Peace activists marched through West Liberty last Thursday to protest the use of drones by the United States.
Organized by the Chicago-based group, Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV), the “Ground the Drones” walk aims to bring awareness about the U.S. military’s use of unmanned aircraft.
“We want the mechanisms of warfare to cease dropping bombs on innocent people and to stop getting into everyone’s life,” co-coordinator and participant Buddy Bell said.
Around 16 protestors were seen entering town on Highway 70 at noon. They passed by onlookers through the downtown area, making their way to Kimberly Park for lunch.
Thursday’s portion of the walk began near Cedar River on Highway 22, ending on American Legion Road. It was a daylong 10-mile journey, a small portion of the planned 190 mile route.
Their ultimate destination is the Iowa Air National Guard Facility, whose home is at the Des Moines Airport, on June 23, where they plan to hold a peace rally.
VCNV chose Des Moines as a stopping point out of the belief the Iowa National Guard is planning to institute a new drone command center at the airport, allowing the facility to control drones in the state and overseas.
“It all comes down to drones that will be controlled from Des Moines. They’ll be in the skies of Iowa, and Afghanistan, and all over the world,” Bell added.
Sister Pat Chaffee, OP, speaks at the Congregation of the Humility of Mary motherhouse in Davenport June 9. She and other peace advocates criticized overseas drone strikes in advance of a march, “Covering Ground to Ground the Drones.”
DAVENPORT — U.S. and British drone strikes in the Middle East are killing civilians and inciting terrorism, four peace activists told about 50 people at the Congregation of the Humility of Mary motherhouse June 9.
A Catholic Worker, a Sister, a British pacifist and a co-coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence spoke in advance of a 195-mile protest march, “Covering Ground to Ground the Drones.” The walk began June 10 at the Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island, Ill., and will end in Des Moines. There a command center for drones – also known as unmanned aerial vehicles — is slated to be built at the Iowa Air National Guard Facility at Des Moines Airport.
The activists also spoke June 8 in Clinton at The Canticle, home of the Sisters of St. Francis.
In Davenport, Sister Pat Chaffee, a Racine, Wis., Dominican, shared stories she heard while in Pakistan in October. One man said hellfire missiles from a drone killed his teenage son and brother, a teacher who’d told students that education was more powerful than weapons. Another man said drone strikes motivated his cousin, who was training to be a civil engineer, to instead become a suicide bomber. “Drone attacks are recruiting wholesale for Al-Qaeda and Taliban efforts,” Sr. Chaffee said.
Jules Orkin from Bergin Field, N.J., holds a flag with a peace dove on it while protesting Saturday on Mormon Trek Boulevard en route to Kent Park. More than a dozen demonstrators are marching 195 miles from Rock Island to Des Moines. / Ben Roberts
Plans to pilot lethal drone strikes from Des Moines don’t show signs of faltering, but peace activists trekking through Eastern Iowa this month are hopeful they can send a message.
“I do think if there are 100,000 people outside the entrance to the base for seven days in a row, I think it might have an influence on folks. But really you don’t know what it takes,” said Ed Flaherty, an Iowa City activist with Veterans for Peace.
That turn-out appears unlikely, but more than a dozen demonstrators marching 195 miles from Rock Island, Ill., to Des Moines say they’re getting a positive reception from observers and helping to increase awareness about drone strikes.
The Iowa Air National Guard in Des Moines is ending its F-16 operation in the next few months. Once the manned aircraft are gone, the Des Moines unit will shift to operating unmanned aircraft — commonly known as drones — and collecting military intelligence. Even though the aircraft will be piloted from Des Moines, the drones will stay overseas, well away from Iowa.
A group of about 20 protesters began a Rock Island to Des Moines march this morning to call attention to the U.S. government’s use of drones to kill alleged terrorists. The practice makes more enemies than it eliminates, the group contends.
ROCK ISLAND — Just under two miles into their walk to Des Moines, protesters against drone strikes stopped at Schwiebert Riverfront Park to express opposition to U.S. economic and military warfare waged in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
The group of approximately 20 people, headed by members of Voices For Creative NonViolence out of Chicago, carried signs saying, “Fund Human Needs Ground the Drones” or “Drone Warfare - State Sanctioned Terrorism.”
They began their 195-mile walk from the Rock Island Arsenal and are headed to the Iowa National Guard Facility at Des Moines Airport for a peace rally on June 23. The airport is the planned site of a new drone command center.
Brian Terrell was recently released from a 6-month prison sentence for protesting military drones.: Pictured are Terrell with his wife, Betsy Keenan, flanked by a staffer from the Yankton Federal Prison Camp (right). (Photo: Beth Preheim, Emmaus House / Yankton Catholic Worker)
During a six-month sentence at the Yankton Federal Prison Camp, Brian Terrell watched as America’s secretive drone war became more visible to the public.
In fact, on May 23 — the day prior to Terrell’s release — President Barack Obama spoke frankly about the nation’s use of drones and the need to use their lethal power sparingly.
Terrell was sentenced last October in a district courtroom in Jefferson City, Mo., to six months in federal prison after being convicted of trespassing at the Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster, Mo., earlier in the year. He and two others were arrested during the nonviolent action during which they sought to speak with military officials about drone strikes.
Terrell, who resides in Maloy, Iowa, is a Catholic Worker and co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
Speaking with the Press & Dakotan via telephone, Terrell said he doesn’t believe the president really wanted to deliver that speech.
CAMP DOUGLAS, WI – Five nonviolent activists attempted to deliver an indictment for war crimes to Volk Field Commander Colonel Dave Romuald. They walked peacefully onto the base with the indictment in hand, and asked for a meeting with Colonel Romauld. Instead of a meeting, they were promptly arrested, taken to the Juneau County jail in handcuffs, and charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing. They were released several hours later after processing.
Arrested were Bonnie Block, Madison; Joyce Elwinger, Milwaukee; Joy First, Mt. Horeb; Mary Beth Schlagheck, Windsor, and Kathy Walsh, Madison. Between the five women, they have 25 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren that motivate them in this work.
They are all members of the Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars and they have vigiled at the gates of Volk Field monthly since December of 2011. The nonviolent solemn vigils are a way to remember the innocent lives that have been lost as a result of drone warfare.
Here in upstate New York, pretty much below the radar, a tragedy unfolds. But not without resistance.
For several years the unmanned robotic Reaper drones of the 174th Attack Wing of the New York National Guard have been piloted from Hancock air base. These weaponized robots kill and maim - and terrorize - the people of Afghanistan. Many - maybe most — of these hapless Afghans are non-combatants: infants, children, mothers, elders, unarmed men; also livestock.
The Attack Wing does its killing by remote control from its safe perch at Hancock just outside Syracuse thousands of miles from where the Reaper’s Hellfire missiles and 500-pound bombs strike. Nonetheless the Attack Wing technicians and their chain of command play judge, jury and executioner. They play God with human life. Few of these players know anything about the culture, politics, or people of Afghanistan. Few, if any, know whom they slay or even why. Robotically, drone-like, they follow orders.