- "A spokesman for Governor Pryce said the trouble started when insurgents destroyed mining equipment and attacked Imperial surveyors, requiring law-enforcement action to restore order. Governor Pryce's spokesman emphasized that the incident was an isolated distrubance and has been contained."
- ―Alton Kastle's distorted HoloNet report of the massacre in the Westhills
In 6 BBY,[source?] Imperial forces on Lothal under the command of Lieutenant Piers Roddance massacred a gathering of peaceful demonstrators in the Westhills near Capital City. These demonstrators were displaced farm workers whose land and crops had been polluted by a chemical used for breaking up rock. The Empire had condemned their farm a week before and ordered the workers to move.
However, the workers had refused to move and lodged a complaint with Governor Arihnda Pryce but had received no response. These workers also had other grievances including the extensive dust and water pollution that was destroying their livelihoods. Several farmers and workers illegally occupied an abandoned field and awaited for the arrival of an Imperial representative to hear their petition. These protesters were led by a bearded farmer, who insisted on non-violence but wanted the Empire to hear their grievances. The protesters were visited by an armed Imperial Military contingent led by Lieutenant Roddance who demanded that they disperse. When the protesters staged a sit-in, Roddance ordered his troops to open fire and forcibly disperse the protesters. As a result, several of them were killed.
That evening, the Imperial broadcaster Alton Kastle falsely reported that the protesters were "insurgents" who had destroyed Imperial mining equipment and surveyors; provoking a harsh response by the authorities. While several Imperial citizens like Leo and his wife Tepha Leonis believed the official Imperial account, others like Zare Leonis and his friend Beck Ollet, who had witnessed the incident, knew the truth. The Westhills massacre had the effect of turning Zare and Beck against the Empire. Later that year, Beck joined a three-member rebel cell while Zare decided to infiltrate the Academy for Young Imperials in order to find his missing sister Dhara Leonis and to work against the Empire from within.
- "Now listen, please. Treat this representative with respect. No violence and no angry words. We've drawn up a list of people who will make statements in order, and we're going to stick to that list. We are Imperial citizens—we need to act like it, not like some rabble."
- ―Bearded farmer leading the protest
Following the end of the Clone Wars, the Galactic Empire occupied the Outer Rim world of Lothal. They wanted to exploit the planet's rich mineral wealth and to establish a new hyperspace route. While agriculture had been the main industry on Lothal prior to the Imperial occupation, the expansion of Imperial mining operations had caused extensive pollution and many families to lose their lands and livelihoods. Dust and water pollution on Lothal had deteriorated to the extent that farmers were unable to work their fields. Unable to pay their rent, many farmers saw their farms being seized and sold to the Empire. Due to the loss of their land and livelihood, many people had been forced to seek shelter in displaced camps. Some even lodged a complaint with Governor Arihnda Pryce but received no response.
In the Westhills, a group of farmers and workers were ordered to evacuate their farm after their jogan fruit orchards was contaminated by a chemical that had been used by the Empire to break up rocks. As a result, the Imperial authorities had condemned the farm the previous week and ordered the workers to move. However, the farm workers refused to move and occupied an empty field nearby for a week; establishing tents, modular housing, and makeshift shacks. They were led by a bearded farmer who wanted to submit a list of grievances to an Imperial representative, who had been sent by Governor Pryce to hear their grievances. The bearded farmer instructed his followers to treat the representative with respect and not to use violence, stressing that they were Imperial citizens and not rabble.
- "Our gathering is no threat to anyone. By Imperial law we have the right to petition the governor. If you won't bring our complaint to her, we will do so ourselves."
"I am the law here. Your complaint is denied. Disperse at once."
- ―A heated exchange between a bearded farmer and Lieutenant Roddance
While visiting the Westhills one evening, Beck Ollet and his friend Zare Leonis, a recent migrant, stumbled on the gathering. Beck was taking Zare on a tour of Lothal's Westhills in order to show him what the Empire was actually doing to the planet. While the bearded farmer was addressing the farmers, several Imperial transports, AT-DP walkers, and stormtroopers arrived at the encampment. They were led by Lieutenant Piers Roddance, an Imperial Military officer whom Leonis was acquainted with. Leonis wanted to show the farmers some support but Beck held him back.
