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FBI Investigating Group Behind Elbit Systems Attack in Merrimack

The extremist left-wing group behind the assault on Elbit Systems in Merrimack is under FBI investigation, NHJournal has learned.

As Calla Walsh set off smoke bombs from the roof of the Elbit Systems of America facility, images of her protest were pushed out on social media by Palestine Action US. The group is the American offshoot of an anti-Israel organization based in the U.K., and it gets financial support from local millionaire — and self-declared Communist — James “Fergie” Chambers. Chambers put up bail for Walsh and her two co-defendants after their arrest on charges stemming from the Merrimack incident.

Walsh’s connections to Palestine Action US and Chambers have caught her in the FBI’s crosshairs.

Merrimack Police Detective Kevin Manuele’s probable cause statement seeking court approval to search Walsh’s cell phone states the FBI is already interested in Chambers and Palestine Action US. 

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation was conducting an investigation into the group that was involved as well as their leader Chambers, who is known to the FBI,” Manuele wrote.

The FBI generally does not publicize details of ongoing investigations, but the information came to light as part of a court battle over Walsh’s cell phone. Merrimack police seized Walsh’s it during her arrest at Elbit, and the progressive teen activist has been demanding its return, according to court records.

Weeks after the November arrest, FBI Agent Kevin Leblanc took possession of the phone as part of that agency’s inquiry into Chambers and Palestine Action US. The phone has since been returned to Merrimack Police. New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella won’t release it unless Walsh agrees to let Granite State investigators search it for information. In lieu of that, Formella’s office went to court this month seeking approval to look at the phone’s contents. 

Jeffrey Odland, Walsh’s defense attorney, is objecting on grounds that the attorney general’s actions violated her Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.

“The State’s seizure of [Walsh’s] phone and subsequent request to search are constitutionally unreasonable due to the 184-day delay in the state applying for judicial permission to search,” Odland wrote. 

Manuele’s probable cause statement indicates there is likely evidence of conspiracy on Walsh’s phone beyond her actions with co-defendants Sophie Ross, Bridget Shergalis, and Paige Belanger. All four women have ties to Palestine Action US, as well as Chambers.

Palestine Action US spearheads attacks on Elbit, even publishing a since-deleted map of all Elbit facilities in the United States on its social media platforms. It also broadcasts messages to “shut down Elbit,” according to Manuele.

Walsh, a self-identified Communist and “anti-imperialist,” has a long history of protesting against Elbit. After a 2022 arrest at the Cambridge, Mass. Elbit facility, Walsh expressed her displeasure with police on social media.

“Cambridge pigs are still pigs. They serve to protect capital and empire,” Walsh wrote.

She also posted a message on social media calling Israelis “the scum of nations and pigs of the Earth.”

Walsh and Chambers appear in a photo together at the Cambridge protest which was shared by Palestine Action US, according to Manuele. Palestine Action US promoted the Merrimack incident with photos of Walsh, and it used the picture of a masked Walsh holding smoke bombs on top of the Elbit Systems building in later promotional images shared to social media.

Calla Walsh, Fergie Chambers and Paige Belanger protesting Elbit Systems on Oct. 30 2023 in Cambridge, Mass. (Via Instagram)

Chambers is a member of the Cox family, worth about $34 billion, according to reports. Chambers essentially negotiated an early inheritance with the family trust, allowing him to walk away with a reported $250 million which he used to start a Marxist commune in the Berkshires, as well as a “People’s Gym” in the Upper Valley. He also supports left-wing protests and funds bail for activists like Walsh.

Chambers denied being a Palestine Action US leader, though he’s often described as a co-founder.

“PAL Action is not now and never was an ‘org,’” Chambers wrote NHJournal. “It is a social media platform that shares news of direct actions people have taken against Elbit or other weapons companies. We’ve shared things in Cali, VA, TX, MA, NH, etc. If someone sends us [something], we share it. Bears zero connection to who did it.”

When it comes to Palestine Action USA, Chambers is just another member of the organization that isn’t an organization, he said. Chambers got attention in recent months for his outspoken opposition to Israel, America and capitalism, among others. 

“Israel does not deserve to exist,” Chambers told LA Magazine. “It is a false state propped up by the West.” 

