DEWITT, NY -- Dozens of war protesters were arrested Friday afternoon outside the main entrance of the New York Air National Guard’s base at Hancock Field.
Thirty seven protesters, draped with red-spattered sheets, had lain themselves in the main entrance roads to the base, off East Molloy Road. They were arrested by Onondaga County Sheriff’s deputies on charges of trespassing and obstruction of justice.
They were handcuffed and, after a 45-minute wait, were led to a jail transport bus that was supposed to take them to the Onondaga County Justice Center for processing. Two were in wheel chairs.
The arrests followed a rally outside the air base where more than 150 people had gathered to protest the MQ-9 Reaper drones, and U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Friday’s rally culminated a week of walks, talks and dinners that brought people from around New York State and the U.S., organized by the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars.
“Our real goal is to end the war,” said Kathy Kelly, a peace activist from Chicago.
Speaker after speaker said the drones represent a new stage of dehumanizing war, kill and maim many civilians. “They terrorize people we don’t want to terrorize,” said Elliott Adams, a Veterans for Peace member from Sharon Springs, NY.
The 174th Fighter Wing of the New York Air National Guard has been remotely flying MQ-9 Reaper drones over Afghanistan, from Syracuse, since late 2009. The unmanned surveillance aircraft is armed with Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs.
The 174th is the first Air National Guard unit to fly MQ-9s, and the first Air Force-affiliated unit east of the Mississippi to fly them.
Major Jeff Brown, spokesman for the 174th, said the unit was proud of their mission. “We are proud of the role we play protecting the lives of military men and women on the ground, in harm’s way,” he said. “This state-of-the-art technology saves American lives on a daily basis.”