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By Kathy Kelly
On October 7, 2014, Kathy Kelly and Georgia Walker appeared before Judge Matt Whitworth in Jefferson City, MO, federal court on a charge of criminal trespass to a military facility. The charge was based on their participation, at Whiteman Air Force Base, in a June 1st 2014 rally protesting drone warfare. Kelly and Walker attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the Base Commander, encouraging the commander to stop cooperating with any further usage of unmanned aerial vehicles, (drones) for surveillance and attacks.
The prosecutor, USAF Captain Daniel Saunders, said that if Kelly and Walker would plead guilty to the charge, he would seek a punishment of one month in prison and a $500 fine. Kelly and Walker told the prosecutor that they could accept a “no contest” plea but were not willing to plead guilty. The prosecutor then said he would recommend a three month prison sentence and a $500 fine. The judge refused to accept a “no contest” plea. Kelly and Walker then requested a trial which has been set for December 10, 2014.
Brian Terrell, who also attended the hearing, has previously been tried before Judge Whitworth on the same charge. In October of 2012, Whitworth sentenced him to the maximum penalty of six months in prison. His co-defendant, Ron Faust, also went to trial and was initially sentenced to five years probation which was later reduced to one year. Mark Kenney, also a co-defendant, had pled guilty and received a four month sentence.
Kathy Kelly noted that drone strikes on October 7, 2014 killed seven people in Pakistan and that this is the third day in a row of drone attacks in Pakistan’s Waziristan area. On October 6th, eight people were killed and six wounded. Today also marks the thirteenth year of U.S. war in Afghanistan, a country which was considered, in 2013, to be the epicenter of drone warfare.
“I feel we’re compelled by our conscience, “ Georgia Walker told a gathering of 35 people in Kansas City, the previous evening. “We’re compelled by our own spirituality, to keep speaking up and to keep getting people to know that silence is complicity. We have to speak out to say ‘Not in my Name.’”
"I’m sure that Georgia and I didn’t commit a crime,” said Kathy Kelly. “We tried to send out an alarm about a crime that’s being committed at the base. Innocent people, including children are killed by the drone strikes.”
Kelly and Walker later met with supporters and attorneys to discuss plans for a vigorous defense on December 10th, International Human Rights Day.
Three long-time activist women will stand trial on Thursday 9 October, 2014, in US District Court in Baltimore, MD, for protesting National Security Agency surveillance which provides targeting information for US drone attacks around the world.
- Court Interpreter/Translator Manijeh Saba from Somerset, NJ,
- Headstart Case Manager Marilyn Carlisle from Baltimore, MD, and
- US Army veteran and full-time peace activist Ellen Barfield from Baltimore, MD,
each face 3 charges with assessed fines totalling over $1300 for seeking on 3 May, 2014 to present at the NSA gate at Ft Meade, MD a letter requesting a meeting with National Security Agency Director Vice-Admiral Michael Rogers to discuss NSA drone targeting and citizen abhorrence of that practice.
The women will go Pro se, or defend themselves in court, with expert advice from DC Attorney Mark Goldstone. They hope to elicit expert testimony on NSA targeting for murderous US drone attacks from Medea Benjamin, a leader of women's peace group
Code Pink, and Col. (Rtd.) Ann Wright, a former Army officer and diplomat now active with Veterans For Peace and Code Pink.
Supporters are urged to attend the trial at 101 W Lombard St, Baltimore,MD, 21201, in Courtroom 7-C beginning at 10am.
HANCOCK REAPER DRONE PROTESTER, JACK GILROY, 79, SENTENCED TO 3 MONTHS & THREE YEARS PROBATION. IMMEDIATELY INCARCERATED.
October 1, 2014, Syracuse, NY.
John “Jack” Gilroy, 79, of Endwell, NY and Upstate Drone Action, was sentenced to three months incarceration, three years probation, and $1000 fine by De Witt (NY) Town Judge Robert Jokl.
"It's time for our justice system to identify the real criminals...not those who carry the message to stop the killing to the gates of Hancock Air Base," said Gilroy in his sentencing statement. Gilroy was convicted by a six-person jury on July 15th of trespass and obstructing government administration after a two day jury trial.
The trial was based on Gilroy’s participation in a solemn funeral procession and die-in outside Hancock’s main gate. The event symbolized the terrorizing and killing of innocent people by MQ9 Reaper drone missiles and bombs piloted by Hancock’s 174th Attack Wing. Hancock, near Syracuse, is one of many drone bases perpetrating US drone attacks in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.
"I was proud of the way Jack spoke truth to power, stood for nonviolence instead of war, and brought the reality and names of victims of drones into the court," said Fr. Tim Taugher,Gilroy’s long-time friend and pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Binghamton. "Our courts can't allow the truth to be heard. This is one of many ways our country is trying to squelch truth, debate, dialogue, and discussion of the morality of the use of drones.”
Immediately upon sentencing, Gilroy, a military veteran and retired high school teacher, was taken in handcuffs to Jamesville Penitentiary.
On Sunday, Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. Upstate Drone Action will host (legally permitted) street theatre at Hancock’s front gate, 6000 East Molloy Rd, Town of DeWitt. (Park in BOCES lot on Thompson Rd.) Bicyclists against drone warfare, artists, teachers, medical people, union activists and others against drone warfare will converge at Hancock as part of the world-wide Global Action Day Against the Use of Drones for Surveillance & Killing.
Donations for Jack Gilroy's fine and appeal can be sent to:
Syracuse Peace Council
2013 E Genesee St,
Syracuse, NY 13210.
Please note in memo: “Gilroy fine and appeal fund.”
What laws of war? We do what we want!: Obama Admits US Bombing Attacks in Syria Pay Little Heed to Protecting Civilians
By Dave Lindorff
In a perverse way, maybe it's progress that the US is now admitting that it doesn't really care about how many civilians it kills in its efforts to "decapitate" a few suspected terrorist leaders.
By John Grant
Ain’t no time to wonder why.
Whoopee, we’re all gonna die.
- Country Joe MacDonald
Jack Gilroy, 79, member of the Upstate Drone Coalition, will be sentenced by Judge Robert Jokl on Wednesday, October 1st at 4:30 PM at the DeWitt Court House, 5400 Butternut Drive, East Syracuse, NY 13057-8509.
