Two men attached themselves to cars and blocked the entrance to the Raytheon plant in Portsmouth, Rhode Island on Thursday morning, leading to a four-hour ordeal in the blazing heat.
Nearly 20 supporters of the two men, plus some Raytheon employees and a handful of onlookers from a nearby classic car museum, watched as police and firefighters removed the men — first from the cars, then from the objects they’d attached themselves to, which appeared to have been secured with cement and some sort of adhesive foam.
Vanessa Flores-Maldonado, a local activist, said the group was there to protest against the military industrial complex — symbolized by Raytheon’s presence on West Main Road in this quiet Aquidneck Island town. A lot of people, including her until recently, may not have realized that Raytheon had a presence here, Flores-Maldonado said.
“We’re the smallest state with the biggest heart,” Flores-Maldonado said. “This is not us.”
The group called itself RAM Inc., or Resist and Abolish the Military Industrial Complex. They got there at about 6 a.m., and the scene was cleared after 10 a.m.
The cars, one a Chrysler and the other a Jaguar, had “NO MORE CIVILIAN DEATH” painted on them. Protesters criticized Raytheon, which has a missile and defense subsidiary in Portsmouth, for its dealings with countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel. They said those countries were killing innocent civilians with Raytheon’s help.
Protesters chanted, “Raytheon has got to go!” and, toward the two men who were attached to the cars, “We see you, we love you!”
Authorities loaded one of the men into a police van with the heavy object still attached to him. The other was freed from the car, then from a tire that a forklift had to hoist to keep from falling on him.
Chief Brian Peters of the Portsmouth Police Department said one of the men was on a large plastic tub that was filled with cement. Some sort of tube was going through the cement, and the man had put his arm through the tube. His arm was secured there in a way police didn’t yet understand, Peters said.
The other man was under a car with his arm going through the bottom. His hand was secured with a sort of spray foam inside a tire filled with cement, Peters said. First-responders had to cut away parts of the cars to free the men.
The men did not demand or even say anything, Peters said.
“Their goal was just to obstruct the access to this facility,” Peters said.
One of them was brought to the station and put in a shady area and given water, said Peters, who described the end of the situation as peaceful.
The men were identified as Frank Fortino, 26, of Providence, and Nicholas Katkevich, 36, of Bristol. Police said they will be charged with trespassing, conspiracy, disorderly conduct, and obstruction of a police officer.
In an e-mailed statement, a spokesman for Raytheon said, “We respect the right to lawful and peaceful protest.” He declined to comment further.
Authorities said their presence trying to free the men from the cars complicated and delayed their response to a serious head-on collision just up West Main Road that occurred while they were on scene at Raytheon.
Chief Paul Ford of the Portsmouth Fire Department said his firefighters. who were working for hours in the heat and trying to be careful not to jostle any of the heavy equipment around the two protesters, couldn’t simply pack up and leave in an instant. The fire trucks were about 80 yards away, so they had to load up their equipment, which took even more time than it would have if they’d been at the fire station, ready to roll and not tired from hours of working.
At about 9 a.m., one car in the crash was badly damaged and still smoldering. Several people stood off to the side; one person was holding an infant.
The town needed to call in other towns to help respond to the accident because they were tied up at Raytheon. They would have gotten there more quickly, with more resources and more firefighters, if they hadn’t been trying to free the men from the cars blocking Raytheon’s entrance, Ford said.
Peters, the police chief, said first responders told the two people they needed to respond to a head-on collision and asked them to free themselves, but they wouldn’t or weren’t able to. Peters said he wasn’t sure if they could have released themselves if they wanted to. Peters said one protester told authorities that the fire department could just leave the scene; Ford, the fire chief, said if firefighters left abruptly, it might have put the two men themselves at risk of injury.
A 32-year-old woman and her three children — 13, 5 and an infant — were injured in the crash, as was the driver of the other car, a 34-year-old woman. They were all taken to nearby hospitals with serious injuries, police said.
“All of those things impact the care we were able to provide,” Ford said. “When people do these kinds of things, you don’t know who you’re hurting.”