Madison activists gathered at the capitol this past Sunday afternoon to protest the Air National Guard’s decision to bring 18 F-35 fighter jets to Madison, calling the F-35s noisy and environmentally damaging.
Protestors biked and caravanned from the capitol building to Demetral Park for a celebration that involved crafts, live music and speakers. Building Unity, 350 Madison, Building Unity for Climate Justice Madison, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice and Sierra Club Wisconsin were among the hosts of the event.
The F-35 fighter jets are scheduled to replace the current F-16 jets in 2023.
The Air National Guard has released an environmental statement predicting that 1,000 homes will become “uninhabitable” but still “livable” when the F-35s arrive as a result of disruptive noise.
The F-16s have most heavily affected the Northeast side of Madison, near the airport, according to Channel 3000.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the pilots and politicians that will be personally benefiting from the program were actually residing on the Northside so they could experience the delight of 140 decibels many times per week?” local activist Steve Wolvin told Channel 3000.
Educators say the noise disrupts learning in the classroom and that the F-35s will be an even greater distraction.
“We’re out at recess and all of a sudden there's this horrible noise that goes off every 20 seconds,” a teacher at Hawthorne Elementary said during the protest. “We’re communities of color, we’re low income, Black, African American, Mexican American, Central American, people from all over the world and we’re all just trying to learn.”
Madison Alder Brian Benford of District 6 attended the event, where he voiced his opposition to stationing the F-35s at Truax field.
“We are not going to tolerate these weapons of mass destruction that are designed to maim and kill Brown and Black people all across the world,” Benford said.
Activists also raised concerns at the protest regarding the environmental impact of F-35s and argued that the jets use money that should be spent tackling climate issues.
“It’s a climate crisis problem. We are burning more carbon with these planes, and each plane costs us about $110.3 million. That’s money out of our pockets, out of our tax dollars, that should be moving us towards climate justice,” Safe Skies Clean Water volunteer Timothy Cordon said.
Supporters of stationing the F-35 have argued that the new fighter jets will create more job opportunities in Madison. The F-35s are estimated to bring up to $120 million in construction projects and dozens of new jobs, according to The Wisconsin State Journal.
Benford has countered the claims, stating that the economic gain will come at the expense of healthcare and housing.
“We need additional access to healthcare, housing, everything else these horrible weapons take away,” Benford said. “Any promise of economic gain should not come on the backs of those that are most marginalized and vulnerable in our community.”