Gilroy was convicted of trespass and obstructing government administration. The maximum penalty is one year and 15 days in Jamesville Penitentiary.
Gilroy’s trial was based on participation in a solemn funeral procession and die-in to illustrate the death and destruction of innocent people by drone missiles and bombs fired out of MQ9 Reaper drones piloted from Hancock Air Force Base near Syracuse, NY.
Hancock is one of many drone bases around the United States doing assassinations of Muslim suspects in foreign nations. Gilroy had an opportunity to plead guilty without penalty but noted that “the guilty are not those who carry the message to stop the killing.”
Gilroy and the scores of others arrested at the gates of the 174th Attack Wing all take oaths of non- violence. The Gandhian Wave of nonviolent resisters to drone warfare by the 174th Air National Guard has been ongoing for the past four years.
On Sunday, Oct. 5 at 1 pm, the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars will be hosting a permitted street theatre including bicyclists against drone warfare, artists, teachers, medical people, union activists and all others against drone warfare will be protesting at Hancock Airbase as part of the world wide protests of the Global Days of Action.
Read an interview of Gilroy here.
In 1969, at the height of the U.S. war against Vietnam, Edwin Starr recorded a song called ‘War’, that reached number one on the charts. Among the lyrics are these:
War: What is it good for?
Much as one would like to believe these simple lyrics, there are facts that belie them. In a report from the Financial Times from March of 2013, it is stated that private contractors earned at least a whopping $139 billion dollars from the U.S. war against Iraq up to that time, and that total is ever increasing. Kellogg, Brown and Root, a former subsidiary of Haliburton, the company once run by former Vice President Dick Cheney, the architect of this war, earned nearly $40 billion.
Eve Tetaz, 83, found NOT GUILTY last night in De Witt town court for opposing Reaper Drone War Crime at 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, NY
Immediately after Onondaga County prosecutor Jordan McNamara rested his case against DC peace and justice activist Eve Tetaz, DeWitt town judge David Gideon granted Ms Tetaz’ motion to dismiss. Ms Tetaz represented herself pro se with the support of DC attorney Mark Goldstone.
Ms. Tetaz had been arrested on April 28, 2013, along with 30 others as she stood reading aloud Preamble to the UN Charter and the First Amendment of the Constitution on the edge of the driveway leading into the Hancock Reaper drone base on East Molloy Rd., Town of De Witt. The prosecution’s video of Ms Tetaz’ arrest showed the arresting officer grabbing those documents from her hands and tossing them aside.
When police ordered her to stop, Ms Tetaz continued her reading aloud, facing the base, thereby expressing her First Amendment right to peacefully “petition my government for redress of grievances” – i.e. the war crimes being committed by the weaponized Reaper drone robots piloted over Afghanistan by the Hancock Attack Wing.
Ms. Tetaz’ trial is one of the ongoing series of trials of those arrested on April 28, 2013 scheduled through spring of 2015. Many will be jury trials due to the misdemeanor charge of obstruction of government administration. The next jury trial -- that of Bronx Catholic Worker Mark Colville -- will begin at 8:30 a.m. this Thursday, Sept 18.
Arms companies which provide key components for the drones used by the US to carry out secret strikes in violation of international law bought access to last week's NATO summit, research by legal charity Reprieve has found.
Among the firms which paid up to £300,000 to ‘exhibit’ at the summit in Newport, Wales were:
- General Dynamics, manufacturer of the Hellfire missiles used in the vast majority of drone strikes.
- Raytheon, manufacturer of the targeting system for the ‘Reaper’ drone which, along with the ‘Predator,’ is used by the CIA and other covert agencies to carry out strikes outside of warzones.
- Lockheed Martin, which acts as a contractor to provide support services for the Reaper and Predator.
- MBDA, a European firm which is producing ‘Brimstone,’ a variant of the Hellfire missile which it is promoting for use by Reaper and Predator drones.
Strikes carried out by Predators and Reapers flown by the CIA or Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have proved controversial as they have been carried out in countries with which or in which the US is not at war – such as Yemen and Pakistan. As a result, they are in violation of both international and domestic law.
Despite having been responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths, they take place with little or no oversight – with President Obama refusing even to formally acknowledge that such strikes are taking place.
Commenting, Reprieve Legal Director, Kat Craig said: “The illegal use of drones to carry out secret bombings is one of the most controversial issues around, so it is deeply worrying to see those firms who may profit most from it able to buy access to such a high-level summit. It is unacceptable that the US’ drone campaign, and the UK’s support for it, has been allowed to remain in the shadows for so long. President Obama must be far more open about it, as must his European allies, especially the UK and Germany, about the support they provide. Allowing drone manufacturers to buy access to our politicians behind closed doors is no way to ensure we get the transparency we need.”
Edited by Nick Mottern – Coordinator, Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare.
Next organizers’ conference call: August 27, 2014 at 9 pm EST
Call in number: (605) 562-3000 - Access code: 484539#
PLEASE DO YOUR UTMOST TO JOIN THIS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT CALL WHEN WE WILL DISCUSS JOINT ACTIONS FOR SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER.
1. Editorial: GAZA, IRAQ AND OUR TRAGIC DRONE FANTASY
2. ISRAELI DRONE IMPACT UNEXAMINED BY THE PRESS
3. OPENING A NEW FRONT IN DRONE PROTEST
4. RUSSELL BROWN DEFENDS HIMSELF AND WINS
5. COURT ACTIONS GROW / CONTRIBUTIONS NEEDED
6. BEALE WITNESS AND PLANS
7. HORSHAM DRONE BASE VIGILS CONTINUE
8. OCTOBER 4 INTERNATIONAL DRONE ACTIONS
ACQUITTED! Vietnam Vet Drone Resister
Syracuse July 31, 2014 After two hours of deliberation,Vietnam Veteran and Buffalonian Russell Brown, was acquitted tonight by a six person jury in DeWitt Town Court, East Syracuse. He was facing charges of Obstruction of Governmental Administration (OGA), a misdemeanor carrying up to a year incarceration and up to $1000 fine, as well as Disorderly Conduct charge, a violation. Mr. Brown who went before the court Pro Se (he served as his own counsel) was assisted by Buffalo Attorneys Daire Irwin and Paul Fallon.
