Protesters target Astronautics over IDF contract

Photo by Omar Waheed.

Protests continue around Wisconsin to demand a ceasefire in Gaza as the Milwaukee Anti-War Committee organized in front of Astronautics headquarters Friday evening.

Around 40 protesters marched around the outside of Astronautics Corporation of America, 135 W Forest Hill Ave, Oak Creek, Friday evening to draw attention to how the ongoing conflict in Gaza has connections to Wisconsin.

Astronautics designs and manufacturers avionics equipment and systems for commercial and military aerospace use. The company was founded in Milwaukee in 1959 and holds multiple subsidiary companies, most notably Astronautics C.A. Ltd. in Israel, which holds defense contracts with the Israel Defense Force (IDF). The subsidiary creates systems used for avionics, naval sensors, artillery control and COVID-19 disinfection solutions.

“We just thought that it would be an important one to target considering sometimes people can see issues that happen around the world as something that doesn’t affect them at home,” said Sara Onitsuka member of the Milwaukee Anti-War Committee. “But this is to draw attention to the fact that it is not even just a domestic issue, but a local issue.”

Protestors circled the entrance for hours demanding Astronautics shut down. Employees could be seen looking out of the windows of their office and driving around to the opposite side of the building to leave while avoiding protestors.

The Anti-War Committee has protested Astronautics before, most recently in late November. The group aims to continue to highlight all Wisconsin based companies that supply goods used for the continued conflict in Gaza — but want to keep efforts centered in Milwaukee.

“We thought that Astronautics would be the best target out of all the ones that are here, at least to focus on more of a long-term campaign,” Onitsuka said. “It’s not to say that we do not want to target the other ones, but it also can be helpful to be able to focus your efforts on one. When you weaken one, you start to make the others afraid as well.”

Other companies in Wisconsin currently providing equipment to Israel’s Military are Caterpillar and Oshkosh Corporation.

Caterpillar, while not based in Wisconsin, has a location in South Milwaukee. Its plant in Wisconsin is the headquarters for the company’s global surface mining division. The IDF uses armored bulldozers built by Caterpillar in Gaza, Forbes reported.

Oshkosh Corporation’s subsidiary, Oshkosh Defense, has a current defense contract to produce the armor hulls for the IDF’s armored personnel carriers. Its contract is valued at $100 million.

Astronautics did not return multiple calls seeking comment.