Graduation at Fordham: Worker Bees vs. Cowardly Drones
By Ray McGovern and Nick Mottern
We have reported on White House “Kill List” compiler and alumnus John Brennan’s second coming to Fordham for commencement inside Fordham’s Bronx campus http://warisacrime.org/content/priests-or-hench-men  — (see embedded link “imaginative protests” on the line above the subhead, Bellying Up.) And several readers have expressed gratitude to learn that a few Justice-oriented graduates found inventive ways to protest this indignity at graduation on May 19.
Somewhat slighted in what we have written thus far are the other protest activities that took place at the gates of Fordham in the Bronx and also in Manhattan, most of them focusing on the use of drones to kill “militants” remotely. Seeing not even a remote connection between killer-drones and “Thou Shall Not Kill,” about 20 hardy witnesses, at one time or another over the three days of commencement activity, tried to spread some drone facts to sensitize people about what is being done in our name and to promote the thought that we all have a moral obligation to do what we can to stop it.
Those of us aware of the escalation of drone attacks have watched with some wonderment the White House’s (tacitly but clearly blessed by Fordham’s Trustees) method of choice for killing folks who don’t look remotely like us and, for some unfathomable reason, don’t seem to want our troops in their country.
Nick Mottern and his colleagues in their Know Drones Tour are visiting home districts of members of the Congressional drone caucus, using 8-foot long drone replicas to conduct sidewalk education on the legal and ethical issues of drone warfare. The honoring of drone aficionado Brennan at Fordham presented an unusually dramatic opportunity to use one of the replicas, together with leaflets and posters, to help people realize how willing they have been to let our institutions do our sinning for us.
Nick Mottern’s comments (below) point once again to the validity of Margaret Mead’s dictum: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
You don’t think so? Just wait and see.
Nick, along with Debra Sweet and Stephanie Rugoff of the World Can’t Wait, took leadership of drone protest activities on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the entrance to the Bronx campus and in Manhattan. (Nick had a previous commitment on Saturday, so others took up the cudgel …. er, I mean the drone. Members of the World Can’t Wait took part in the witnessing all three days, and gave strong support to protesters on campus in several other ways, as well. Here is Nick’s report:
On Friday, May 18, eight people assembled at the main entrance to Fordham to great those coming to the baccalaureate mass celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. We held signs and banners at the entrance on Southern Parkway; one banner said: "Cardinal Dolan: Drones Murder. Will You Speak Out?" And we handed out the following flyer to passengers in cars leaving Fordham as they stopped for the light, and to passersby as well.
Dear Cardinal Dolan,
On May 9, 2012 a dedicated anti-war group arranged to have a meeting with Bishop Robert Cunningham of the Syracuse diocese. They asked Bishop Cunningham to make a stand against the drones that have killed hundreds of civilians and assassinated “targets” which may or may not have been guilty as they are killed without warning, charges, or trial.
A report of the group’s meeting with Bishop Cunningham, reported that his response was: “You need to know that there are many people who do not agree with your position and also there are Catholics who support drones and work at Hancock (one of the Air Force bases from which drones are remotely piloted for air attacks in Afghanistan and several other sovereign countries).
IS THIS SPRITUAL LEADERSHIP?
Cardinal Dolan, Syracuse is within your ecclesiastical province, and you are President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will you take a stand against drone killing?
Know Drones Tour
We found that a number of people in the cars were quite pleased by the protest and eager to take the flyers, and we assumed they were Fordham faculty and other employees. One woman said: "It is because of people like you that I am still a Catholic."
Most people driving into the baccalaureate, however, did not like what we were doing (judging from the look on their faces). The traffic flow entering the main gate did not offer an opportunity to speak to the occupants of the cars or to leaflet them. We were there for an hour, starting at 5:15 pm, until the Mass was well underway. We left satisfied.
Earlier in the day on Friday, I had sent to the communications office of the New York Archdiocese a copy of the flyer and a press release for the three-day protest, but I got no response, and I have no idea whether the Cardinal mentioned anything about drones or the protest at the Mass.
[On Saturday, May 19, in addition to the witness activities at commencement exercises inside the Bronx campus, protesters again stood outside the main entrance for cars with a drone model, two banners, and assorted posters.
Cars were lined up trying to find parking spaces, so the protesters, drone, banners, and posters were seen by everyone in the area. About 500 leaflets explaining the objections to Brennan were distributed.]
(The report on these Saturday activities was written by one of the World Can’t Wait participants.)
On Sunday, May 21, five people came to picket the graduation ceremony of the Fordham Graduate School of Social Service that was held at Radio City Music Hall. The picket was being conducted because the school was giving an honorary degree to Congressman Edolphus Towns, a member of the Congressional Unmanned Systems (drone) Caucus.
The situation was ideal for speaking to those attending the graduation, a crowd that numbered close to 1,000. Some were lined up along the 50th-Street side of the music hall to enter a side door; others on the 51st Street side. As the 5Oth Street people waited to enter, I walked along the line and shouted out that we were protesting the awarding of the degree to Congressman Towns because he is on the drone caucus, a body formed to lobby for the drone industry inside Congress.
I was accompanied by Anna, who had responded to a call to protest by the World Can't Wait. Our signs said: "Cong. Towns: Are drones 'social work'?" and "Cong. Towns: Promote Life Not Drones". I asked people to contact Towns and ask him to quit the drone caucus.
About twenty people expressed concern and understanding about what I was saying. Several were surprised that Towns had anything to do with drones. More seemed interested and supportive of what we were doing but said nothing. I felt that the sidewalk education was quite successful, particularly since the people moved slowly into the building, and we got to present our messages to literally hundreds of people.
Initially two of the music hall security people tried to tell us that we couldn't talk to people in the line and incite them to protest inside the music hall. I advised them that we were on public property and that we were not inciting anyone. It was obvious to the security guards that people in the line were interested in what we were saying and were willingly taking flyers giving particulars about drone warfare and Cong. Towns. The guards relented, and we continued for about 30 minutes, until all had entered the building.
I was not able to find any press coverage of our protests or of the protests at the commencement address of Brennan, even though our press releases had been distributed widely. Given the political significance of Fordham in NYC I was quite surprised at the lack of coverage, particularly of the internal controversy.
I think our protest activity outside the Fordham gates and in Manhattan, even with such small numbers, gave heart to some people in the extended Fordham family. If that is so, that alone made it worth the considerable time it took for preparation and to be there.