Mr. Brown was arrested during a nonviolent protest at Hancock Air National Guard Base on April 28, 2013. In a roadway across from the Airbase, he lay down to symbolize the death of drone victims. There are biweekly demonstrations at Hancock Airbase. Several times a year there are larger demonstrations and nationally coordinated events. On six occasions there have been arrests, leading to six trials since 2011. Mr. Brown's trial is the second acquittal. There are twenty activists are facing prosecution, working with Upstate Drone Action.
During testimony, Russell told what he did leading up to the "Global April Days of Action" gathering in Syracuse. This included his writing a poem that links the drone attacks conducted at Hancock with the missions he conducted in Vietnam. A marine from 1965 - 1967, he told of the war he experienced. His participation in senseless killing and brutality in Vietnam informed his understanding of the Drone War Program at the 174th Attack Wing. Russell now finds allegiance with the victims of the drone attacks.
Laying on the street with "blood" spattered clothes lifted a weight of guilt from Russel. Transforming guilt to regret makes possible a voice: poet, marcher in a 'legal' protest, drone victim laying in the street were deemed protected speech. The message was closely attended by the jury. Brian Hynes said, "They saw the human power of the message and the public value of the method used to deliver it. Drones kill senselessly and illegally and traumatize our airmen."
Russell said that the wars of the last decade brought back his experiences in Vietnam. “Lying in that road was the most peaceful moment I've experienced since I left Vietnam,” he said. "I was silent then in the face of those atrocities and I can't be silent anymore."
The jury was smiling as they returned to give the verdict. Later one juror asked a supporter to "Thank Russell for us! My brother was in the Vietnam War and lost his leg. We know what the vets went through." The juror also acknowledged the PTSD drone pilots experience. Another juror said, "We did what was needed to be done. It was fair and just".
Hancock Air National Guard Base, home of the 174th Attack Wing, is a domestic hub for drone assassinations, support and operation, particularly in Afghanistan. The Niagara Falls Air Base is also embarking on a mission to operate weaponized drones. The Hancock emerged following arrests at Creech Airforce Base in Nevada, and the Gandhian Wave of protest there has spearheaded national and international movements against the use of drones for assassination in countries we are not at war with and wars of occupation.
The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, supported by local organizations such as the WNY Peace Center, works nonviolently to stop the scourge of assassination and community terror perpetrated by weaponized drones. The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones is in coalition with the global movement to end the drone assassinations and to stop US imperialism and militarization.
Vietnam Vet Drone Resister's Trial Ongoing in DeWitt Town Court
Syracuse July 31, 2014 Vietnam Veteran and Buffalo resident Russell Brown’s trial began today in DeWitt Town Court in East Syracuse. Mr. Brown is representing himself and is facing charges stemming from his arrest during a nonviolent protest at Hancock Air National Guard Base, home of the 174th Attack Wing, on April 28, 2013. Mr. Brown laid down peacefully with red paint to symbolize the death of drone victims in a roadway across from the Airbase. He is charged with Obstruction of Governmental Administration (OGA), a misdemeanor carrying up to a year incarceration and up to $1000 fine, as well as Disorderly Conduct charge, a violation.
Mr. Brown’s trial follows about a dozen trials since 2011 in the DeWitt Town Court and is one of 20 upcoming trials of drone resisters working with Upstate Drone Action there.
Judge David S. Gideon imposed an Order of Protection (OOP) on Mr Brown on behalf of Colonel Greg Semmel, the Hancock commandant. The OOPs have been imposed on more than 50 nonviolent civil resisters arrested at the Hancock Reaper drone hub in DeWitt since October 2012. Under oath, a military official acknowledged that the protesters were acting nonviolently and posed no threat to the Airbase or military personnel.
Before a six-person jury, defense witness Jessica Azulay testified on Wednesday that Mr. Brown was well beyond the military base and was not obstructing traffic as the roadway had been blocked by local police ahead of the demonstration. She spoke in support of his constitutional right to protest.
Mr Brown said that the wars of the last decade brought back his experiences in Vietnam. “Lying in that road was the most peaceful moment I experienced since I left Vietnam,” he said.
In other news of drone resistance, two upstate drone resisters had their bail drastically reduced after being arrested on July 23 outside Hancock. Clare Grady of the Ithaca Catholic Worker and Martha Hennessy from New York Catholic Worker had been charged with violating an Order of Protection. Judge Jokl of the DeWitt Town Court set their bail at $10,000 each. During a bail reduction hearing Monday Ms. Hennessy’s bail was reduced to $100. Yesterday, Ms. Grady’s bail was also reduced to $100. Both women have been released, having been incarcerated for several days in the Onondaga County Justice Center.
Three other co-defendants, Joan Pleune, 75 year-old, Civil Rights Movement Freedom Rider, and NYC Catholic Workers Erica Brock and Felton Davis remain in jail on $2,500 bail each. Ms. Pleune has a bail reduction hearing Thursday morning in Syracuse.
Hancock Air National Guard Base, home of the 174th Attack Wing, is a domestic hub for drone assassinations, support and operation, particularly in Afghanistan. The Niagara Falls Air Base is also embarking on a mission to operate weaponized drones. The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars [also known as Upstate Drone Action], supported by local organizations such as the Western NY Peace Center, works nonviolently to stop the scourge of assassination and community terror perpetrated by weaponized drones. The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones is in coalition with the global movement to end the drone assassinations and to stop US imperialism and militarization.
Hancock Air National Guard Base, home of the 174th Attack Wing, is a domestic hub for drone assassinations, support and operation, particularly in Afghanistan. The Niagara Falls Air Base is also embarking on a mission to operate weaponized drones.
The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars [also known as Upstate Drone Action], supported by local organizations such as the Western NY Peace Center, works nonviolently to stop the scourge of assassination and community terror perpetrated by weaponized drones. The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones is in coalition with the global movement to end the drone assassinations and to stop US imperialism and militarization.
Seven Arrested at Hancock Air Base Calling a Halt to Drone War Crimes: Order of Protection Delivered for the Children of the World
Seven Arrested at Hancock Air Base
Halt Drone War Crimes!
Order of Protection Delivered for the Children of the World
Syracuse July 23, 2014 Earlier today eight Atlantic Life Community activists joined with Upstate Drone Action at the main gate of Hancock Air Base, in Syracuse, New York. Hancock is the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the New York State Air National Guard. The 174th Attack Wing pilots weaponized MQ9 Reaper drones over Afghanistan – killing and terrorizing an uncountable number of civilians.
