Never heard of VingTech before? Neither had we

Peace activists and social-service groups protested at yesterday's opening of a weapons-manufacturing plant in Biddeford, saying Governor John Baldacci shouldn't offer tax breaks to war profiteers while cutting spending on services to Mainers who are poor, disabled, sick, or elderly. (See "Everyone's a Neocon Now," by Lance Tapley, December 21, 2007.)

VingTech a large Norwegian firm, opened a 40-person plant in Biddeford that will make parts and optics to military machine guns. Because it is located in a state-designated Pine Tree Development Zone (a program that now extends to 30,000 acres of Maine land), the company will pay little or no state income taxes for the next ten years.

About 20 protestors from Peace Action Maine and other groups rallied outside the building during the opening ceremony. Initially, five protestors blocked the main entrance to the building, but were ordered to leave by police. The protest continued on public property beside the road in front of the building, with activists carrying signs reading "Break the War Cycle" and "Good Jobs, Not Blood Jobs."

Both Baldacci and US Senator Susan Collins (a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee) have spoken in favor of VingTech's expansion to Biddeford, and Collins attended the event. Here are their comments: City of Biddeford Press Release.

Stephanie Gharakhanian, one of Peace Action Maine’s co-coordinators, says, “Peace Action Maine’s position is that our state’s local economy should not depend on a corporation whose very existence requires the continuation and escalation of the war. Also, there is no reason to celebrate the arrival of such a company to Maine. Our actions today were in solidarity with yesterday’s protests at the State House. Maine should not offer tax breaks to war profiteers, while it gives budget cuts to social agencies that provide critical services to some of those needy members of the state.”

Here are some photos from the event: the protestors blocking the door (plus someone going incognito for some reason); a protestor showing a sign to folks inside the building; and one of the posters (the one saying "Good Jobs, Not Blood Jobs").

--By Kimberly Fischer
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