Roughly two dozen demonstrators gathered Tuesday in front of the Lockheed Martin plant in Silver Springs Shores to protest Israel's continued bombings of Gaza, claiming U.S. missiles and U.S. support are both playing key roles in the attacks.
The protest here became a platform for several groups who oppose Israel's attacks against Hamas, but for different reasons.
About a dozen Muslim women, teens and children chanted "Free Palestine" and "Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation's got to go."
The Veterans for Peace spoke against the war. And others criticized Lockheed Martin for making Hellfire missiles, which, according to some news reports, are being used in attacks on Gaza.
The protesters, who came from as far away as St. Augustine, waved at passing motorists who honked their support and shrugged off drivers who shouted obscenities. They held hand-lettered signs reading "Hellfire = Holocaust" and "Feed the Hungry, Don't Feed the War."
"We're here because the war has started in the Middle East again," said Homer Detwiler, a member of Marions for Peace. "We're told that the [Hellfire] rockets may have been made here, and we want to bring attention to people."
Lockheed Martin, according to county documents, is proposing an $11 million expansion of its Ocala plant, which primarily produces the Hellfire precision-guided missile system. The missiles themselves are not assembled at the Ocala plant.
The county has approved a $100,000 tax break for the plant as part of a total $500,000 economic incentive package that will encourage the company to hire 125 new employees with an annual average salary of $49,327.
Time Magazine reported on Sunday that Israel had used Hellfire missiles in its attack on Hamas groups in Gaza.
Heather Kelly, a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman, referred questions about Israel's use of the Hellfire missile to the U.S. Army. An Army spokesman, however, said they had no way of knowing if Israelis were using Hellfires.
But the protesters, some of whom were from the Palestinian territories, said they were concerned about the safety of Gaza residents caught in the crossfire between Hamas and Israel.
"I'm ashamed that U.S. backs Israel in all this," said Palestinian-born U.S. citizen Suraida Kamal. "The aid goes to killing women and children, just because people in Israel don't want them there."
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
Get our best delivered to your inbox.
Faith Carr of Gainesville, who wasn't affiliated with any group, said, "The bombing in Gaza made me sick to my stomach. I don't recall anything in the news about Palestinians attacking Israel. Where are those stories to make me sympathetic toward Israelis?"
But after an hour of chants and political discussions among the participants, the demonstration became heated.
A Lockheed Martin employee, who identified herself only as Kathy, had passed by, seen the protest, and had come back with her two adult daughters to counter the protest across the intersection.
The three shouted: "Support Our Troops", "God Bless America," and "If you're so proud of it, go back to Gaza."
At times the two groups screamed at each other.
"I have a father and four brothers who went to war," Kathy said in an interview.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that more than 370 Palestinians - about 60 of them said to be civilians - have been killed, and four Israelis - three civilians and a soldier - have died as well.
"We're going to Israel's aid and they're using this weapon to go to war without talking to the United States," said Detwiler. "We object to that."
The protest, one in a series of such events organized nationwide by peace activists, came on the fifth day of the conflict. The United States has increased pressure on Israel to call a cease-fire, and has asked the Arab countries to press Hamas to do the same, according to The New York Times.
On Tuesday, Israeli officials were considering a 48-hour cease-fire proposed by the French government to provide humanitarian relief to the region.