The eight delivered a People’s War Crimes Indictment to the Hancock chain of command by affixing it to the fence after being refused by the base personnel. Also delivered was an Order of Protection on behalf of the children of the world who are subject to U.S. drone surveillance and attack.
The eight issued a statement that began with a list of names of persons who have been killed by drone strikes; “Syed Wali Shah, 7 years old, killed by an American drone strike. Momina Bibi, mother and midwife, killed by an American drone strike. Tarik Aziz, 16, killed by an American drone strike… This Must Stop! We are a community of peacemakers who resist war, racism and greed. We stand … in solidarity with men, women and children being terrorized by US military aggression.”
The group blocked the entrance to the base and took up positions for vigil. Brian Hynes, NYC Catholic Worker, was allowed to vigil on the side of the main entrance, usually prohibited. Seven from the group – from Vermont, Maryland, New York City, and Ithaca were arrested.
The seven are being charged with Trespass. Two of the defendants, Clare Grady and Martha Hennessy were also charged with violation of an Order of Protection. Liz McAlister and Erica Brock were charged with Disorderly Conduct. Clare Grady and Martha Hennessy are being held on $10,000 bail. Felton Davis, Erica Brock, and Joan Pleune are all being held on $2,500 bail.
Three of the arrested are grandmothers. On July 10th, 2014, drone activist and grandmother, Mary Anne Grady Flores, was sentenced to one year in jail for violation of the same Order of Protection, taken out on behalf of the Colonel of the base. She is currently out on $5,000 bail pending appeal. A higher court has found the order to be invalid.
The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Warswww.upstatedroneaction.org
Syed Wali Shah 7 years old, killed by an American Drone strike. Momina Bibi, mother and midwife, killed by an American drone strike. Tairk Aziz, 16, killed by an American drone strike… This Must Stop!
We, members of the Atlantic Life Community, come to Hancock Air Force Base, the national maintenance and control center of the MQ9 Reaper Drone, to protest these lethal drones, the latest weapon being used in endless war. We are a community of peacemakers who resist war, racism and greed. We stand here today in solidarity with the men, women and children being terrorized by US military aggression. Our witness mourns the senseless deaths of our brothers and sisters, victims of drone strikes from this base and adds our voice to all people of the world who cry for peace.
Today we deliver to the base two important documents central to our witness: a war crimes indictment addressed to President Obama, Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel, the full military chain of command, and the local police and Sheriffs Department of the Town of De Witt, NY. By continuing to protect the war crimes of drone warfare, these public officials perpetuate a legacy of violence and racism first imposed upon indigenous people on this land. The second document is a People’s Order of Protection, which asks the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard to stay away from the Children of the World and their families, including their homes, schools, places of play and work.
The terror and bloodshed caused by the Reaper drones lies on all of our shoulders. As Thomas Merton once wrote, “if you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in another.” Therefore, we come to the gates today in atonement for our complicity in these crimes and to resist the atrocities of drones, to resist our nation’s endless wars and to cultivate a culture of love and not fear.
Bill Ofenloch NYC Catholic Worker
Liz McAlister Jonah House, MD
Felton Davis NYC Catholic Worker
Martha Hennessy NYC Catholic Worker
Clare Grady Ithaca Catholic Worker
Joan Pleune Granny Peace Brigade
Erica Brock NYC Catholic Worker
Mary Anne Grady Flores (pictured, far right) and Judy Bello have long been among those protesting drone murders in Afghanistan conducted at Hancock Air Base in Upstate New York. Grady Flores is out on bail and facing a year behind bars for allegedly violating an Order of Protection, a legal order normally used to protect someone from domestic violence but currently used to "protect" the commanders of an Air Force base from some 50 nonviolent demonstrators. Learn more:
Read this background:
Harassing the Drones, by Kathy Kelly.
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By Kathy Kelly, written for teleSUR English, which will launch on July 24
Kabul-- On July 10, 2014, in New York State, Judge David Gideon sentenced Mary Anne Grady Flores to a year in prison and fined her $1,000 for photographing a peaceful demonstration at the U.S. Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Field (near Syracuse) where weaponized Reaper drones are remotely piloted in lethal flights over Afghanistan. Dozens have been sentenced, previously, for peaceful protest there. But uniquely, the court convicted her under laws meant to punish stalkers, deciding that by taking pictures outside the heavily guarded base she violated a previous order of protection not to stalk or harass the commanding officer.
Mary Anne is a 58 year-old grandmother of three, from Ithaca, New York, where she is part of the Upstate Drone Action.
Since late 2009 this grassroots group has persistently raised awareness about the consequences of drone attacks in Afghanistan, the global epicenter of U.S. drone warfare. In December 2012, the U.S. Air Force revealed that U.S. drones had struck targets in Afghanistan 477 times during just the preceding year. Members of the Upstate Drone Action, alarmed by the proliferation of drones and the ease with which they kill suspects far from any battlefield, are troubled in general to live in a society that so automatically and heedlessly chooses warfare over other available solutions to its problems.
Hundreds have gathered in Syracuse, NY, for events the Coalition has organized, including nonviolent civil resistance at the Hancock base.
Frustrated by the tenacity of war resisters willing to risk arrest, the commander at the base, Colonel Earl Evans, has sought and received an “Order of Protection Grant” - a restraining order - from the DeWitt Town judges, claiming that peace activists posed a threat to his personal safety as an individual when they protested there.
At first, the thought of such an order imposed on nonviolent demonstrators seems merely laughable. These orders of protection are typically used in domestic violence cases, against stalkers, or to protect a victim of (or witnesses to) a crime. How could a U.S. military commander, living in a fortified base, surrounded by advanced weaponry and the soldiers preparing to use it, be threatened by unarmed civilians like Mary Anne? She, like most of her companions in the coalition, has worked throughout her adult life to prevent bloodshed and killing.
But De Witt courts have upheld Colonel Evans’s right to be protected from the peace activists, and so everyone with an OOP who crosses the boundary (which isn’t clearly marked) outside the military base risks being charged with contempt of court for violating the order. Mary Anne had lingered for a few moments with the group she wanted to photograph to ask her sister, Ellen, something about the camera she was using.
