TAKING DRONE WAR PROTEST TO THE STATE LEVEL

Focus of new drone war protest - Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. Credit –Wolf website.

Focus of new drone war protest - Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. Credit –Wolf website.

On Saturday, March 29, 2019, Bob Smith, staff organizer and co-founder of the Brandywine Peace Community, announced that Brandywine will begin organizing drone war protests at the office of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf because Wolf has responsibility, along with federal officials, for U.S. drone attacks that are being controlled from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard base in Horsham, PA.

The Brandywine initiative is historic in U.S. anti-drone war organizing because it pins responsibility for U.S. drone attacks on state as well as federal officials.

Smith announced the new step in the focus of Brandywine and other area groups at the first of the monthly Horsham anti-drone war vigils of 2019, the latest in the series of vigils that have been held outside the gate of the base since 2013. 

The Brandywine announcement says, in part:

“Now, after seven years of sustained protest, we need to bring pressure to bear on the person who, as civilian commander of the PA Air National Guard, can do something to stop this high-tech computerized madness. That person is Gov. Tom Wolf.”

(The full Brandywine statement is in Attachment A, below.)

Air Guard Key to U.S. Drone War

At this moment, 12 of the 28 killer drone control and training centers inside the U.S. are operated by Air National Guard units in these states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Iowa, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin.   (A full list of these bases is in Attachment B, below.)

No Escaping State Responsibility

Governor Wolf and Pennsylvania state legislators and Air National Guard officials may argue that the state’s Air National Guard has been federalized, relieving them of responsibility for drone war crimes, referring to the state constitution:

§ 7.  Military power.

The Governor shall be commander-in-chief of the military forces of the Commonwealth, except when they shall be called into actual service of the United States. (May 16, 1967, P.L.1044, J.R.4)

However, the state constitution also requires officials to defend the inherent rights of "all people", which would include people under surveillance and attack by killer drones, wherever they are.  Furthermore, governor and others with oversight responsibilities for the Air National Guard have duties under the Nuremberg Principles, along with all citizens, to act to prevent the Air National Guard from participating in war crimes, regardless of the behavior of federal officials.

And the governor has responsibility for the physical, emotional and moral well-being of members of the Air National Guard who are at substantial risk of stress, PTSD and moral injury due to drone operations.

Note: With respect to international law and drone war crimes, the next edition of the Drone Organizers Bulletin will report on a decision by a German court in March, 2019 that can give organizers very important arguments in addressing their state officials about U.S. drone war.


Attachment A

BAN PA DRONE WAR OPERATIONS

The public outcry in Horsham, PA, continues to make a moral statement against the madness of drone warfare, and the drone war remote command operation at the Horsham PA Air Guard Station. Now, after seven years of sustained protest, we need to bring pressure to bear on the person who, as civilian commander of the PA Air National Guard, can do something to stop this high-tech computerized madness. That person is Gov. Tom Wolf.

We protest at the Horsham Air Guard Station, where a drone war command center became operational in 2016. We protest because remote-controlled killing continues and must stop. We continue an appeal to drone war ‘“pilots” (computer operators) to walk away from the killing and take their hands off the killing sticks of the U.S. war-making empire.

We cannot and will not forget the United States is conducting a policy of daily killing by increasing the use of drone warfare, unchecked by U.S. media. We, citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, bring the power of conscience to bear on our governor. We appeal to him to stop our state’s participation in killing by drone warfare through the PA Air National Guard.

Due to decades of increasing war, virtually all funding for the Guard is provided by the federal government’s military budget, with unelected military chiefs making decisions about the use of the Guard and Air National Guard. However, our governor is the civilian head of these PA forces, and he was elected to represent and serve the people of Pennsylvania. So, we citizens of the Commonwealth bring our appeal for justice and sanity to our governor.

Our appeal is that the PA Air National Guard be removed and banned from all participation in U.S. drone war policy, domestically and/or around the world. This appeal includes but is not limited to the drone war remote command operation at Horsham Air Guard Station, and to training of drone war computer pilots (operators), and stationing of drones for training at Fort Indian Town Gap headquarters of the PA National Guard and PA Air National Guard. The killing must stop. Let it begin here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, called by its founder, William Penn, “a divine experiment.”

