Weekly Bulletin #17; May 31, 2014
By Nick Mottern
Don't forget: Weekly open conference call for activists every Wednesday, 9 pm EST
(605) 562-3000, Access code - 484539#
This will be the last weekly conference call of Spring Days of Action - 2014.
WEST POINT, NY
Photo by Nick Mottern. Joann Robinson and Bennett Weiss, the first protesters to arrive at the May 28, 2014 West Point drone protest, greeting the lines of cars entering the base at 6:15 am for graduation ceremonies.
On Wednesday, May 28, about 25 protesters mounted a sunrise anti-drone war witness at the two gates to West Point where family and friends of cadets were entering by the thousands for graduation ceremonies and to hear President Barack Obama’s commencement address.
For the protesters, it was a remarkable experience of standing next to roadways jammed with hundreds of cars, vans and pick-ups from across the United States - bumper to bumper, creeping along at a pace too slow to be registered on their speedometers. Most vehicles held three or four people who could not avoid seeing our signs, large-scale color photos children killed by drones and the steel gray MQ-9 Reaper drone replicas with their signs that said: “Army – Refuse to Fly Drones.”
It was a very raw moment along the road, accentuated by the grayness of the overcast, misting morning, as we injected evidence of the reality of war and death into an event that is intended to be an unalloyed celebration, lofting newly trained young warriors on a cloud of pride, nobility, patriotism and glorification of war into a future of unbounded personal and national triumph.
Photo by Len Tsou. Anti-drone war protesters who joined Joann Robinson and Bennett Weiss at West Point’s Stoney Lonesome gate on May 28, 2014.
Indeed, several people riding into the Stoney Lonesome Gate, where I was stationed, shouted out at us words to the effect: “How can do this at graduation? How can you dare to spoil our day?”
For many going into graduation, and for us too, it was a somber day, not only because the specter of a black body bag is conferred with each West Point diploma, but because of the depth of the lie to which the graduates and their families are committing their lives.
I had a feeling that quite a number of people going in were uneasy with the notion that the United States Army, their daughters and sons, will be involved in endless war. There was an atmosphere of skepticism, it seemed to me. Undoubtedly, in not a few cars, there was a suspicion or certainty that the beloved graduates might going into harm’s way, not for the sake of “freedom”, but to ensure that Western corporations have profitable access to oil and other precious resources.
I speak of skepticism, because compared to other protests at West Point graduations we received a surprising number of thumbs up and peace signs and a surprising lack of negative response.
One African-American man said to me quietly as he passed with his van window rolled down: “I secretly support you. I can’t talk about it with my friends though.” I think he was speaking about disliking drone attacks, but it was also a day when drone protest was the symbol for war protest.
There were several people who shouted at us that we would not be able to protest in Russia or in poorer countries where they are dictatorships.
The most common response we got was to be photographed with cell phones and cameras.
And there were those, a significant number, who kept their car windows rolled up tightly and stared straight ahead, shunning us as obviously as possible.
Richie Marini, of World Can’t Wait, who protested at the Thayer Gate, the other graduation entrance, observed:
“Just find it strange that it appears, from various expressions, that the military members (and families) see themselves as abstracted from what the military does as the strong arm of the U.S. Empire. I mean they're literally pulling the triggers -- but there is still this lingering sense that they themselves are unable to effect change if they resist. The "it's just a job" thing -- it's frightening. As for the others who truly believe the military is doing good -- well that's a whole other kind of scary.”
Photo by Len Tsou. Anti-drone war protesters along the entrance road to West Point’s Thayer Gate on May 28, 2014.
After watching the occupants of the cars for two hours, I concluded that most of the people we saw are sick of war and would be happy and grateful if the West Point graduating class never had to experience it.
Photo by Len Tsou. Protesters gather for a group picture along the entrance to West Point’s Thayer Gate at the close of the May 28th demonstration.
By about 8:30, all of the graduation guests had entered the base, and all of the protesters gathered in downtown Highland Falls, NY, home of West Point. About half our number had come up from New York City, thanks to organizing by Debra Sweet, Director of World Can’t Wait.
After we had a group picture taken, some of us went to a deli near the Thayer Gate to talk about the day. Our conversation moved quickly into a discussion about the daunting challenge of causing the federal government to do virtually anything in the public interest because of it is largely under corporate control.
Pointing up the reality of the situation, Debra, who was monitoring President Obama's commencement address, announced that the President is going to ask for more money to fight “terrorism”.
The president also made it clear that he will continue drone attacks.