During her court case and at her sentencing hearing, Mary Anne tried to help Judge Gideon understand that young people like the Afghan Peace Volunteers, (APVs), with whom I’m now living, here in Kabul, are threatened by the drones. She and other coalition members have already presented the court with a letter from Raz Mohammed, an APV whose brother-in-law was killed by a drone, asking that the U.S. courts issue a mandate protecting him and his family from sudden annihilation by remote control.
In Syracuse, NY, a Probation Department pre-sentencing report had recommended no jail time at all for Mary Anne, noting that she has been the major caregiver for her mother and that the infraction didn’t warrant incarceration. But Judge Gideon worried aloud that if he didn’t jail Mary Anne, she might thumb her nose at the courts and again risk arrest.
Judge Gideon has tried numerous peace activists in the De Witt Town Court for their actions protesting drone warfare. “This has got to stop,” he declared, in a moment of exasperation following an earlier court hearing. It seems that he imposed this sentence on Mary Ann because he and other authorities want to deter activists from gathering peaceably to petition, as the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment phrases it, “for redress of grievances.”
“I hope she feels proud,” said Abdulhai, a member of the APVs here in Kabul, when he learned that Mary Anne was sentenced to a year in prison. “She has a good heart. She thinks about other people far away.” Abdulhai’s smiling face appears on many of the posters carried by activists when they appear in court and when they demonstrate at the base. In the photo, he’s wearing a blue scarf which the APVs use to symbolize the same blue sky shared by all humans. His sign says: “We want to live without war.”
Mary Anne Grady Flores wearing the blue scarf in court
“Laws should be made to protect human beings,” said Faiz, also part of the APV community. “Laws shouldn’t protect ways to kill other people. Here in Afghanistan, the U.S uses drones to kill children, moms, and ordinary people. I hope the judge will think about this.”
At her sentencing hearing, Mary Anne told Judge Gideon that a series of judicial perversions brought her before him. “The final perversion,” she concluded, “is the reversal of who is the real victim here: the commander of a military base whose drones kill innocent people halfway around the world, or those innocent people themselves who are the real ones in need of protection from the terror of US drone attacks?”
Is it a crime to take photos of peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment right, or is it a crime to take multiple drone reconnaissance photos of private Afghan homes in villages and subsequently use the information to target and kill Afghans without detention or trial?
Mary Anne and the Upstate Drone Action activists have a deep grievance. They object to using Reaper drones to fire Hellfire missiles into homes and communities where Afghan civilians, including children, could be killed. They raise crucial questions about the likelihood of drone attacks exacerbating and prolonging wars, conflicts and other armed strife. Aerial spies insertable anywhere, ready to kill suspects by missile strikes, make the entire world a battlefield where the U.S. is a combatant. What’s more, this is a technology other nations and non-nation groups are seeking to acquire. Blowback could cause spiraling levels of lethal exchanges. Even think-tanks like the Stimson Center, itself in part funded by weapons manufacturing corporations, have begun publicly questioning the effectiveness of drone warfare.
As peace activists, we should voice our concerns about the U.S. military’s accelerating reliance on weaponized robotics before every branch of government, including the judicial branch.
The problem is not that Mary Anne lacks appreciation for the law of the land. She’s exercising her First Amendment right to assemble peaceably for redress of grievance. The problem is that Judge Gideon refuses to challenge military elites, some of whom never, ever want people of compassion and conscience to interfere with their use of threat, force, and even assassination to control people in other lands.
Mary Anne has appealed her case, and a NY judge has released her from prison until the appeal is resolved. Another activist, Jack Gilroy, awaits sentencing, and in coming days and weeks, more activists will be tried on similar charges in the De Witt Town court. Judge Gideon and his fellow DeWitt Court Judge Robert Jokl have many more opportunities to think about these critical issues. I hope they’ll be influenced by having encountered some of the finest people in the world as they hear the cases of peace activists in upstate New York.
Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org)
There's a chance to watch DRONES, the movie, online on July 30th and then to join a discussion with filmmakers and experts. There's a preview video below. The movie's website is at http://dronesthefilm.com and the free screening is at http://demandprogress.tv/drones
I saw a screening of this film back in November at the drone summit in DC. It's wonderful. I was a bit put-off and staggered, to be frank, at the time, because someone involved with the film bragged about how inexpensively it had been made, and yet the budget was so unfathomably huge that I knew that if an anti-war organization had that kind of money we could hire organizers all over the world and quite possibly make the abolition of war a major mainstream force.
And, of course, you can't simply ask if the money was well spent, because no one will say that it was spent to end the practice of drone murder. The director and the cast, of course, say they wanted to make a socially important film about a serious issue, but not what they wanted to accomplish, beyond raising questions and being entertaining. Everyone's always happy to say that a film opposes racism or cruelty to animals or bullying, but not war.
But, you hundreds of millions of odd-balls who, like me, happen to give a damn whether your government is murdering people in your name with your money will, in fact, want to make this film a huge viral success. I'm telling you, right now, it's a good one. It is indeed entertaining. It's not simple, predictable, pedantic, or preaching. But neither is the film itself reluctant to face head-on the banal, evil, arrogant mass-murder engaged in by these young people who dress up in pilots suits to sit at desks in trailers taking orders from military bureaucrats and private contractors, and ultimately from a president who reviews a list of potential men, women, and children to murder on Tuesdays.
Drones look like a golden opportunity to war makers who don't want to ask Congress or the U.N. or the public, don't want to send in armies, just want to target people and groups for death anywhere in the world and obliterate them with the push of a button from an air-conditioned -- or, sometimes not so air-conditioned -- office.
But drones also look like a golden opportunity to those of us who have been trying to point out that murder and war are distinguished only by scale. I suspect that many who cannot see the bombing of a city as murder will see the drone-targeting of an individual as nothing else -- particularly if they watch this film.
If you can watch the film and not want to Ban Weaponized Drones, watch it again.
Last night Mary Anne Grady Flores was released on $5,000 bail from the Syracuse Justice Center after appearing before County Court Judge Thomas J. Miller who granted a stay of execution of her one year sentence, pending appeal of the Order of Protection granted to Col. Earl A. Evans by the DeWitt Town Court judges requiring drone protesters to stay away from the Hancock Airbase.
“The local judges of the Town of DeWitt have helped shut down the protests of the murder of Afghan civilians by drones piloted from the airbase. They have prevented us from exercising our First Amendment rights by issuing the Orders of Protection on behalf of the base,” said John Hamilton of Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones.