We will bring this appeal to bear on Gov. Tom Wolf, head of the PA Guard and Reserves and PA Air National Guard, through petition, public awareness, protest demonstrations, and nonviolent means that stress the unconstrained nature and consequences of drone warfare, our Commonwealth’s participation, and the supreme right of citizens to say: NO MORE!  STOP IT.

There is simply too much need for care for people and communities in the Commonwealth to waste our state’s resources in this future of violence and death that is drone warfare and the perpetuation of endless war, now estimated to have killed 240,000 civilians and cost $5.9 trillion.

“Choose life,” says the Book of Deuteronomy, “so that you and your children may live.”

Call Gov. Tom Wolf, 717-787-2500.

Brandywine Peace Community

P.O. Box 29674, Philadelphia, PA 19144

484-574-1148   brandywine@juno.com

www.brandywinepeace.com




Attachment B

US DRONE BASES – January, 2019

Armed drone control and or training.

Northeast

  • Hancock Air National Guard Base – Syracuse, NY #

  • Niagara Falls Air National Guard Base – Niagara Falls, NY

  • Fort Drum (Army training with Grey Eagle drone), Watertown, NY

  • Horsham Air National Guard Base – Horsham, PA

  • Fort Indiantown Gap (Army National Guard trains with RQ-9 Shadow drones, which may be armed.  The base has drawn attention of local anti-drone organizers but no protests to date.), Harrisburg, PA

South

  • Langley AFB – Hampton, VA

  • Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Fort Smith, AR

  • Berry Field Air National Guard Base, Nashville, TN

  • Hurlburt Field AFB, Mary Esther, FL (may receive drone unit from Cannon AFB)

  • Tyndall AFB, Panama City, FL*

  • Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, Houston, TX

  • Randolph AFB (Training), Universal City, TX

  • Fort Bragg (Army training with Grey Eagle drone), Fayetteville, NC*

  • Shaw AFB, Sumter, SC*

Midwest

  • Springfield Air National Guard Base, Springfield, OH

  • Whiteman AFB, Knob Noster, MO

  • Iowa Air National Guard Base, Des Moines, IA

  • Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, Battle Creek, MI

  • Volk Field (Army National Guard training with RQ-7 Shadow surveillance drones, which may be armed. Protests have occurred here).

Northern Plains

  • Hector International Airport (Air National Guard), Fargo, ND

  • Ellsworth AFB, Rapid City, SD

West

  • USAF Flight Training School, Pueblo, CO

  • Fort Carson (Army Grey Eagle training), Colorado Springs, CO *

  • Cannon AFB, Clovis, NM (unit may move to Tyndall AFB)

  • Holloman AFB (Training), Alamogordo, NM #

  • Creech AFB, Las Vegas, NV #

  • March Air Reserve Base, Riverside/Moreno Valley/Perris, CA – Air National Guard drone unit.

  • Beale, AFB (drone targeting), Marysville, CA

  • Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ – Air National Guard drone unit.

*New bases

# Base expansion

https://www.npr.org/2015/07/22/422941968/national-guard-seeks-more-drones-for-domestic-missions

https://www.nwfdailynews.com/news/20180530/drone-squadron-coming-to-hurlburt

http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/14239/obscure-national-guard-spy-plane-assesses-hurricane-harveys-aftermath

https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/local-military/new-leader-takes-over-critical-springfield-base-missions/3o1ibhS1RhO8FG0tTpltqK/

https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/local/springfield-guard-unit-need-more-drone-pilots/MhSyrsogURnkivi3U8PA7M/

https://www.springfieldnewssun.com/news/local-military/air-force-looks-double-number-drone-pilots/DipjtR0eHhAKbinW6l4F5K/

https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/politics/2016/04/19/air-force-recognize-whiteman-drone-pilots-attack-squadron/83194968/

https://www.military.com/defensetech/2017/02/28/air-force-retire-iconic-predator-drone

https://news.usni.org/2018/06/07/34175

https://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2016/10/battle_creek_air_guard_prepare.html