Walsh is a political star in her own right. She gained fame as a 16-year-old activist who helped push Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) to victory in a primary race against Joseph Kennedy III. 

Walsh is also an avowed fan of Hamas and Iran’s repressive, authoritarian regime run by religious fundamentalists. She recently took to social media to lament the death of Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi because he did much to help overthrow the West through terror.

“Even if they don’t explicitly identify as communist, by dealing blow after blow to US imperialism, Iran, Hamas, Ansar Allah & the entire Axis of Resistance are doing far more to create the conditions for communism to be possible than literally any Western armchair communists,” Walsh wrote.

She also wrote last week that Iran, Russia, and China work together to help Hamas operate.

“Remember the full picture. The Palestinian resistance doesn’t take orders from Iran, but their capacity to resist would be much weaker w/o Iran’s support, and that support would be impossible w/o Iran’s close relations with China & Russia which allows Iran to bypass sanctions,” Walsh wrote. 

News that she and her comrades might be targets of the FBI can’t be welcoming to Walsh, but it’s not all bad news for her. The court order banning her from communicating with Ross and Shergalis was recently lifted. Walsh said she’s looking forward to hugs with friends.

Three Elbit Systems Vandalism Defendants Appear in Nashua Court

Two of the three protesters indicted in the anti-Israel vandalism at Elbit Systems in Merrimack last November signaled Thursday they won’t be cooperating with prosecutors. 

Left-wing activists Sophie Ross, Bridget Shergalis, and Calla Walsh were in Hillsborough Superior Court — South for arraignment on felony charges of riot, conspiracy to commit criminal mischief, burglary, and conspiracy to commit falsifying physical evidence for their roles in the November protest.

United at their arrests, the three women took different paths in court. Walsh, 19, did not speak, did not approach the defense table, and attorney Jeffrey Odland with the Manchester law firm of Wadleigh, Starr & Peters waived the reading of her charges in open court. 

Walsh was surrounded in court by family members and friends, while Ross, 22, and Shergalis, 27, were mostly on their own.

Ross and Shergalis are being represented by activist attorney Kira Kelley with Minneapolis-based Climate Defense Project, a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to “resistance efforts.”

“Kira (they/she) grew up in rural Vermont as a guest on unceded Abenaki lands, with a lot of strong opinions but minimal political analysis about social injustice,” according to the organization’s website.

 

Bridget Shergalis (right) and Sophie Ross with their attorney Kira Kelley (standing) in Hillsborough Superior court, February 29, 2024.

 

Kelley pushed back Thursday on an attempt by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office to prevent her from representing both clients in the same case. Prosecutors argued dual representation for the same crime creates a potential conflict of interest for the defense. 

But Kelley told Judge Tina Nadeau that prosecutors are more concerned with getting an edge on the defendants than protecting their constitutional rights to a vigorous defense. Dividing the two defendants would make it easier for the state to play them against each other, she argued.

“The main concern here, the state’s objective, is getting the co-defendants to testify against each other. My clients recognize it is in both of their best interests not to cooperate,” Kelley said.

But Judge Nadeau shared the state’s concern, especially given Ross and Shergalis are being advised to stay united by the same attorney. Not only does Kelley run the risk of being disciplined for violating ethical rules for her potential conflict of interest, but her dual representation could provide Ross and Shegalis an easy appeal on the grounds they had “ineffective assistance of counsel,” Nadeau said.

“I find it odd and curious that a lawyer would take the position you’re taking in this case. I want to be frank with you; I’m concerned,” Nadeau said.

Nadeau will appoint two attorneys for both Ross and Shergalis to impartially advise them about the case and determine if they wish to proceed with Kelley as their sole attorney.

Kelley is also representing two Dartmouth students charged with criminal trespass last October after they pitched a tent on campus and refused to leave. They were protesting Israel’s actions in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack.

All three defendants in the Elbit case are due back in court next month for a dispositional conference. The state has presented the three with plea agreements that could keep the cases from going to trial. Nadeau advised the women to seek an alternative to trial.

The case of a fourth suspect, Paige Blender, 32, is expected to end up in the Nashua court in the coming weeks. Belanger was arrested on a warrant last month, though she has yet to be indicted by a grand jury. Grand jury proceedings are secret, but Nadeau said in court she anticipates getting the case soon.