Hancock is a training center for drone pilots, technicians and maintenance workers, as well as a hub of drone activities. From the base the unmanned aircraft are flown over Afghanistan, where they kill people, including numerous civilians.
Grady Flores, grandmother of three, was the first alleged violator of the 50 drone activists who have been given the Order of Protection in 2012. She was tried and sentenced for a year in jail. Despite being out on bail, she still faces returning to jail. Her appeals process will take months.
“There are 30 upcoming trials over the next year. DeWitt Town judges threaten to sentence activists to a year in jail, many of them in their 60’s and 70’s,” said Judy Bello of Rochester. Bello noted that donations are essential to meet the costs of bail for so many as well as $5,000 transcripts for the appeals to move forward.
“This is far from over! The drones are still flying and the killing continues. We invite people to join the non-violent witness at the base,” said Rae Kramer of the Syracuse Peace Council.
The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Warswww.upstatedroneaction.org
PDF available at: http://upstatedroneaction.org/
On July 10, grandmother of three, Mary Anne Grady Flores was sentenced to one year in prison for being found guilty of violating an order of protection. A packed courtroom of over 100 supporters was stunned as she was led away, and vowed to continue the resistance.
These orders of protection, typically used in domestic violence situations or to protect a victim or witness to a crime, have been issued to people participating in nonviolent resistance actions at Hancock Air Base since late 2012. The base, near Syracuse NY, pilots unmanned Reaper drones over Afghanistan, and trains drone pilots, sensor operators and maintenance technicians. The orders had been issued to “protect” Colonel Earl Evans, Hancock’s mission support commander, who wanted to keep protesters “out of his driveway.”
Mary Anne began her sentencing statement with, “Your honor, a series of judicial perversions brings me here before you tonight.” She concluded that the “final perversion is the reversal of who is the real victim here: the commander of a military base whose drones kill innocent people halfway around the world, or those innocent people themselves who are the real ones in need of protection from the terror of US drone attacks?”
The orders of protection are being challenged on many legal grounds.
Mary Anne had been issued a temporary order in 2012. The next year, she photographed a nonviolent witness at the base, not participating herself because she did not want to violate the order. The irony is that those who actually participated in the action were acquitted, while Mary Anne was charged with violating the order.
Even though the pre-sentencing report recommended no jail time, Judge Gideon sentenced Mary Anne to the maximum of a year in prison. As he imposed his sentence, the judge referred to his previous Hancock decision. He had stated then and insinuated now, “This has got to stop.”
In addition, Mary Anne was fined $1000 plus a $205 court surcharge and a $50 fee to have her DNA collected.
Her verdict is being appealed.
For information on how to support Mary Anne, contact Ellen Grady at email@example.com.
Now that the U.S. government has released parts of its We-Can-Kill-People-With-Drones memo, it's hard to miss why it was kept secret until now.
Liberal professors and human rights groups and the United Nations were claiming an inability to know whether drone murders were legal or not because they hadn't seen the memo that the White House said legalized them. Some may continue to claim that the redactions in the memo make judgment impossible.
I expect most, however, will now be willing to drop the pretense that ANY memo could possibly legalize murder.
Oh, and yall can stop telling me not to use the impolite term "murder" to describe the, you know, murders -- since "murder" is precisely the term used by the no-longer secret memo.
The memo considers a section of the U.S. code dealing with the murder of a U.S. citizen by another U.S. citizen abroad, drawing on another section that defines murder as "the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought."
David Barron, the memo's author, needed a loophole to make murder-by-missile a lawful killing rather than an unlawful killing, so he pulls out the "public authority justification" under which the government gets to use force to enforce a law. It's a novel twist, though, for the government to get to use force to violate the law, claiming the violation is legal on the Nixonian basis that it is the government doing it.
Alternatively, Barron suggests, a government gets to use force if doing so is part of a war. This, of course, ignores the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact and the illegality of wars, as well as the novelty of claiming that a war exists everywhere on earth forever and ever. (None of Barron's arguments justify governmental murder on U.S. soil any less than off U.S. soil.)
In essence, Barron seems to argue, the people who wrote the laws were thinking about private citizens and terrorists, not the government (which, somehow, cannot be a terrorist), and therefore it's OK for the government to violate the laws.
Then there's the problem of Congressional authorization of war, or lack thereof, which Barron gets around by pretending that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was as broad as the White House pretends rather than worded to allow targeting only those responsible for the 911 attacks.
Then there are the facts of the matter in the case of Anwar al Awlaki, who was targeted for murder prior in time to the actions that President Obama has claimed justified that targeting.
Then there are the facts in the other cases of U.S. killings of U.S. citizens, which aren't even redacted, as they're never considered.
Then there are the vastly more numerous killings of non-U.S. citizens, which the memo does not even attempt to excuse.
In the end, the memo admits that calling something a war isn't good enough; the targeted victim has to have been an imminent threat to the United States. But who gets to decide whether he or she was that? Why, whoever does the killing of course. And what happens if nobody ever even makes an unsupported assertion to that effect? Nothing, of course.
This is not the rule of law. This is savage brute force in minimal disguise. I don't want to see any more of these memos. I want to see the video footage of the drone murders on a television. I want to see law professors and revolving-door State Department / human rights group hacks argue that dead children fall under the public authority justification.
A Pakistani High Court ordered Pakistani police to lodge a complaint against former CIA station chief Jonathan Banks on Thursday, for the killing of civilians in U.S. drone strikes along the country's northwestern border with Afghanistan.Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court made the order in a case filed by Karim Khan, a North Waziristan resident and an anti-drone activist whose son and brother were both killed in a drone strike in 2009.
Join the first Global Action Day Against the Use of Drones for Surveillance & Killing - October 4, 2014
As global citizens who believe in justice and the rule of law, we oppose weaponized and surveillance drones because their deployment:
- is used for extrajudicial "targeted" killings based merely on suspicion -- murders -- even of children inside and outside of war zones,
- violates democratic rights of freedom of speech and assembly and the right not to be unreasonably searched,
- terrorizes populations in targeted territories, thereby fueling hatred and increasing the cycle of violence,
- lowers the threshold to war and initiates a new round in the arms race,
- leads to the development of autonomous killer robots, thereby making even more horrifying wars likely.
We demand that all governments cease the production and acquisition of armed drones, as well as their research and development, and work towards a worldwide ban of these weapons.
