by Debra Sweet Sunday I was in Syracuse, NY for a mass protest against drones, and of the outrageous "orders of protection" granted by a local judge against specific protesters, aimed at keeping them away from Hanock Air Force Base, from where drone operations in Afghanistan are piloted. We began at Tucker Missionary Baptist Church with almost 500 as Cornel Westspoke about poverty, racism and drones. "How does virtue stand up to brute force?" he asked, quoting WEB Dubois? One way Cornel answered is that we cannot allow the victims of US imperialism to be invisible.
We left the church and gathered in a parking lot adjacent to the base, but out of sightline of the base, because more than 40 people subject to the orders of protection were warned they would be arrested if they approached the base -- or even if they could be seen from the base! Rae Kramer, one of those under the orders, spoke about years of work in supporting victims of domestic violence, the very women for whom "orders of protection" were created in response to advocates' struggle. Ironically, those actual orders are often violated, or unenforced. But to use the same framework to cast political protesters as a danger to the commander of the base is an outrageous attack on the free speech and assembly rights of the people who are risking their freedom to stop US drone war through holding signs on public property.
Most of the focus on yesterday's protest, though, was on past victims, and possible targets of the US drone war. We head this message from Afghanistan:
Last year, Raz Mohammad, a young man from MaidanShahr, Wardak Provice, Afghanistan, submitted a request for an Order of Protection for his family and community after his young brother-in-law was killed in a drone strike. Raz said:
“On Friday,the 30th of May, 2008 my brother-in-law was killed by a drone, along with four of his friends. My brother-in-law was a student and was innocent. Accountability from the U.S. military for this incident was non-existent.
This incident created a situation which was beyond imagination.
It affected the minds of my sister and all members of my family. When my nephew was 5 years old, he asked his mother, “Where is father?” My sister replied, “Your father was killed by a computer.” These negative effects on all of us persist till today.
I am worried for my family and the people of MaidanShahr. I request that the U.S. courts protect my sister, my family and my village.
I wish that U.S. will be able to save all humanity from drones.” **Translated by Hakim Young
World Can't Wait was there with a model Reaper drone (the same model piloted from Hancock AFB computers). There were hundreds of photos of past and potential vicitms from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen & Somalia, carried in a solemn procession which ended in a "free speech zone" behind barricades. The military filmed us from every direction, erected a tower 35' above the gathering, where shooters were posted, and lined up armed guards on hits perimeter. While we read our own "orders of protection" for the victims of their base. "NO MORE inappropriate touching" of children and people by the U.S!