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Putting Our Bodies on the Line to Stop Drone Warfare

By JoyFirst - Posted on 24 January 2013


There is a growing national movement to end the drone warfare that has been expanded during the Obama years.  Even as Obama gives an inaugural speech that many thought to be inspiring and suggestive of change, reports indicate that the drone program continues to escalate.  So, we must continue to do everything we can to stop the killer drones.


I believe Obama became a war criminal in 2009, a few days after he took the oath of office and swore he would uphold the constitution.  It was only a few days after his first inauguration that he ordered his first drone strike, killing innocent people and beginning his legacy as a murderer.  Drone warfare is immoral killing hundreds of innocent children, women, and men.  It is illegal, constituting extra-judicial killing.  Obama has a “kill list” that he looks at every week and makes a unilateral decision that this person should die.  He also targets people who are engaged in what is considered suspicious-looking activities whether he knows who they are or not.


I made plans to join others in an action of nonviolent civil resistance organized by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR).  We wanted to expose Obama’s hypocrisy on Inauguration Day as he swore to uphold and defend the US Constitution, even as he defiles its most basic principles through drone warfare.


I flew to Washington, DC, feeling anxious about the idea of risking arrest.  It had been about 15 months since I had been arrested in DC.  But when I thought about why I was doing this, about all the innocent children who have died, I was able to put away thoughts of my personal safety and comfort and think about the people of Pakistan who live under the daily threat of drones constantly flying overhead and never knowing when they will attack, a whole society developing post traumatic stress disorder.  I thought about the mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers mourning their children who have been murdered by the US government.  I can’t imagine the unbearable pain thousands of people are living with and I knew I must take action.


The plan was to have a die-in near the Capitol during the inauguration ceremony.  We would fall to ground, covering ourselves with bloody shrouds and pictures of victims of drone attacks.  We knew security would be really tight and we were not sure how close we could get to the Capitol.  We knew we wouldn’t get anywhere near the President.  We knew we would be risking arrest in the action, but also knew the police might not arrest us.  Most importantly, we knew that we had to get our message out that innocent people are dying as a result of Obama’s drone policies.


Sunday night, the night before the action, I was in a Washington, DC hotel when I got a phone call from my daughter in Wisconsin to let me know that my husband had fallen and almost lost his eye.  He was in the emergency room and they were getting him ready for surgery to repair a significant laceration and a severed tear duct.  I felt very helpless being so far from home.  I didn’t sleep more than two hours Sunday night as I waited to hear from the surgeon when the procedure was finished, and struggled with what I should do.


On Monday morning I went to a final planning meeting at Union Station.  A small group of us met to flesh out the details for the action.  At the same time, many of my activist friends went to the Arc of Justice rally and parade beginning in Malcolm X Park and would meet up with us later to participate in the action.


As we discussed our plans for the action, I was feeling torn about what to do.  I thought about the suffering that the drones are causing to people on the other side of the world and the importance of participating in the action by risking arrest.  On the other hand, I felt a strong desire to go home and be with my husband.  After talking to my husband on the phone, it was clear to me that I needed to go home and be with him.  I decided to act in a support role for the action and then fly home later in the afternoon.  If I risked arrest, there would be the possibility of being incommunicado in jail for 30 hours or more and I just couldn’t do that.


At around noon, everyone who was participating in the action gathered together in the food court at Union Station.  After filling in the latecomers who had been at the Arc of Justice on final details for the action, we left Union Station. 


There were about 40 of us who walked down Delaware Ave. towards the Capitol.  It was close to 1:00 pm and there were floods of people filling the street walking away from the Capitol and we knew it was likely the inauguration ceremony was likely over.


When we got to the Russell Senate Office Building we decided that this would be a good place for the action.  Art Laffin pointed up into the sky and loudly said, “Look up in the sky.  It’s a drone.”  Other participants started pointing to the sky and yelling that we were being attacked by a drone.  I think this may have been unsettling to the crowd walking by as they also looked into the sky.


The 11 people risking arrest dropped to the ground, covering themselves with the bloody shrouds.  I joined others in lying poster-size pictures of drone victims on top of them.  They were moaning and crying out in agony as they lay there.  People tried to stop and take pictures as the police tried to move them along.  The police did not want the crowd to see what we were doing, but we were successful in getting their attention and getting our message out there.


Within about a minute a Capitol Police officer shouted, “This is your final warning.  If you don’t leave immediately you will be arrested.”  Less than a minute later the police started taking people by the arm, pulling them to their feet, and removing them from the scene.  I could see Max was being held by a police officer with hands being held behind his back, but I couldn’t see the others and assumed they were being arrested and cuffed.    


All of the sudden, the others returned and lay down on the street again.  An officer continued to hold Max with his hands behind his back.  The police again removed everyone from the scene and informed them they would not be arresting them.  Eventually Max was also released.  We thing that there were orders likely coming down from above that they did not want any protesters arrested at the inauguration, making it look like people were against anything Obama was doing.


So, we stood with our signs for a time, chanting and trying to talk to the crowd, but a line of about 15-20 police officers stood should-to-shoulder trying to block us from the view of the people streaming by.  Still quite a lot of people got our message that day.


When I returned home and looked at news reports of the inauguration, I saw that the  big concern was Michelle Obama’s new bangs and the dress she wore to the ball.  No one in the news wondered how we could have elected a war criminal to serve as our president.  I saw pictures of Obama with his daughters, and a video of him dancing with his wife.  Family seems to be so important to him.  Doesn’t he realize that family also is the most important thing to people living in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen? Doesn’t he understand that they love their families and mourn their children when they die like the parents of the children in Newton?  Doesn’t he get that we need to take care of all the children of the world, not just the children of the United States?


I returned to my husband on Monday evening and was so glad to get home to him.  On Tuesday a group of seven activists here in Wisconsin held the monthly vigil at Volk Field where they are building an $8 million drone training facility.  It was seven degrees with a wind chill well below zero.  I had to stay with my husband and couldn’t join them, but was glad for their perseverance in the cold.


National, statewide, and local groups are all mobilizing and coming together to work to stop drone warfare.   They have formed a coalition called Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and

Warfare (NSDSW).  April will be a month of actions, and there are plans coming together in locations around the country targeting military bases, manufacturers of drones, and schools doing research.  For more information and to get involved, go to


Our government tries to whitewash what is happening with the drones, but I believe that when people understand what is really going on, there will be an outcry that can’t be stopped.  It is up to us. 


Joy First

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