Rhode Island School of Design students marched from the intersection of Waterman and Benefit streets to Textron headquarters on Westminster Street Thursday, joining other community organizations as part of a national walkout for Palestine.
The approximately 100 students and community members were present at the rally — which was part of “Shut it Down for Palestine,” a global day of action organized by groups such as the National Students for Justice in Palestine. Protestors called for a ceasefire in Gaza and protested Textron’s connections to the Israeli military.
Textron is a $12.9 billion, multi-industry company involved in defense manufacturing that works with the U.S. Department of Defense. The Israeli Air Force arsenal currently includes aircraft manufactured by Textron subsidiaries Bell and Beechcraft.
Protesters carried signs that read “Textron supports genocide” and “Quit your job.” Rally participants aimed to show solidarity with the Palestinian people, according to Andira Alves, an organizer from the Party for Socialism and Liberation. The United Nations has warned that Palestinians are at “grave risk of genocide” as a result of Israel’s retaliation — consisting of airstrikes, a ground invasion and an escalation of its blockade of Gaza — in response to Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks.
Alves added that the protest hoped to build off of momentum from a Nov. 4 march in Washington, D.C., which was attended by tens of thousands of protestors.
“People are demanding no business as usual when there is a genocide taking place in Palestine,” PSL Rhode Island Organizer Satya Mohapatra wrote in a message to The Herald. “We are talking about millions of people in America who want to have an immediate ceasefire now — ending all U.S. aid to Israel and ending the occupation of Palestine.”
Demonstrators also called on RISD, which has received funding from Textron for exhibits, scholarships, fellowships and studios, to cut ties with Textron, wrote Luca Antonio Colannino, president of RISD SJP, in an email to The Herald. Protestors chanted: “RISD, RISD, what do you say? How many bombs have you dropped today?”
RISD received its first gift from Textron’s founder in 1944; the “cumulative investment” has grown to $28 million, according to RISD’s website.
“Our school has fostered a nearly 80-year relationship with Textron,” Colannino said. “This demand is supported by a call for RISD to support a ceasefire in Gaza, and recognize its complicity in Israeli war crimes.”
“We also orchestrated this walkout as a way to protect pro-Palestine students on campus, and show our university our unwavering solidarity for the Palestinian people,” they added.
“Knowing that I’m part of a school that is kind of somewhat funding this genocide is really disheartening,” said a RISD student who requested to remain anonymous for safety concerns.
Jaime Marland, senior director of public relations at RISD, did not respond to The Herald’s requests for comments on the demonstration.
The protest was the latest in a series of local demonstrations against Textron. On Oct. 21, pro-Palestine community members marched from the Rhode Island State House to Textron’s headquarters, The Herald previously reported. Two RISD students are also currently under investigation for allegedly spray-painting the words “Kills Kids” on Textron’s building on Nov. 1.
Following Thursday’s demonstration, Michael Maynard, director of corporate communications for Textron, wrote in an email to The Herald that “Textron respects the right of people to engage in peaceful and lawful protest. We take pride in supporting the U.S. military and our U.S. allies with our technologies and products, following all laws and regulations related to foreign military sales.”
“As a multi-industry company with locations in 25 countries, we are also proud of the role we play in our communities, particularly our headquarters community of Providence,” Maynard continued. “We would also like to thank the Providence police and local law enforcement for their assistance in ensuring the safety of our employees, tenants and guests.”
Providence Police Department officers were present in the area surrounding demonstrators at the Nov. 9 protest.
In a speech to the crowd, Alves called on protesters to “make it crystal clear … that we will no longer tolerate our local economy being dominated by a weapons manufacturer.”
Additional reporting by Julia Vaz
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.