by Megan Fincher National Catholic Reporter
Jun. 21, 2013
Crossing the Mississippi River
The activists… are following major roads through 13 towns and cities, carrying banners and signs. They sleep on church floors, in campsites and, when available, in private homes. Most evenings, they hold public discussions at various venues, including convents, churches, the Iowa City Public Library and Drake University.
Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles operated remotely by military pilots with a joystick and a computer.
Around 40 people traveled to the Des Moines Air National Guard Base to protest the drone control center. Some protesters started in Rock Island, Illinois and walked 190 miles to Des Moines to raise awareness about drones and how they are operated.
“We’ve already been out here you know, several times and we’re going to be out here for as long as it takes to draw more awareness,” said Gilbert Landole, president of Veterans for Peace.
The protesters held signs that said “Drones make enemies” and “Health care not warfare.” They are against the drone control center being in the heart of the state.
“It is not okay with us,” said protester Gail Coleman.
“This is not keeping America safe and it is not keeping our soldiers safe,” said Brian Terrell, co-creator of Voice for Creative Nonviolence, ” Right here in a few months, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, these drones are going to be flying over other countries where we’re not wanted.”
Protesters say the boundaries of privacy are being pushed to the limit. They also said that the drones’ missiles are not only killing the intended terrorists but mass amounts of innocent civilians in other countries.
“They think that they’re just killing the bad guys, just getting the terrorists… but they are killing scores of civilians,” said Coleman.
“They’re illegal, they’re immoral and they’re just unjust,” said Landole.
The group intends to keep protesting against the drone control center that is set to take the place of the F-16’s at the national guard base.
Members of Voices for Creative Nonviolence spent Thursday night at the home of Milt Cannon and Pauline Berger west of Newton on their march to Des Moines to protest the Iowa Air National Guard’s new mission as a drone command center at its facility at the Des Moines airport.
Walkers arrive in Newton, IA
Members of the group began their protest march on June 10 in Rock Island, Ill., and plan to hold a peace rally at the National Guard base at 3100 McKinley Ave. in Des Moines from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Plans to remotely pilot military drones from an air base in Des Moines continue to draw the ire of peace activists who decry the use of the unmanned aircraft domestically and abroad.
Dozens of activists marched into the city Sunday, completing a nearly 200-mile trek across the state to protest the use of drones. They rallied at the gate of the Iowa Air National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing, where, officials say, guard members in the coming years will be trained to fly remotely piloted aircraft.
Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs, a Des Moines resident who was the only person to complete the entire two-week, 195-mile protest march from Rock Island, Ill., to Des Moines, said he views the government’s use of drones as a form of terrorism.
“I just think about the people in the communities where we are using drones and I imagine what it would be like to have drones flying overhead and to hear the buzzing sound and to not know when the next missile would be fired, to not know who would be killed next,” said Jorgensen-Briggs, who works for the Des Moines Catholic Worker and the Catholic Peace Ministry.
Dozens of protesters walked during each leg of the march, which was organized by the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence. The group covered about 15 miles a day, camping and staying in host houses along the way.
Organizers said the march was also to protest the development of drone technology at the Quad Cities Manufacturing Lab in Rock Island. According to a company brochure, the lab manufactures UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicle, engine components.
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.