On Nov. 2, two Rhode Island School of Design students were arraigned in Providence District Court for misdemeanor charges of alleged vandalism at the Textron world headquarters on Westminster Street.
The two students are under investigation for allegedly spray-painting the words “Kills Kids” on Textron office’s main entrance on Nov. 1. At the arraignment, the students pled not guilty and were held on $1,000 personal recognizance. The students' next hearings are scheduled for Nov. 15.
The alleged vandalism comes in light of the ongoing violence in Gaza following Hamas’s Oct.7 attacks on southern Israel and subsequent retaliatory airstrikes, blockages and ground invasion of Gaza from Israeli armed forces.
Textron is a $12.9 billion, multi-industry company involved in defense manufacturing that works with the U.S. Department of Defense, which recently reiterated its commitment to “flowing critical security assistance to Israel.” The Israeli Air Force currently holds aircraft manufactured by Textron subsidiaries Bell and Beechcraft in its arsenal.
Thursday’s graffiti is the second recent case of vandalism at the Textron headquarters. Police also reported to the scene on the evening of Oct. 30, when the words “Free Gaza” were found spray-painted on the building.
The most recent spray-painting occurred on the morning of Nov. 1 and was reported later that day, according to a press release sent to The Herald by Lindsay Lague, public information officer for Providence’s Department of Public Safety. The Providence Police Department apprehended both suspects, holding them in custody overnight.
“We want all our residents to know we take these crimes seriously, we understand the impact it has on our residents feeling safe and our officers will remain vigilant in preventing similar acts that result in further damage across the city,” said Mayor Brett Smiley and Colonel Oscar Perez in the press release.
“Textron appreciates the swift response from the City of Providence,” Michael Maynard, director of corporate communications for Textron, wrote in an email to The Herald. Maynard specifically thanked the Providence Police Department, members of the Downtown Improvement District and Mayor’s Office for their efforts.
Maynard declined to comment on any direct connection between Textron and the Israeli military.
In an Instagram post shared on Nov. 7, RISD Students for Justice in Palestine wrote that “Textron is not just complicit, but is an active supporter of the genocide and displacement of the Palestinian people.”
RISD SJP noted that RISD has received funding from Textron for exhibits, scholarships, fellowships and studios.
“Despite claiming to listen to student voices, RISD has stayed silent in an attempt to maintain its relationship with Textron,” the post continues. “Our education is tied to blood money.”
RISD SJP did not respond to The Herald’s requests for comment.
The graffiti follows a series of activist efforts targeting Textron. On Oct. 21, community members protesting in support of Palestine marched from the Rhode Island State House to Textron’s headquarters, The Herald previously reported.
On Oct. 21, Graffiti and flyers with the phrase “Free Palestine” were left at Farm Fresh RI, a non-profit organization advocating for accessible and sustainable local food systems.
“Our expertise lies in those specific areas directly related to our mission,” wrote Jesse Rye, executive director for Farm Fresh R.I., in a statement sent to The Herald by Delite Primus, Farm Fresh’s director of advancement. “We are not experts on the conflict in the Middle East and because of that Farm Fresh does not have an official statement to share beyond our sincere hope that the violence and the loss of human lives comes to an end.”
On Oct. 30, red paint was found on the door of the RISD Store, in an incident the Providence Police Department said it was investigating as potentially related to other acts of pro-Palestinian graffiti. RISD’s Department of Public Safety declined to comment on the incident.
“RISD is deeply committed to providing a safe and supportive campus environment for our students and we do not tolerate unlawful behavior of any kind, on- or off-campus,” Jamie Marland, RISD’s senior director of public relations, wrote in an email to The Herald.
Marland declined to comment on the incidents of potential graffiti at the RISD Store and the arrests of the students.
The two students could not be reached for comment.
Tom Li is a senior staff writer covering environment and crime & justice. He is from Pleasanton, California, and is concentrating in Economics, International & Public Affairs and French & Francophone Studies. He is an avid RIPTA enthusiast and enjoys taking (and criticizing) personality tests in his free time.