Posts Tagged Hancock Air Base

Protecting Humanity from US Drones

The April month of protest against US drone warfare and surveillance ended very strongly in Syracuse Sunday with a protest of hundreds of us at Hancock Air Force Base, where drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — are piloted over Pakistan, Afghanistan, and perhaps Yemen, Somalia and other countries.  Picture the starkness of the political clash:

  • On the empire’s side, the richest, strongest, most dangerously armed military in world history.  A worldwide network of perhaps 1,100 bases and hundreds of thousands of troops with the most sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, extending from space; networks of surveillance, secret operations, indefinite detention, with political cover of compliant politicians justifying more and more.  At Hancock, this power was expressed through police forces arrayed around us, photographing from every angle, threatening arrest and prison terms for stepping over an arbitrary line on the street.
  • On the side of humanity, in opposition to the war OF terror, a few hundred people, many with white hair, deploying the means of song, speech, costumes, music, symbolism, and appealing for justice, at pains to recycle and not harm the grass. The protesters carried the names and photographs of people actually killed by the drones, reading their names aloud, and symbolically dying on the street. Their weapons, the truth that the war on terror is illegitimately destroying whole countries and people.

The serious and dignified march of people wearing black, carrying mock coffins representing the countries attacked by the U.S. was staged to dramatize the gap between what the U.S. promises — “democracy” — and what it delivers: domination and destruction.  As a press release from the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and Stop the Wars said:

People who participated in the demonstration, including some who were arrested, came from all over the country to raise an outcry against the proliferation of drone strikes abroad, including countries with whom the US is not at war. Drone use violates the US Constitution, Article 6, and International Law, which the U.S. has signed on to. Demonstrators also object to the militarization of the police and the growing domestic use of drones.

For crossing the arbitrary police line in the street by the base, 31 people were arrested and charged mostly with Obstructing Government Administration, a Class A misdemeanor often used against protesters, which carries 12 months in jail, and with Disorderly Conduct, another catch-all anti-protest charge.  Almost all were given bail, up to $3500, and forced to sign “order of protection” which disallows them from returning to the base.  Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, shared the content of the order that protesters:

“refrain from assault, stalking, harassment, aggravated harassment, menacing, reckless endangerment, strangulation, criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, intimidation, threats or any criminal offense or interference with the victim or victims of, or designated witnesses to, the alleged offense and such members of the family or household of such victim(s) or witness(es) as shall be specifically named Greg Semmel.”

Greg Semmel is commander of Hancock AFB.

AS IF the Air Force needs the same type of protection from peaceful political protest that a battered woman needs from her abuser(!)

What does the US military and the government fear from political protest at the gates of the base, such that people engaged in non-violent speech and actions would be banned from being on the street near it?  Likely, they fear that thousands will come with the same message.  But nothing they do can make the US war on terror, with its drones and concentration camps, legitimate, just, or moral.

One way to support the protest is to contribute to the bail fund from wherever you are:

 The thirty-one arrestees were arraigned in De Witt Town Court before Judges Benack, Gideon, and Jokl, who imposed bails ranging from $500 – $3500, totaling $34,000. Some of the defendants were released with appearance tickets   Others are refusing to post bail and will be held in jail until the next court date of May 7th & 8th. Donations may be sent to the Syracuse Peace Council, with checks made out to Syracuse Peace Council, note: Upstate Drone Action Bail Fund.  2013 E. Genessee St., Syracuse, NY 13210.

 

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Who’s Blocking Drone Protest at Hancock AFB?

Hancock Drone Protesters33 people were grabbed by county sheriffs on April 22, a few blocks from the main gate of Hancock Air Force Base near Syracuse NY.  Faster than you can say “parading without a permit,” people at the front of a single file, silent march along a mostly deserted suburban road, were cuffed and stuffed into police cruisers.  Others were arrested standing near the gate of the base, where people do a protest vigil every two weeks, because pilots based at Hancock control drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) over the skies of Afghanistan, and perhaps over other countries in the region.

Given that we had just walked two miles in the Town of Dewitt, seeing people in only 3 yards, a total of 30 cars, and not one marked police car, one has to assume it wasn’t the good citizens of the town who were inconvenienced, annoyed, or even aware of the procession. Did the plan to stop our protest from arriving at the gate by arresting us before we got there come from the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department?  No, these arrests were ordered and planned at the federal level to preempt the delivery of a political message and to keep media from showing images of the group gathered by the gate.

If the operations out of Hancock are so legit, so clean, and clear of legal ambiguity; if they’re arousing no opposition, then why are the powers that be so afraid of 100 people gathering at the front gate to present some papers to any guard who would take them?  The ordinances used against this protest are probably unconstitutional curbs on free speech and assembly, and perhaps they’ll be challenged in court by those ticketed and released.

But, to the substance of our charge that the U.S. drone programs, and the wars that underlie them, are illegitimate, unjust and immoral, what is the government’s answer?  That we’re criminals for parading without a permit?  While the 82nd Airborne units who posed with Afghan body parts are an aberration, and therefore not criminals?  These lies are all they can come up with.  They have no answer to the indictment we attempted to deliver but brutality and suppression.

We know these drones kill civilians; we know some of those civilians’ names, and that some were children.  We know war crimes are being carried out in our name from inside the base, under the legal justification that the U.S. president can kill anyone, anywhere, because there is an limitless “war on terror.”

The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars did a similar action one year ago.  38 people stepped across a line to place themselves under arrest.  At trial, they mounted a a thorough case, detailing the ways in which the U.S. drone war violates international law, and of course they were still found guilty.  These actions, along with others at Creech AFB in Nevada, and recently at Whiteman AFB in Missouri, are bringing attention to the illegitimacy of the growing US deployment of drones to spread terror among the populations of whole countries.

Drone Model

Nick Mottern of "kNOw drones" with one of the model drones we hope to bring to the streets of Chicago in protest when NATO meets

Despite a President who orders their use, despite the hundreds of people keeping each drone aloft doing their”jobs,” we refuse to accept the horrors we are protesting.  Seeing the government, at several levels, take such clear action to suppress our protest makes our point more strongly.  The activists who have been bringing this message for years to Hancock, some of whom have been determined political opponents of U.S. crimes for decades; the Veterans for Peace, the crew of Occupiers from Buffalo, peace activists and students are informed and passionate, and they won’t stop.

Participating in the action at Hancock made me more certain that bringing visible street protest in Chicago when NATO meets May 20/21 — and in the week leading up to the meeting — is essential.  The international press will be there.  Afghan President Karzai will be there, along with the leaders of the best-armed countries of the world’s strongest military alliance, currently occupying the world’s poorest country.

Humanity and the planet come first – Stop the crimes of your government.  Join us in Chicago.

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