https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/farnborough/2018/07/17/netherlands-signs-deal-for-unarmed-mq-9-reaper-drones/

http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20170804/fort-bragg-promises-watchful-eye-over-new-unmanned-aerial-vehicle-ahead-of-first-flight

https://www.upi.com/Defense-News/2018/08/24/General-Atomics-receives-contract-for-MQ-9-drones-for-France/1611535126240/

https://www.grandforksherald.com/news/4306225-nd-air-national-guard-dont-fear-reaper

https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/803564/ellsworth-unit-executes-first-ever-mq-9-participation-in-af-virtual-exercise/

https://www.ellsworth.af.mil/units/

https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2016/10/21/meet-the-air-force-s-first-enlisted-drone-pilots/

https://gazette.com/military/fort-carson-s-new-game-changing-drones-can-strike-targets/article_fb7fd4be-840b-5e4a-b07b-5ba1756748bc.html

https://www.thestate.com/news/local/military/article194056194.html

https://www.alamogordonews.com/story/news/local/community/2017/05/02/mq-9-reaper-crashes-near-holloman/101213730/

https://arizonadailyindependent.com/2017/01/16/tucson-passed-up-for-mq9-reaper-group/

https://www.163atkw.ang.af.mil/

https://fireaviation.com/2018/08/14/national-guard-uses-mq-9-reaper-drone-to-improve-firefighters-situational-awareness/

https://www.pe.com/2017/11/23/march-air-reserve-base-could-get-more-room-for-mq-9-reaper-training/

https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/watertown/news/2017/04/13/fort-drum-asking-to-expand-gray-eagle-uav-training-areas

https://www.volkfield.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/459073/first-uav-flight-at-volk-field-successful/

https://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/04/drone_crash_fort_indiantown_ga.html

https://tucson.com/business/tucson/davis-monthan-passed-over-for-new-f--drone-units/article_fd9a9940-06e5-5c1a-afd5-218a3ff74315.html

Compiled from government and press reports by Nick Mottern, Knowdrones.com

15 ARRESTED IN U.N. YEMEN PROTEST

On December 11, 2017, 15 people were arrested for blocking the entrance to the U.S. mission to the U.N. in protest of the U.S. support for the Saudi aerial bombardment of the people of Yemen, people who were pummeled with U.S. drone and cruise missile attacks for years prior to the current Saudi assault.

Related protests were the same day in Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; and Washington, DC.

Here is a press release issued at the New York event, followed by commentaries on the action by Felton Davis, an organizer of the event and Catholic Worker, and the Granny Peace Brigade. 

MEDIA RELEASE for immediate release Mon., Dec. 11, 2017
Contact: Isaac Evans-Frantz, Action Corps NYC, actioncorps.nyc@gmail.com cell: (347) 756-1896
#LetYemenLive Emergency Protests Break Out Across US

Monday the NYPD arrested 15 people for blocking entry to the US Mission to the United Nations, while others protested at the Saudi mission, the Saudi office in Los Angeles, and at the Hart Senate Offices in DC, all under the #LetYemenLive protest name. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK, reported there was a demonstration in Houston, too. The demonstration in New York included approximately 50 people, while the one in DC included 15, and the one in LA 10. Those in DC sang Christmas carols with original lyrics to US Senators.

Friday the White House reiterated its call for humanitarian access in Yemen . As the world's worst famine approaches, 19 organizations participated in the emergency protest at the UN Monday. Participants performed civil disobedience against the US-backed Saudi war, visually representing Yemeni children killed and orphaned from the war. They called for an end to humanitarian and commercial blockade against Yemen , and for a cease fire by all sides.

The Catholic Worker organized the NYC demonstration. Speakers included two-time presidential candidate David McReynolds, Kate Alexander from Peace Action New York State, and Carmen Trotta, of the Catholic Worker. Dr. Debbie Almontaser provided a statement that was read by a representative of Action Corps NYC. Supporting organizations include: Voices for Creative Nonviolence, World Beyond War, Code Pink, Pax Christi Metro NY, Peace Action New York State, NYC Raging Grannies, Kairos Community, KnowDrones.com, Action Corps NYC, Granny Peace Brigade, Uptown Progressive Action, Sander Hicks for Congress, Rise and Resist NY, Veterans For Peace - NYC Chapter 034, NYC War Resisters League, Women in Black Union Square, 15th Street Quakers Peace & Social Justice Committee, and World Can't Wait.