We further demand that our governments prohibit the use of drones for surveillance and prohibit using space satellites, ground stations, and military bases to enable drone surveillance and to trigger drone killings.
We call on people all over the world to join us in the Global Day of Action on October 4.
To add your endorsement to this call or to send a URL link regarding your October 4th protest event, contact Colleen from CODEPINK at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Brian Terrell
On April 15, 2014, when the story broke on the world that the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert program of assassination by remotely controlled drones is not distinct from the drone program of the U.S. Air Force as we had been told, I was on the “Sacred Peace Walk,” an event sponsored each spring by the Nevada Desert Experience, a 70 mile trek from Las Vegas to the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. Creech Air Force Base is along the way and we had already made plans for a protest there the next morning. While the CIA’s drone program is shrouded in secrecy, the Air Force supposedly has been using drones strictly as a weapon for waging war against combatants in recognized areas of conflict such as Afghanistan and formerly in Iraq, under a chain of command that is accountable to elected officials. Some who condemn the CIA’s assassinations by drones as illegal give a pass to or even laud the Air Force use of drones as a more restrained way to fight war.
This distinction has now been exposed as a lie. In a new documentary film released in Europe, “Drone,” former Air Force drone operators, veterans of a super-secret Squadron 17 at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, reveal that “it’s always been the Air Force that flies” the CIA’s missions, “the CIA might be the customer, but the Air Force has always flown it.”
The fact that airmen at Creech are carrying out assassination missions and extrajudicial executions far from declared zones of conflict on orders from unknown and unnamable bureaucrats did not come as a surprise. Neither was the news a “game changer” in regard to the actions we had planned, although we quickly revised the indictment listing the war crimes committed at Creech that some of us would attempt to deliver to the base commander.
My arrest at Creech along with eight others on April 16 was a “return to the scene of the crime” (the Air Force’s crime, not mine) for me, as I was among the “Creech 14” in April 2009, the first nonviolent direct action against drones in the U.S. Creech was then one of only a few sites from which drones were controlled by the U.S. and by the United Kingdom, which has a wing of the Royal Air Force stationed there to fly their own drones. Since then the use of armed drones has been proliferating around the world and so has the number of drone operation bases in communities around the U.S. My work with Voices for Creative Nonviolence has brought me to the scenes of the crime in Afghanistan, the CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia and at the gates of drone bases in New York, Iowa, Missouri and in England as well.
The latest revelation is but the exposure of one more lie, one more layer of criminality and venality of this corrupt and dangerous program. Over the years since April 2009, the promises of a new era of better war through drone technology have been steadily unravelling, each of them proving false. It is increasingly clear that rather than limiting the scope of war, drones are expanding and proliferating it, killing more civilians both on battlefields and far from them, endangering our soldiers and the safety of our communities. Instead of keeping the horrors of war at a safe distance, drones bring the war home in unprecedented ways.
President Obama, in an address before the National Defense University May 23, 2013, described this new technology as more precise and by implication more humane than other weaponry: “By narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.” There is an understandable appeal to the idea of a weapon that can discriminate between the good and the bad people and limit regrettable “collateral damage.” It is understandable too, that a nation weary of sending its sons and daughters to fight on battlefields far away, risking injury, death or the debilitating effects of posttraumatic stress, might look to embrace a new method of war whereby the warriors fights battles from safe distances. Thousands of miles beyond the reach of the enemy, drone combatants often do not even have to leave their hometowns and are able to return to homes and families at the end of a shift.
In his National Defense University speech, the president contended that “conventional airpower and missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage.” A few weeks later a study published by the same National Defense University refuted his claim. Drone strikes in Afghanistan, the study found, were “an order of magnitude more likely to result in civilian casualties per engagement.” Despite the president’s assurances to the contrary, drone strikes cause immense “local outrage” in the countries where they happen, turning America’s allies into enemies. "What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world," said former commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal. "The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes ... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one or seen the effects of one."
Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates also warns of the seductive power and precision of armed drones that leads many to perceive war as a “bloodless, painless and odorless” affair. “Remarkable advances in precision munitions, sensors, information and satellite technology and more can make us overly enamored with the ability of technology to transform the traditional laws and limits of war. A button is pushed in Nevada and seconds later a pickup truck explodes in Kandahar.” Defense experts and policy makers, Gates warns, have come to view drone warfare as a “kind of video game or action movie. . . . In reality, war is inevitably tragic, inefficient and uncertain.” General Mike Hostage, chief of the US Air Combat Command, claims that while weaponized drones are useful in assassinations of terror suspects, they are impractical in combat. "Predators and Reapers are useless in a contested environment," Hostage said.
Some enlisted personnel are also questioning the use of drones. Heather Linebaugh, a drone operator for the US Air Force for three years says: “Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I'd start with: ‘How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?’ And: ‘How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?’ Or even more pointedly: ‘How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?’”
Distance from the battlefield does not isolate soldiers from posttraumatic stress or the moral injury of war. Heather Linebaugh speaks of two friends and colleagues who committed suicide and another former drone operator, Brandon Bryant, said that his work had made him into a “heartless sociopath.” While drone pilots are at a greater distance from their victims than other soldiers, he says, the video feed they watch brings them closer: “Artillery doesn’t see the results of their actions. It’s really more intimate for us, because we see everything.”
The Air Force is relegating much of its drone operations to Air National Guard units in various states, creating virtual war zones in local communities. “In an F-16, your whole mission was to train to go to war,” said a pilot of an Ohio Air Guard wing that made a conversion from fighters to drones. “In this mission, we go to war every day.” Foreign postings of state National Guard units are usually made public, but where in the world these citizen soldiers will be fighting from now on will be shrouded in secrecy, hidden even from their families. Reason and the rules of war both suggest that assassinations and acts of war on sovereign nations carried on by local National Guard units will make their communities into legitimate targets of war.
Drone warfare is based on the lie that war can be made more exact, limited and humane through technology. Our civilian and military authorities, proliferating drone attacks around the globe from more and more American bases, are acting recklessly and in defiance of domestic and international law. They are acting without regard for the safety and wellbeing of our troops, of American civilians or of people in faraway places who otherwise would mean us no harm. Rather than limiting war, being an answer, drones perpetuate and multiply the horrors of war and bring them home into our communities.
