FLAG OF PROTEST A demonstrator holds a sign while another waves the flag of Palestine outside the Healdsburg offices of General Dynamics. (Photo by Christian Kallen)

For many on their way to a Tuesday morning workout at Parkpoint Fitness, or into work at the post office or City Hall, the day began with an unexpected surprise—some 30 people chanting and waving flags and banners on Foss Creek Circle and Grove Street, in protest of the war in Gaza.

“General Dynamics, you can’t hide—stop arming genocide!” they chanted, among other slogans, calling attention to the Healdsburg offices and factory of General Dynamics, a defense industry business that has long quietly operated in town. “Healdsburg Says No to Bomb Factories!” read a large red banner; “Block the Bombs! Free Palestine!” another.

The Healdsburg action has been in the works at least since Saturday, when a press release was distributed with an embargo time to prevent early publication until 6:30am Tuesday, April 16. Sonoma County for Palestine, which labels itself a grassroots coalition of Sonoma County residents, coordinated the effort.

TO THE POINT Wearing a black hat and sweatshirt with an anti-war message, an organizer pumps up the crowd at a Sonoma County for Palestine demonstration in Healdsburg on April 16. (Photo by Christian Kallen)

The group held banners and waved their signs (“No Kill-Tech in our County” and “General Dynamics Profits Off Genocide”), echoed anti-war chants and beat hand drums for almost two hours on Grove Street, not far from City Hall.

Ma’ayan Pe’er, a 24-year-old Petaluma resident and self-described “trans girl” who identifies in the plural, served as spokesperson for the group. “As a Jew I was raised as a Zionist and thus pro-Israel as well, so I’ve been around this topic since I was born,” they told the Tribune as the chanting continued in the background. “It’s not since the past few years that I’ve really started engaging with Israel and Zionism from an anti-Zionist lens, in Sonoma County.”

They said they were in Israel on Oct. 7, when Hamas militants attacked a music festival and kibbutz and killed some 1,200 people; they joined the movement after that date.

“I saw the horrors of the genocide that Israel was enacting on Palestinians and Gaza. I was there for the Palestinian uprisings, for Gaza’s uprisings, and experienced and saw the Israeli retaliation.” That counter-attack by Israel has killed over 34,000 people, and it continues, they said. “Since then I’ve been moving into working here in Sonoma County.”

The Target

General Dynamics is a global aerospace and defense company, according to its website at www.gd.com. The American Friends Service Committee, at afsc.org, reports it is the country’s sixth-largest defense contractor. It originally developed the F-16 fighter jet and now makes the metal casings of the MK-80 bombs widely used by Israel in the Gaza conflict, as well as 155mm artillery shells.

The current Healdsburg location, at 511 Grove St., builds “control actuation systems, which are used to guide flight trajectory of ordnance (rocket, missile)” under the Precision Systems strategic business unit, according to afsc.org.

General Dynamics has resided in Healdsburg for decades, previously as a company called Versatron in the 1500 block of Healdsburg Avenue. According to the information Sonoma County for Palestine distributed, the local facility “has acquired at least one contract in the past directly related to Israeli technology”—a border surveillance technology also in use along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Calls to General Dynamics offices while the demonstration ensued were answered by a male who refused comment and hung up. The number given on the website was evidently disconnected.

Since Oct. 7, several other demonstrations have targeted General Dynamics facilities—in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Garland, Texas, among others.

PROTEST Large banners proclaim opposition to the war in Gaza at the Healdsburg offices of defense contractor General Dynamics, in a Tuesday, April 16 demonstration.

The Pressure

“These are people from the community that know each other, that have worked together, that feel passionate about stopping a weapons factory, um, in Healdsburg and continuing to produce weapon parts for these massive, 2,000-pound bombs,” said Pe’er of the demonstrators and Sonoma County for Palestine.

They said they had shown up at both Santa Rosa and Petaluma city halls, and have not successfully changed any city policy through zoning or other means. Their purpose was to “really understand, like, who in Sonoma County is profiting off this genocide, who’s benefiting off this genocide.”

They made it clear the protest was “not against the workers at General Dynamics,” but against the company itself and “the people on top of the company.”

“We are frustrated that the workers at General Dynamics are being exploited to fuel this genocide, exploited to create these weapons,” they said. “And ultimately, this is all a part of the ceasefire movement. So we can also call for a ceasefire.”

When asked what they hoped the protest could accomplish, they responded, “We can lobby our representatives in Healdsburg, the planning commission could zone out General Dynamics. We could put pressure on the company itself, like we’ve seen in other countries, on their defense contractors … We can put pressure on our local representatives to stop sending U.S. weapons to fund Israeli genocide.”

Jeff Kay, Healdsburg’s city manager, was well aware of the demonstration just over a block away from City Hall at 401 Grove St. He said, “First off, we support and respect the right to peacefully demonstrate and protest. We had some officers on site just to make sure everyone was safe, but otherwise made a point of not interfering with free-speech activities.”

He added, “It is generally not legally feasible for a city to change zoning and force a business to change operations or relocate.”

It was pointed out to Pe’er that although the Healdsburg City Council held a regular meeting the previous evening, none of the protesters had shown up. “We  have spent the last months working with city halls all over Sonoma County, to try and call for ceasefire resolutions. And because of that failure, that is why we’re showing up here today,” they said.

In January, the City of Cotati unanimously passed a resolution in support of an Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire. It was the first and so far only Sonoma County governing body to do so.

About 10:30am, the protesters began to disperse and plan their next action. The hand drums started up again to beat the cadence of the movement.

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


  1. The vote in Congress on Aid to Israel takes place this coming Saturday, April 20th. Has anyone asked “our” Congressman Jared Huffman how he will vote? Maybe one of the reporters at the Healdsburg Spittoon should give him a phone call.

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