Statement from Action Corps NYC: “Time is running out for the people of Yemen , who are experiencing the world's worst humanitarian crisis. With seven million people on the brink of starvation, the country will face the largest famine since WWII if Saudi Arabia continues the war and blockade. This blockade cuts access to much-needed medical supplies. Over half of healthcare facilities in the country are nonfunctional, worsening Yemen 's cholera outbreak with total cases possibly reaching one million by the end of this month. The US must use its influence to stop the blockade and must ultimately stop supporting the war.”

 

Report by Felton Davis:

Dear friends,

Below is the announcement sent out by Isaac at Action Corps NYC, and a couple of the photo sets from Monday's demonstration across from the United Nations.  It was a long twenty hours "in the system," as the process from the precinct through the labyrinth of basement holding cells, to the courtroom at 100 Centre Street is known.  My vest photo of Nora Al-Awlaki was taken by the officers of the Strategic Response Group at the US Mission, and put into an envelope with my house keys, belt and shoelaces, then returned to me outside the courtroom.  The officers told me that unless someone showed up at court with my real ID, I would not be released or get any property back.  The guys in the holding cell, most from a drug sweep in Washington Heights , were among the rowdiest group of arrestees that I have ever had the privilege of doing time with.  Jumping up and down to stay warm, calling out to the correctional officers for toilet paper, smacking each other around, slamming down the pay phone trying to get through to friends and family, and last but not least, going around the cell to figure out who in their circle was going to get charged with what.  They assured me that the DA would not ask for bail in my case, whether or not I identified myself, but in fact, when we were all brought upstairs and into the courtroom, the DA did ask for $1000 bail, given my numerous open cases, and "extensive interstate contacts."

A much more thorough discussion of the issues involved in present-day antiwar efforts took place in the holding cell than will ever take place in the courtroom, as I tried to explain the context for our demonstration for the suffering people of Yemen .  We've been at war -- undeclared, unauthorized, whatever -- for so many years, with so many countries, none of whom are a threat to us, that it has become a permanent condition, and takes a special effort to bring into awareness.  The guys had no disagreement with that, and as far as war constituting theft from urgent social needs, they cited numerous examples in their personal lives.

"You know how many of my neighbors I have had to rob on the street just so my kid will eat?"

I refrained from attempting to answer that question, instead offering the opinion that on the international scene, this robbery is having a devastating effect all throughout the Middle East , as nation after nation is targeted.  "People are going to hate us…"

"They already hate us!  You don't know that?"  They shook their heads in bewilderment.

"Everything we got in this country is because it was stolen, and stolen by force!  Where the FUCK have you been?"

Twenty hours was not enough time for me to go through all the demonstrations over the years that have concluded with a trip to Central Booking, but I did explain to the guys that in the 1980's, before some of them were born, there was no toilet in the men's cell, and arrestees would have to pee on the floor in the corner.  Then I accidentally compared that little bit of progress with the abolition of slavery, and received another instantaneous verdict from the jury.

"Fuckin bullshit!  You think slavery was abolished?  You're crazy!  Slavery was not abolished, it was just…"

The discussion continued in Spanish as the guys searched for the most accurate word for what happened to the institution of slavery.  And slowly (very slowly without caffeine), the day dawned and we were moved along through the labyrinth.  I told the legal aid attorney who I was, and the DA already seemed to know -- probably from my fingerprints -- and so there was no need to inquire whose "extensive interstate contacts" were under review, mine or John Does. The judge would not order bail, and so I was released on ROR, and scheduled for trial on Wednesday, January 17th. 

Thanks again to everyone!