Walsh first came to prominence as a leader in the “MarkeyVerse,” a group of progressive teens who took to social media on behalf of Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey. 

She was also part of the Mapping Project, which published a map of Jewish businesses and people, including locations of Jewish daycares and schools. It has been denounced as antisemitic and dangerous. She was arrested last year during a protest at the Elbit Systems location in Cambridge, Mass., along with Ross.

Shergalis is a former child actress with credits on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon shows. 

Formella Takes Over Elbit Anti-Israel Vandalism Case

New Hampshire’s top cop is taking control of the case against anti-Israel protesters who targeted a Merrimack worksite, a sign of how important the case is to the state of New Hampshire and Gov. Chris Sununu’s administration.

State Attorney General John Formella told NHJournal he plans to make a tough case against the four pro-Palestinian demonstrators arrested for allegedly attacking the Israeli-owned Elbit Systems facility in Merrimack.

“We took these cases because of the important civil rights and public protection interests involved,” Formella said. “We will do everything we can to ensure that these cases are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and that justice is served.”

Prosecutors with the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office originally brought the charges against the suspects after they were arrested in November at the Elbit facility on Daniel Webster Highway.

Calla Walsh, 19, Bridget Shergalis, 27, and Sophie Ross, 22, were all arrested Nov. 20 when their protest turned violent, according to police. The three were charged with criminal trespass, riot, and sabotage.

“Officers discovered the front of the building had been sprayed with red paint, windows had been smashed, and at least one main lobby door had been locked shut via a bicycle anti-theft device,” Merrimack Police said in a statement following the incident.

Protesters also lit flares and took them to the roof, where more damage was later found.

A fourth suspect, Paige Belanger, 32, of Alford, Mass., was arrested last week.

The assault on the Merrimack facility was supported by the U.S. branch of Palestine Action, an anti-Israel organization that promotes antisemitic views. Six of its members were recently arrested when U.K. authorities foiled a plot targeting the London Stock Exchange.

Formella told NHJournal in December the Palestine Action organization could also face legal consequences for its role in the attack.

“Organizations and entities can be held responsible for the acts of their members. We saw that with NSC-131. We brought an action, not just against two members of NSC-131, but against the organization itself,” Formella said.

NSC-131 is a white supremacy group that hung a “Keep New England White” banner on a Portsmouth bridge last summer.

Palestine Action US says its mission is “dismantling Elbit Systems and the Zionist War Machine.”

Multi-millionaire Communist James “Fergie” Chambers is identified as a founder of Palestinian Action USA. He has paid bail for the women charged in the case. Chambers claims he is not a leader in the group, but he does participate in protests. He frequently posts bail for activists in a range of protest movements like Palestinian Action, Stop Cop City, and others.

“I’ve never said no to a bail help ask,” Chambers previously told NHJournal via text.

Chambers did not respond to a request for comment on Formella taking over the prosecution of the Elbit case.

Hate Crimes Talk Worries Communist Millionaire Funding Anti-Israel Protests

A key figure in the New Hampshire anti-Israel protest movement, multi-millionaire Communist James “Fergie” Chambers, says the new focus on hate crimes by federal and state law enforcement has him worried.

He acknowledged the topic is controversial but doesn’t believe the response is proportional.

“Yeah, this insane backlash equating us with Nazis, charging our friends with insane stuff for what amounts to vandalism….who knows at this point?” Chambers, who lives in the Granite State, told NHJournal via text.

But that wasn’t the only thing Chambers has typed up as of late. For example, the avowed opponent of the nation of Israel posted on Facebook last month, “Make Zionists afraid.”

According to an article in The Free Press, he has also written, “We need to start making people who support Israel actually afraid to go out in public. We need to make all of white America afraid that everything they have stolen is going to be burned to the ground. That’s what makes them listen.”

It is rhetoric like that, along with an increase in anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric, that has New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella beefing up the state’s Civil Rights Unit with an additional attorney and more support staff. Formella announced the move after activists with Palestinian Action USA struck the Elbit Systems facility in Merrimack last month. The three women arrested for the vandalism attack were all promptly bailed out by Chambers.

Elbit Systems USA is an Israeli-owned company best known for its work in weapons and aviation. However, the Merrimack facility also does work for the company’s medical instrumentation division.