As our band of walkers approached Creech Air Force Base on the morning of April 16, we were greeted by a large sign at the gate that read “Force Protection Alpha in Effect,” announcing that the base was in its highest security alert. We were also met by an impressive contingent of military police and sheriff’s officers, heavily armed and some on horseback, which easily exceeded in number our little band that left Las Vegas on foot four days earlier. These public servants were clearly responding to a perceived threat to public safety and so were we. Our purposes were disjointed, though, in that we were at Creech in response to a clear and present danger presented by the murderous crimes of Squadron 17 somewhere in the depth of this desert outpost. The official and ostensible law enforcement squad, on the other hand, was there in response to the threat that a few unarmed citizens might step across an arbitrary and ever shifting line on the pavement.
I write this on my way to Kansas City, where, this weekend, good and faithful friends will go to nearby Whiteman Air Force Base to confront the predator drones based there. A few days later, Voices for Creative Nonviolence and friends will start walking from Boeing corporate headquarters in Chicago (a major drone contractor) 160 miles to Battle Creek, Michigan, where a National Guard unit is poised to begin operating predator drones over far away skies. “Force Protection Alpha” is truly “in Effect” and people in Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan as well as communities in the U.S. and Europe are responding to the emergency.
Brian Terrell is a Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and lives on a Catholic Worker farm in Maloy, Iowa
Photo credit: John Amidon
On May 20, a drone ban resolution was approved in a 4 to 1 vote by the Woodstock, NY Town Board. (There was one abstention).
The resolution (below) was introduced by board member Jay Wenk, who said he adapted it from a resolution that was approved in Charlottesville, VA.
Here is a report of the board action from The Woodstock Times:
Drone free Woodstock seeks ban on law enforcement drones
by Nick Henderson
‘I do not believe, from the bottom of my shoe soles, that the use of this equipment in particular is in any way designed or implemented to protect us…’
As surveillance technology becomes more widely used by law enforcement, Woodstock lawmakers, at their May 20 meeting, took one step toward making the town a drone-free zone.
The use of drones in war zones, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan is well known, but the unmanned craft are now being used by police agencies in the United States.
The Shadow Hawk drone, made by Vanguard Industries, which can be outfitted with a grenade launcher, tear gas and rubber buckshot, is being marketed to police agencies.
But Woodstock went in the opposite direction, passing a resolution expressing the desire that the town be a "No Drone Zone."
"The rapid development of drone technology throughout the United States poses a threat to the privacy and Constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Woodstock," reads the resolution, proposed by Councilman Jay Wenk.
The resolution states that drones can also be used to "film individuals or groups around the clock, in public spaces or through the windows of private homes, and to continuously monitor cell phone and text messages." It calls on Congress, the state and county legislatures to prohibit use of drones for domestic surveillance and law enforcement. It also calls for the prohibition of weaponized drones.
The original resolution declared Woodstock a "No Drone Zone," but wording was changed after concerns from Councilman Bill McKenna. "To me, it brings the resolution down a little bit." he said. We can't declare Woodstock a no drone zone. I know it's a great sentiment."
McKenna agreed with the other points made in the resolution, but thought the declaration would open the town to ridicule. "For us to go and declare something is meaningless and it almost makes the rest of it a joke in some people's eyes and I don't want that to happen," he said.
Wenk agreed to the change in language.
Deputy Supervisor Laura Ricci said she wants to protect law enforcement's ability to use technology for legitimate purposes, but Wenk countered that these drones have no such use in his view. "I do not believe, from the bottom of my shoe soles, that the use of this equipment in particular is in any way designed or implemented to protect us," Wenk said. Rather, it is "designed to create more of a police state."
Added Wenk, "We are living in a state where agencies like the NSA, for example...have run roughshod over the constitutional respect for Americans. To say nothing of the fact that these drones have been used in horrible ways overseas."
Woodstock is not the first municipality to work toward banning drones. Charlottesville, Virginia, Iowa City, and St. Bonifacius, Minnesota are other examples, Wenk noted.
All voted in favor of the resolution except Councilman Ken Panza, who abstained. When asked, Panza said he didn't have enough understanding of the resolution, which was added late, to cast a vote.
The resolution does not apply to recreational drones, provided they are not used to monitor people or residences.
Desire Town of Woodstock to be a “No Drone Zone”
Offered by Councilman Wenk, seconded by Councilman McKenna:
Whereas, the use of drones by the United States military provides a dangerous precedent for their domestic use; and
Whereas, the rapid development of drone technology throughout the United States poses a threat to the privacy and Constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Woodstock; and
Whereas, the Federal Government and the State of New York have failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States; and
Whereas, drones can be used to film individuals or groups around the clock, in public spaces or through the windows of private homes, and to continuously monitor cell-phone and text messaging; and
Whereas, Police departments throughout the country have begun implementing Drone technology absent any guidance from law-makers; and
Whereas, Vanguard Defense Industries has confirmed that its Shadow Hawk Drone, which is already being sold to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, will be outfitted with weapons, including a Grenade launcher, or Tear gas and rubber buckshot, thus sending a clear and chilling message to those attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights by taking to the streets to protest government policies; now therefore be it Resolved, that the Town Board of the Town of Woodstock New York,
· Desires Woodstock to be a “No Drone Zone;”
· Strongly warn that the unrestricted, unregulated use of drones is a serious threat to the Constitutional rights of all Americans;
· Call upon the United States Congress and the New York State legislature to recognize the extreme danger and urgency of the issue, and to adopt legislation that would prohibit the use of drones for domestic surveillance and law enforcement purposes;
· Call upon the United States Congress and the New York State legislature to adopt legislation that would strictly prohibit the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to intimidate, harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact human beings;
· Call upon the United States Congress and the New York State legislature to adopt legislation to prohibit information obtained by drones to be used as evidence in Federal or State judicial proceedings; and
be it further Resolved, this resolution does not apply to hobbyists that fly remote controlled model aircraft, away from areas where they could harm people, as long as those devices are not equipped to monitor any person or residence; and
be it further Resolved, that the Town Board authorize the Town Clerk to forward a certified copy of this resolution to Ulster County Executive, State and Federal representatives, to the Governor of New York State, and to the President of the United States.
All voted 4-1-0:
Supervisor Wilber - aye
Councilwoman Magarelli - aye
Councilman Wenk - aye
Councilman McKenna - aye
Councilman Panza - abstained