Students: Military contractor shouldn’t be part of MLK event

Some student groups at one of Georgia’s largest universities say an executive of a defense contractor should not be speaking at Thursday’s school-sponsored Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon.

The Kennesaw State University students say his involvement goes against the civil rights leader’s anti-war legacy and his message of nonviolence.

The school’s MLK Legacy Luncheon speaker will be Roderick McLean, a vice president at Lockheed Martin, the university said in its announcement. McLean oversees aircraft production at Lockheed-Martin’s suburban Atlanta facility, one of Georgia’s largest employers.

“Given last week’s rise in stock prices of companies which profit from war after the U.S. assassination of the top Iranian general, the involvement of such a company as Lockheed Martin during MLK Week is deeply concerning,” KSUnited and other student groups said in a statement also signed by local civil rights leaders.

“KSU’s decision to give them representation at this event sends a message that they ignore the current US war efforts in Iran and Lockheed Martin’s previous involvement in profiteering from suffering,” it said.

The students say they’re organizing an alternative event Thursday to honor King’s legacy of peace.

University officials could not immediately be reached Thursday. But in its announcement, the school said the luncheon begins a series of events to honor the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday “and celebrate his legacy and impact of the Civil Rights Movement.”

But KSUnited and local civil rights leaders says choosing the Lockheed Martin executive, who is an African-American engineer, “shows KSU’s direct support of war.”

Kennesaw State is Georgia’s third-largest university, with nearly 38,000 students on two campuses northwest of Atlanta.