Note: I spoke above of the message on the Reaper drone replicas: “Army: Refuse to Fly Drones.”
Photo by Chuck Bell.
The Army has been using relatively small drone, like the Raven and the Shadow, for several years.
However, the Army is beginning to use larger-scale hunter-killer drones, buying 152 MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones, a deadlier version of the Predator, deploying 12 to each of its 10 active-duty divisions, with the remainder for special operations forces, training and other uses. The Army is now operating at least 8 Gray Eagle drones in Afghanistan. http://www.army.mil/article/95785/Divisions_will_get_9_Gray_Eagles_to_train__but_deploy_with_12/
Here are photos and press coverage of the West Point protest:
And we had the last word in the report of the Obama speech in the Journal News, a regional Gannett newspaper.
NEW PALTZ, NY
Photo by Barbara Kidney. Participants in the memorial demonstration for drone victims in New Paltz, NY on May 24, 2014.
On Sunday, May 25, Drone Alert - Hudson Valley http://dronealerthv.wordpress.com/ commemorated Memorial Day weekend by conducting a memorial service for victims of US drone strikes in New Paltz, NY.
Barbara Kidney, of Drone Alert, reported that the event began with a procession of about eight people walking from The event started in the afternoon, with a procession starting at New Paltz’ Peace Park in New Paltz and moving along a very busy Main Street to the sound of a struck Tibetan singing bowl and ending in front of Elting Library.
The marchers carried a sign saying “Drone Victims Memorial” and handed out all of the 50 flyers they had printed to explain what they were doing. Barbara said that 99 per cent of the people were “receptive, got applause and thumbs up.”
At the library, they marchers held a people’s microphone reading of the second and third sentences of the Declaration of Independence, which, Barbara said was “eerily timely!” They also sang songs including “Blowing in the Wind”. Schulyer Kempton sang, accompanying himself on the guitar; others performed on records and oud, a traditional Middle Eastern stringed instrument (ancestor of the lute).
For about an hour, Andrew Dalton read names of drone strike victims while Barbara wrote them on large sheets of paper. As names were recited, the group chanted, "We honor your memory. We call for justice." A gong was sounded when children's names were read.
“We read/wrote three pages of names from the World Can’t Wait printout (see below), Barbara said, “to make two scrolls, when we were out of scheduled time and coincidentally when a fellow came to mow the lawn of the library where we were situated.”
Barbara notes that the names were written on newsprint with a calligraphy marker and the newspaper was rolled up with the names on the outside and tied with a black ribbon. She offers these details should anyone want to do this action and have an interest in these details.
Barbara also reports:
“While setting up we helpfully answered tourist questions spontaneously posed to us- ‘Where's the college?’ ‘Where can I get a frozen margarita?’ I kid you not, and we all put heads together to give that query our best earnest consideration. Trust you'll put that in the Bulletin, Nick, and for a reasonable fee we'll share our response- hey, a fundraiser!”
The event was supported by the New Paltz Climate Action Coalition, based on outreach in April related to Earth Day.
Here is the link for the list of drone victims’ names:
Here is the link for photos/posters of drone victims:
Here is a report of this week’s organizers’ conference call by Daniel Riehl of Lancaster, PA (Thanks for Daniel for doing the report):
“Darren Wolfe reported that he would be present at the Horsham, PA vigil on Saturday May 31 and possibly bring a friend. We hope to meet and become acquainted there. (Darren will report on protest of the planned drone base at Horsham on http://theinternationallibertarian.blogspot.com/)
“Joan Nickelson reported on activities at the Kendall-Crosslands retirement community. She has shown the films "Dirty Wars" and "Unmanned" on previous occasions. On Tuesday evening, May 27, she showed "Wounds of Waziristan" which was then followed by a talk by Peter Lems of the AFSC. One of the points he made was that the Authorization to Utilize Military Force bill which was passed after 9/11 has been used to allow the president to bypass Congress for military actions (wars) which he deems necessary and is also allows him to use weaponized drones in countries we are not at war with. Recently a bill to rescind the AUMF was narrowly defeated in the U.S. House of Representatives. Following Peter Lems, Daniel Riehl and Harold Penner gave short reports on their activities in Lancaster, PA to get Mennonite churches involved in taking actions against the use of weaponized drones and particularly to protest the proposed new weaponized drone command center at Horsham, PA. Harold read the statement of David Hartsough who was sentenced to 10 days of community service for trespassing at gate of Beale Air Force Base in Marysville, CA.
