Anti-Drone Protesters Arrested Outside US Air Force Base

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Common Dreams

Anti-Drone Protesters Arrested Outside US Air Force Base

Four of the eleven arrested on Good Friday were members of clergy

CHP Officer George Carpenter, right, clears demonstrators from the roadway during a protest near the gate of Beale Air Force Base in Wheatland in this March 25, 2014 file photo. The group has been protesting the federal government's use of drone aircraft. (Photo: Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee)

CHP Officer George Carpenter, right, clears demonstrators from the roadway during a protest near the gate of Beale Air Force Base in Wheatland in this March 25, 2014 file photo. The group has been protesting the federal government's use of drone aircraft. (Photo: Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee)

Though mainstream America continues to largely ignore the fact that the Obama administration is routinely killing innocent civilians abroad, a number of individuals and organized groups in the U.S. continue to protest the use of remotely-piloted drones and the carnage they deliver on foreign populations.

"It's encouraging to see a network of grassroots activists entering Air Force and Air National Guard bases, across the U.S., to exercise first amendment rights, seeking 'redress of grievance.' Those who bear the brunt of drone warfare aren't allowed to voice their grief, sorrow and fear. "
—Kathy Kelly, among those arrested at Beale AFB

On Friday evening, eleven people were arrested outside Beale Air Force Base in California after demanding an end to the killing of children and other innocents caught up in America's borderless and seemingly endless "war on terror."

As the local Modesto Bee reports:

Beale is home to the Global Hawk, an unarmed reconnaissance drone that is controlled from the Yuba County base and flies thousands of miles over terrorist-infested countries to pinpoint human targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones, and then returns to Beale.

The protesters are adamant that the Obama administration’s regular use of these weapons has resulted in the death of uncounted innocent people, including children, and that the lethal attacks increase anti-American sentiment worldwide. The administration has consistently defended the use of drones to combat terrorists and says every effort is made to limit civilian casualties.

Friday’s demonstration drew 50 participants, one of the largest turnouts staged by the protesters critical of the drone program. It included prayers, songs, Holy Communion, and reflections by internationally recognized peace activist Kathy Kelly, who has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Following the service, some of the protesters crossed a demarcation line – white paint across a road approaching the base but a long way from the gate – in an attempt to deliver to the base commander a letter and two statements from religious groups. It was that act of civil disobedience that triggered arrests.  

Even as the United Nations, human rights advocates and legal experts say the Obama administration's targeted assassination program is an affront to international laws and signed treaties—the program continues apace.

In an email to Common Dreams on Sunday, longtime peace activist Kathy Kelly, one of the activists arrrested at the Beale AFB on Friday, rejects the idea that she and her companions are criminals and said she supports the many others who have been arrested for similar actions in protest against the U.S. drone and assassination programs.

"I don't believe we committed a crime when we entered Beale AFB," explained Kelly. "The Air Force has usurped its authority over the land by using it to control weaponized drones that maim and kill people in other lands."

She added, "It's encouraging to see a network of grassroots activists entering Air Force and Air National Guard bases, across the U.S., to exercise first amendment rights, seeking 'redress of grievance.' Those who bear the brunt of drone warfare aren't allowed to voice their grief, sorrow and fear. "

On Saturday, half a world away in Yemen, a U.S. drone obliterated a stretch of public road as it targeted vehicles local authorities say contained militatns affiliated with al-Qaeda. Caught up in the bombing, according to reports, was another vehicle that was not part of the targeted operation.

None of those killed in the attack—as is always the case with a drone strike—were allowed to defend themselves against the accusations of their alleged crime or activities.

As is almost always the case, it is nearly impossible to fully determine the accuracy of claims made by either the Yemeni government or the U.S. military when it comes to these strikes. Though the U.S. has acknowledged it operates a drone killing program in Yemen, it refuses to speak about details of specific attacks. As of Sunday, none of the names of the victims in Saturday's bombing had been made public.

Meanwhile, in California, the names of those arrested for protesting outside Beale Air Force Base were released as follows: Rev. Gerald Pedersen, 88; Rev. Elizabeth Griswold, 35; Rev. John Auer, 70; Rev. Sharon Delgado, 65; Kathy Kelly, 61; Michael Kerr, 65; Rodger Stall; Arthur Whitman-Bradley, 70; Nancy Reiner; Bob Russell; and Pamela Osgood, 68.

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