Dec. 11th photos by (mostly) Joanne Kennedy
https://www.flickr.com/photos/felton-nyc/albums/72157663599585948

Dec. 11th photos by Erik McGregor
https://www.flickr.com/photos/erikcito/sets/72157663553290308

 

Report by the Granny Peace Brigade:

Blocking the entrance to the US Mission to the UN, 15 peace activists from the Catholic Worker Movement, Granny Peace Brigade, Raging Grannies, among others, called for ending the blockade of Yemen, together with ending the intensive bombing of homes, water and sanitation infrastructure being assisted by the USA, and resulting in a million cases of cholera (reported as the largest outbreak in a country in recent times) and millions of cases of severe and acute child malnutrition, an estimate of 7 million facing starvation, new outbreaks of dengue and diphtheria, and thousands dead and tens of thousands injured.. With more than 50% of hospitals destroyed, many health workers unable to work due to the bombings or fleeing the violence, shortages of all foods and depleted medical supplies due to the blockade, limit help reaching the most at risk. Yemenis now facing the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world.

A Rally of at Ralph Bunche Park started the day’s events, with several speakers including David McReynolds, two times a presidential candidate, Carmen Trotta, Catholic Worker Movement, Kate Alexander, Peace Action, and Isaac Evans-Franz who also read a moving statement on the situation of children and women by a leading American-Yemeni activist, each presenting insights into the conflict. The US is not alone in arming and aiding the Saudi-led bombings: Canada, France, England, Germany among others are culpable in the destruction of Yemen, which has been and continues to be the poorest country in the Region. Politically, the civil war is very complex, and many feel there will not be a military solution. Efforts are underway by peace groups to urge our Congress to take action to end the US complicity in the war, which started in 2015 by President Obama, but now is intensified by Donald Trump. While Trump has asked the Saudis to end the blockade to enable humanitarian action, the US has not taken a stance to end the bombing. Of course not, as we have sold billions of $$$ worth of bombs and advanced weaponry to the Saudis and, recently, reported sold cluster bombs, deemed illegal under a UN treaty.

Two groups of protestors formed, one marching to the US UN Mission, with a group wearing vests with the photo of an infant/child from Yemen, immediately blocking the entrance. A crowd of about 50 supported their action! A second group proceeded to the Saudi Arabia UN Mission.

At the US Mission, the group was left unhindered for almost an hour, but then the police moved in, normal warning to leave or be arrested given, and then proceeded with the arrests. Alice, (Raging Granny/GPB) said one officer was a bit nasty commenting that they were wasting police time on a day when NYC faced its first suicide bomber attempt.

Alice responded, that as grandmothers, we are concerned about children dying here, Yemen, anywhere. Later, she mentioned other police at the jail were more supportive specifically saying they have the right to stand for what they believe. Bev and Joan also felt the police were generally polite.

Joan though had a problem. In the jail, she was asked to remove her shoelaces. Then the cop noticed the string around her trousers. He asked her to remove it, but Joan said she had nothing underneath! He relented to allow her to keep her pants up!

At the Saudi Arabia Mission, a smaller group gathered. There was no indication that the Mission was there….in the Institute of International Education (II E) office building. So a protestor held a sign indicating the site was also the Saudi Mission. There were more police than demonstrators! We peacefully blocked the main doors, but a side door remained open. Just before the arrests at the US Mission began, all but two remained. At that time, with only two of us (Florino-peace action and I) there, security said we were blocking the door.! We thought they were going to arrest us! To our surprise, not today. As people entered and left, I called out: “end the blockade; stop bombing Yemen.” A man came out, looking particularly distinguished, walking towards a black diplomatic car, with someone who looked like a bodyguard. So I shouted my mantra! The gentleman turned his head to see where it was coming from. He didn’t look happy. Was he the Ambassador? Senior person in the Mission? Don’t know. But think they got our message.

What was achieved? The crowd today was limited as much of the city was closed due to a bombing attempt. Media coverage limited to bloggers and some international news agencies, as NY media was across town. But still our presence was registered. And we will be back! Until the dying/killing in Yemen ends.

We thank the organizers of the day’s events: Felton Davis, Carmen Trotta, and their colleagues from Catholic Worker; Isaac Evans-Franz, Action Corps NYC, among others. It is noted that other demonstrations were also underway this day in LA and Washington, DC by CodePink.

We urge calls and letters/emails to our Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and to our House members: Let Yemen Live!