A week after Mary Anne Grady-Flores, an Ithaca anti-drone activist and grandmother of three, was sentenced to one year in prison, supporters vow that the overly harsh terms will only galvanize those who "place their bodies on the line" in the name of peace.
On July 10, before a packed courtroom of her supporters in DeWitt, New York, Judge David S. Gideon sentenced Grady-Flores, 58, to one year at the Onondaga County jail for violating an order of protection when she photographed an anti-drone protest at the Hancock Air National Guard Base.
Issued on February 13, 2013 after Grady-Flores participated in a peaceful demonstration at the base the prior year, the order barred her from from going near one of the base's commanders. She allegedly violated the order during an Ash Wednesday peace action, which Grady-Flores photographed from a point beyond what she believed was the boundary of the Hancock base.
At a press conference before her sister's trial, Clare Grady said it was "obscene" that a law meant to protect victims of violence was now being used against those who "refuse to be silent" and "refuse to accept the normalization of killing, targeting as a matter of policy."
During the trial, Grady-Flores spoke about what she said were the "perversions of justice in her case."
The final perversion, she said, is "the reversal of who is the real victim here: the commander of a military base involved in killing innocent people halfway around the world or those innocent people themselves? Who are the real ones in need of orders of protection?"
"So I, as a nonviolent grandmother and a caregiver to my own mother, as I prepare for jail, itself a perversion, I stand before you remorseful," Grady-Flores continued. "I’m remorseful about my own country and its continued perpetuating of violence and injustice.’”
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Following news of her verdict, many decried the sentence as "unreasonable," saying that it was clearly done to set a judiciary precedent against the protests and to discourage future demonstrations.
"Our democracy needs people like Grady Flores and her cohorts, who resist violence and war by placing their bodies on the line."
As peace activist Patrick O'Neill wrote in an op-ed published on Monday: "Rather than concern himself with deterrence, Gideon would have better served society if he had recognized the important role the Hancock protesters play in keeping a check on the U.S. military-industrial complex."
"Our democracy needs people like Grady Flores and her cohorts, who resist violence and war by placing their bodies on the line," O'Neill continued.
Brianna Shetler of the Syracuse Peace Council, which frequently participates in the anti-drone demonstrations at Hancock, told Common Dreams that the severity of the sentence proves that the ongoing protests at the base are getting the message out.
"The harder they push back, the more we know that we are getting to them and we are not about to stop now," Shelter said. "I am absolutely sure that this is going to motivate us a hundred times more."
Shetler said that Grady-Flores, with the help of her sister and fellow activist, Clare Grady, are working on an appeal.