave when Raytheon closes down or starts building windmills. About two hours later police began to arrive, and we expected to be arrested.
View of the Earthday Eight from Blue Ridge Parkway Bridge

To our surprise, the Sargeant made us an offer he thought we could not refuse: “If you’ll leave now, we won’t arrest you.”

“You mean, we are free to leave?”


“And what if we turn down that offer. What will happen?”

Not expecting that reply, the Sargeant briefly grimaced before regaining his composure:

“You’ll be charged with misdemeanor trespass, and then be free to leave.”

Now some might say this is a no brainer. Why not leave and declare an Earthday win over the second largest military contractor in the world?

Instead the eight of us held a short meeting there on the gravel road with the diesel exhaust from dump trucks billowing around us.

Someone commented: “You know, Raytheon and everyone else who runs this city can’t stand the heat of the truth, and they want above all for us to go away.”

“Yeah,” someone added, “maybe for them hiding the truth about what they’ve done is more important than enforcing their laws.”

And finally our youngest member  concluded: “Maybe we should not go away. Maybe we should accept a criminal charge so we can put the real criminal in this case, Raytheon, on trial . “

And so, with 25 supporters standing 75 feet above us on the Blue ridge Parkway bridge,  all eight of us agreed that by refusing a simple exoneration, we could maybe turn the whole corrupt legal and political system against Raytheon.

We plan to do this in two ways.. First we will mount a necessity defense, a common law precedent which says it is permissible to violate a minor law in order to prevent a much more serious harm, the production of war machines which have been guilty of war crimes in many parts of the world. And second, in the process of defending ourselves because of necessity, we will charge Raytheon with facilitating war crimes all over the world. In the process we will also try to call out Biltmore Farms and our County commissioners for not only condoning, but actually supporting the production of Raytheon’s machines of death.

What better way to celebrate the 52nd Earthday, 2022!