“Joan seeks a ride from her area, Kennett Square, PA to Horsham on the last Saturday of each month. A suggestion was made of a person who currently is abroad from Wilmington, DE who plans to attend the Horsham events and might be able to take Joan along. Daniel Riehl will contact him.”
In addition, Barbara Kidney reports that Drone Alert Hudson Valley will hold a mini-counter-drone rally at the Rondout landing in Kingston, NY on June 7 or 8, depending on the weather, at the Beacon Sloop Club Strawberry Festival on June 15, Fathers Day.
David Sladky, from St. Louis, MO, reported that on May 26 he marched in the Memorial Day Parade in Columbia, MO with the local Veterans for Peace Chapter and then displayed his Reaper drone replica at the annual Columbia peace picnic, attended by about 50 activists. He will be attending the “Trifecta Resista” (see below).
Kansas City, MO
May 30 – June 1 – Trifecta Resista – As follows:
Fri., May 30, 4-9 pm: Kickoff of weekend at DeLaSalle Education Center 3737 Troost, Kansas City, MO, 64109, with nonviolence training, supper, input on Trifecta sites, and small-group sharing.
Sat., May 31: Demonstrations at Fort Leavenworth (at 10 a.m.—Chelsea is now serving a 35-year sentence there) and Bannister Federal Complex (at 3 pm), and meals and gatherings at DeLaSalle. At 7 pm, talks by Kathy Kelly, Brian Terrell, Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright and others.
Sun., June 1: Early breakfast, then departure from DeLaSalle at about 11 a.m., a gathering at Knob Noster State Park at 1 pm, and demonstration at nearby Whiteman AFB at 2 pm. See http://www.trifectaresista.org
Chicago, IL – Battle Creek, MI
June 3 – 14 – “On the Road to Ground the Drones” walk from Boeing headquarters in Chicago along Lake Michigan’s south shore and through Michigan to Battle Creek, proposed site of a new drone command center, 165 miles, organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence. For more information: http://vcnv.org/on-the-road-to-ground-the-drones
Today’s weekly bulletin marks the formal end of Spring Days of Action – 2014, a campaign that generated at least 100 courageous and imaginative counter-drone actions and programs across the United States.
My experience of the campaign was tremendously inspiring, meeting people inside and outside the anti-drone war movement that I had not known before and experiencing an increased sense of solidarity and purpose within that movement.
But rather than summarize things that I think were achieved, I would like to ask you to consider the questions below and that you send me your thoughts, including your ideas on the next steps we should be taking to stop drone attacks and drone surveillance.
Please send your responses by SATURDAY, JUNE 14, and I will publish them the following week.
As you will see, some of the questions speak of effectiveness and success, and these are worthwhile considerations. However, Malachy Kilbride, commenting on the May 3, 2014 protest at the NSA by members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, offered this perspective on “effectiveness” and “success” that is, in my opinion, crucial:
“It is so important for each one of us to listen to our conscience and to follow what we are being called to do in confronting those in positions of power who use the violence of empire to kill, maim, and to occupy the lands of the poor and oppressed. We must not worry about notions of success and effectiveness as defined by our society but to act on the truth that all people are equal and deserve to live without fear of violence and oppression. We must actively resist the empire's wars and oppression with nonviolence as the most powerful tool to bring about liberation and justice for all.”
Here are the questions. Please answer any or all as you are led.
1. Do you think events you scheduled were effective in educating people on drone warfare and militarization? What made the events successful, and how do you measure that?
2. What do you think we can do to make our campaign more successful?
3. Is there a way we can expand our campaign into the Deep South and to build it in key areas like Dayton, Ohio, a center of drone activity where organizing is difficult?
4. A “Global Action Day Against the Use of Drones for Surveillance and Killing” is being planned for Oct. 4. Oct. 4 – 7, the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space is organizing the “International Week of Protest to Stop the Militarization of Space”.
Will you organize events for Oct. 4 and for the week of Oct. 4 -7?
5. Would it be helpful to publish a monthly bulletin for organizers, similar to the weekly bulletin, and have a monthly organizers’ conference call? If so, what would be the most useful features of such a bulletin?
6. The Honeywell Boycott/Divest (HBD) will be launched in June, with educational materials for organizers. Would you be willing to do HBD coffee hours, leafleting at retailers and other outreach?
7. What do you think of the idea of making a concerted effort to call on drone pilots and sensor operators to refuse to fly missions?
8. Please add any other comments.
Thank you again for all the thought, determination and work you have poured into the Spring Days of Action – 2014.