People’s Trial of Boeing

[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #11 in July 2010]

In June 2010, a group of undocumented youth and other organizers came together around a shared desire to open an alternative political space within the immigrant rights movement. We shared a sense that the political horizon of the movement felt constricted, and that liberal organizing models felt unwelcoming and shortsighted. Working together throughout fall and winter, and into the early months of 2011, we saw that our analysis had been limited by always thinking about a system within a system within a system, and proposing Band-Aid solutions that did not address root causes nor offer a broader political vision. We wanted to work in a different way; we wanted to generate a radically different vision of the future that could inspire us. We engaged in an extended experiment in organizing, connecting people around a common idea: immigration is not the problem, and therefore immigration legislation or reform is not the ultimate political horizon of a social justice movement from the undocumented perspective.

What we mean by “undocumented perspective” developed slowly and is still a work in progress. Certainly we mean the perspective, experiences and knowledges of people who are themselves undocumented; but we also mean a political commitment to understanding how the system of global power pushes entire populations “outside” the privileges of citizenship. We consider “undocumented” to express not an identity politics or a special interest-group, by rather a political framework for challenging citizenship as an instrument for criminalizing people and making them exploitable. We reached out to others and tried to form alliances with small, autonomous and grass-roots groups committed to confronting a global economic system that finds profit in the incarceration, displacement, and repression of millions across the globe.

We began our work together in the Mora-torium on Deportations Campaign, which we saw as a meeting place, a space for gathering and dialogue. We went on to organize a series of workshops and speak-outs called the ABC’s of Struggle. We reached out to other organizations and individuals and explored the intersections of various struggles and political issues (such as education, housing, militarization, incarceration, and immigration). We instigated creative expression to inform our political analysis. Within our meetings, we openly discussed questions of privilege and power, the problems with liberal organizing models and the possibilities for collectively building an identity based on politics instead of a politics based on identity. In the spring of 2011 we organized actions for March 10, and then instigated the pubic organizing process for the Chicago Mayday March with other small, grassroots organizations.

On March 10, 2011 we decided to express our analysis of militarization as one of the root causes of the displacement of millions around the world and the illegalization of immigrants here in the US. We wanted to address militarization as a new form of colonization —it is racialized, it is a form of legalized economic exploitation, and it is an ideology that is pervasive in our culture. We gathered in Union Park and declared it a temporary Liberation Square. Next we marched downtown, stopping along the way for an action at the Boeing world headquarters. We staged a people’s trial of Boeing, and by extension of the broader military-industrial complex. Aside from the pre-scripted testimony, the call-and-response nature of the action helped to unleash a collective energy that engaged us all as active participants, not merely an audience for a political rally or speech. Unscripted chants and accusations broke out throughout the action, a sense of collectivity emerging from a shared expression of outrage, urgency and fierceness that was intensely mobilizing. After the trial, the verdicts and calls for restoration, the crowd broke out into a spontaneous street dance party. What follows is the transcript from the people’s trial of Boeing.


On March 10th, 2011, a day of Immigrant protest for full rights, we gather at the headquarters of one of the biggest military manufacturers in the world, Boeing. We are here because their business directly interferes with our communities’ ability to survive.

We are here to put Boeing Corporation on trial for its crimes against humanity.

Since the crooked legal system in this country has failed to hold Boeing accountable for the misery it creates in the world, we ask the people here today to review the evidence and determine whether Boeing is guilty or innocent.

So after each piece of evidence please shout out:


1. Last year, Boeing’s total revenue from weapons contracts was just over $30 billion.

So we ask the people: Is Boeing guilty or innocent of profiting from war all over the world?


2. In 2006, Boeing received a $2.8 billion contract of build a high-tech border wall in the Arizona-Sonora desert. This wall pushed migrant workers and their families to cross through more dangerous areas of the desert, forced people to rely on criminal organizations, resulting in kidnappings, extortion and more than 1,000 deaths per year on the border.

So we ask the people: Is Boeing guilty or innocent of creating a more militarized and deadly US?

Mexico border that results in over 1,000 deaths per year?


3. In 2009 Boeing spent $9.1 million, and then in 2010 Boeing spent $4.15 million in political lobbying. Boeing pushed for legislation to increase funding for Homeland Security, military sales and border militarization.

So we ask the people: Is Boeing guilty or innocent of creating racist fears of immigrants and feeding a culture of endless war?


4. Last year Boeing had a total revenue of over $60 billion, and paid less than 4.5 % taxes on their profit.

So we ask the people: Is Boeing guilty or innocent of profiting at the expense of tax-payers?


5. In 2008 machinists working for Boeing went on strike and exposed the exploitation of workers, and the outsourcing of labor, that create tremendous profits for Boeing.

So we ask the people: Is Boeing guilty of exploiting workers in the United States and crossing borders to exploit workers in other countries?


The People’s Verdict

We hereby find Boeing Company guilty of all charges!!!

Boeing’s products are used to capture, kill, and terrorize communities and freedom fighters around the world. We find that Boeing actively works to ensure that populations are categorized as “illegal,” or as “terrorists,” or as “enemies,” in order to sell their products.

We find that Boeing is guilty of STEALING the labor, wealth and lives of people around the world.

Therefore, we determine that Boeing and all military contractors should be dismantled!! The people will take back our money, our labor and our lives, and use them to fund free schools, free clinics, and free social programs for all!

Take it back! Take it back!

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