The bearded farmer then approached Roddance with a loudhailer in an attempt to deliver his petition, recognizing him as the Imperial representative. However, Roddance raise his hand to stop it and then raised a comlink to his lips. The comlink was linked to a set of speakers on an Imperial Troop Transport. On behalf of Governor Pryce, Roddance denounced the rally as an illegal assembly and ordered the farmers to disperse. The bearded farmer stood his ground and asserted that the gathering was not a threat to anyone. He reiterated that Imperial law allowed the farmers to petition the governor and warned Roddance that they would bring the complaint before her if he refused to address their grievances.
Roddance brushed aside the bearded farmer's demands and reiterated his command that the farmers disperse. Unable to reason with Lieutenant Roddance, the farmers and workers staged a sit-in protest. In response, Roddance signaled for the stormtroopers to wade into the crow and drag the protesters by their arms. Three stormtroopers also pushed the farmers' leader to the ground. Before Zare could protest the excessive use of force, the stormtroopers began firing stun bolts into the crowd. Sensing trouble, Beck and Zare quickly left, but not before hearing the stormtroopers unleash live ammunition on the protesters. The two youths then returned to Capital City on Beck's unlicensed jumpspeeders.
- "The farmers were waiting for an Imperial representative to come talk to them. But when he did, he told them to disperse—that their assembly was illegal. And then the stormtroopers started to beat people. And to stun them. And finally they shot to kill. Do you remember that, Beck?"
"Yes. We took my family's jumpseeders—the unregistered ones that couldn't be tracked. I remember. The difference is now I understand what I didn't then. Those people didn't know it, but they were being used by the Empire's enemies—greedy, secretive organizations that want to return the galaxy to corruption and disorder. It's hard, but the Empire has to deny those enemies the use of their tools—by whatever means necessary. If the contagion of separatism ever gets loose again it will infect the entire galaxy, not just one world."
- ―A heated exchange between Zare and a brainwashed Beck on the Westhills massacre
The Imperial authorities covered up the massacre in the Westhills by claiming that the protesting farmers were insurgents who had provoked trouble by destroying mining equipment and attacked Imperial surveyors, justifying the tough law-enforcement action by Lieutenant Roddance. Governor Pryce's spokesman also emphasized that the Westhills incident was an isolated disturbance that had been contained. This falsified report was delivered by Alton Kastle, a holocaster who worked for the Imperial channel HoloNet News. While most Imperial citizens including Zare's parents Leo and Tepha Leonis accepted the official Imperial account, Zare and Beck knew that the truth was different: the Empire had massacred Imperial citizens who had been protesting peacefully.
The Westhills massacre hardened Beck and Zare's feelings against the Empire. Beck needed little encouragement since he had always resented his family's decision to sell their farm in the Westhills to the Empire. While Zare had been nominally loyal to the Empire, the Imperial handling of the Westhills incident made him question the "benevolence" of the Empire. He also developed a deep dislike of Lieutenant Roddance, who had instigated the massacre. During the summer season, Beck joined a three-member insurgent cell that sabotaged Imperial mining operations in the Westhills. Following a skirmish, Beck and his comrades were captured by the Imperial authorities who had been able to track down his landspeeder.
Following his capture, Beck was subsequently enrolled in Project Unity, an experimental re-education program which involved extensive drugging and brainwashing. Due to his brainwashing, Beck rationalized the massacre at the Westhills by claiming that the farmers had been manipulated into staging the protest by the Empire's enemies, which he described as "greedy, secretive organizations" who wanted to return the galaxy to corruption and disorder. In Beck's view, the Empire had to kill the farmers in order to deny those enemies the use of "these tools" by any means necessary.
Following the Westhills massacre, Zare's girlfriend Merei Spanjaf managed to hack into the Imperial data network on Lothal and discovered several classified files relating to the massacre in the Westhills. These documents included bland accounts of the "pacification", requests that fake departure orders be created to cover up the deaths of protesters, and orders to monitor the spouses and children of protesters. These harsh security measures were authorized by Governor Pryce. This revelation reinforced Merei's suspicions of the Empire and played a role in influencing her decision to go into hiding.
- Servants of the Empire: Edge of the Galaxy (First appearance)
- Servants of the Empire: Rebel in the Ranks (Mentioned only)
- Servants of the Empire: Imperial Justice (Mentioned only)
- Servants of the Empire: The Secret Academy (Mentioned only)