Formella and Assistant Attorney General Sean Locke have both said they are looking at the Palestinian Action USA protestors for possible Civil Rights Act violations. And the organization itself, which is partially funded by Chambers, could be held accountable as well. 

The possibility he and his comrades could be charged with antisemitic harassment due to their anti-Zionist activism upsets Chambers.

“[Of course] the hate crime rhetoric is concerning, but I think any attorney worth a darn will tell you that weapons companies are not a protected group, lol,” Chambers wrote NHJournal. “In the end, it behooves a ‘Free State’ to back off of this kind of grandstanding. I really don’t believe that the people of New Hampshire are especially committed to Zionism, even if political lobbyists are.”

Though Chambers has maintained the protests against Elbit are focused on stopping a weapons manufacturer, he has not been shy about saying Israel has no right to exist.

“Israel does not deserve to exist,” Chambers told LA Magazine. “It is a false state propped up by the West.”

Chambers is a member of the Cox family, worth about $34 billion, according to reports. Chambers essentially negotiated an early inheritance with the family trust, allowing him to walk away with a reported $250 million. 

The fact the Coxes still own the company outright makes them the eighth richest family in America, with a net worth of around $34 billion.

Chambers has been using his fortune to spread the Gospel of Marx, setting up a commune in Massachusetts, a “People’s” gym in New Hampshire’s Upper Valley, and engaging in protests across the country. He is even footing the bill when fellow activists get arrested.

“I support a ton of bail funds for protestors and folks facing state repression,” Chambers said.

Despite being self-identified as a founding member of Palestinian Action USA, Chambers denied he is, technically, a founder or bankrolling the group or that he has a real leadership role within Palestinian Action USA at all. Chambers is just another activist, albeit one with more cash.

“PAL Action is not now and never was an ‘org,’” Chambers wrote NHJournal. “It is a social media platform that shares news of direct actions people have taken against Elbit or other weapons companies. We’ve shared things in Cali, VA, TX, MA, NH, etc. If someone sends us [something], we share it. Bears zero connection to who did it.”

When it comes to Palestinian Action USA, Chambers is just another member of the organization that isn’t an organization, he said.

“I [definitely] participated in the Cambridge [Mass.] action, and I spray painted a McDonald’s in D.C. Other actions I have zero say about. Pal Action UK provides training to people. I was a founding organizer because I did the first action in Cambridge, and I’ve helped with media thereafter. There is no staff, no budget, nothing. As in, there’s nothing to finance.”

When Palestinian Action USA protesters Sophie Marika Ross, 22, of Housatonic, Mass.; Cala Mairead Walsh, 19, of Cambridge, Mass.; and Bridget Irene Shergalis, 27, of Dayville, Conn., were charged with criminal trespass, riot, and sabotage for the Merrimack vandalism attack, Chambers ponied up $50,000 to get the three women released. 

“After the fact, I’ve paid bail funds because I do that all over the place,” Chambers wrote. “I’m about to grant a bunch of legal support for Alabama prisoners; I’ve supported the ‘Cop City’ bail and legal funds; I’ve done tons of support for pipeline funds, including when I was at Standing Rock. I’ve never said no to a bail help ask, as is my right as a funded with the 1st amendment.” 

‘Cop City’ is the name progressives, Black Lives Matter members, and Antifa activists have given the Atlanta Police Foundation’s training facility, currently under construction and under protest. Antifa and others have repeatedly attacked the construction site, engaged in riots, and gotten arrested by the score in an attempt to stop the facility’s construction.

Despite numerous stories naming him as a founder and funder for Palestinian Action USA, Chambers said his checkbook support for arrested activists does not mean he’s “bankrolling” the group, which, again, isn’t a group.

“So to say I ‘bankroll Pal Action’ is crazy. There’s literally nothing to bankroll. It’s a network of independent affinity groups, and the social media accounts have shared stuff, while Pal Action UK remains the founders and leaders,” Chambers wrote.

Despite his Marxist, distributiionist politics, Chambers said he moved to New Hampshire last year in part due to the Granite State’s low tax burden. He has plans for the properties he bought in Lebanon, though they are still being worked out.

“I’m not sure exactly what we’ll do with NH at the moment,” Chambers wrote. “We have an office space in Lebanon that was tentatively going to be a free gym and a place to do media and research work, and to offer free office space to local groups who might be in need.”