Written by Rachel Stern @ IthicaJournal.com
Brian Terrell will never forget the way he felt when he was introduced to a 9-year-old girl who had lost her arm in a drone air attack in Afghanistan.
“That still haunts me,” Terrell said. “Drones are predators armed with hellfire missiles, and the concept that peace could come from that is ridiculous.”
And that is why Terrell made the trip from Maloy, Iowa, to Ithaca on Sunday. He was one of about 50 people who gathered in DeWitt Park to begin a five-day peace march to Syracuse.
The march, organized by Peace Now Ithaca, will culminate with a demonstration at Hancock Air Field in Syracuse on Friday. The base is the national maintenance center for the Reaper Drone, said one of the event organizers, Clare Grady of Ithaca.
“Robotic warfare is enticing because some believe it is cheaper, cleaner and risks less American lives,” Grady said. “Yet the track record shows that the majority of people killed by drones are innocent civilians.”
After the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information request with the Department of Defense, the department said it does not compile statistics about the total number of civilians killed by drones, which are unmanned aircraft.
Attempts to contact a spokesperson Sunday at the Air National Guard base in Syracuse were unsuccessful.
Other groups from Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse plan to converge at the air base. The event was organized by the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars.
The Ithaca group plans to march 10 to 14 miles on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, said another march organizer, Todd Saddler of Ithaca.
“We hope during the march to see people and be seen. We hope to hear people and be heard,” Saddler said. “We want to spread the anti-war movement and build community.”
Saddler held a sign that read, “I’m not paying taxes for war.” Others held signs that read “Honk for Peace” and “Ithaca says… Ground the drones, end the war.”
People were bundled up in scarves, hats, gloves and heavy jackets in preparation for the walk. Most held water bottles, carried backpacks and held up a peace sign with two fingers.
After spending two years in Afghanistan with the Peace Corps, Frank Baldwin and his wife, Blythe, said they realized there is no way the United States will win the war and, as a result, must stop fighting, he said.
“We need to make the politicians realize that enough people are against war,” he said. “This march is all about supporting peace.”
When Terrell arrives at the base in Syracuse on Friday, it will not be his first time at a military base. Terrell was a member of the Creech 14 who protested on April 9, 2009, at Creech Air Force Base in southern Nevada.
Terrell, along with 13 others, was found guilty of trespassing by a judge in Las Vegas Justice Court in January.
“This march is part of a national movement that has been going on for a long time,” he said. “It is an integral part of the larger peace movement.”