The late peace activist Jerry Berrigan, or, rather, 30 life-sized images of him, joined a dozen people at drone base in upstate New York on Thursday to protest the "instruments of terror" and urge the military personnel there not to commit crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Berrigan, who died in 2015 at the age of 95, had, in his late years, frequently taken part in the regular protests at the Hancock Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones says.
And because Berrigan had said that he "would have resisted more often and been arrested more often" in his life—which, like that of his brothers Dan and Phil, was filled with decades of peace work—the drone protesters say this is where he would have wanted to be.
The activists say they attempted to deliver a letter to personnel at the base, urging them to uphold the United Nations charter which states that "all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation."
"The Attack Wing of the NY Air National Guard deploys hunter/killer Reaper drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and probably elsewhere," their letter states. "These weaponized robotic drones are instruments of terror. They perpetrate extrajudicial killings, violate due process, violate national sovereignty, and kill noncombatants and civilians."
The letter also urged the personnel to heed their conscience and "not be complicit in these crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes."
After an hour an a half blockading the entrance to the base, a statement from the group says the 12 activists were arrested and charged with one misdemeanor and two violations. Two of them were also charged with an additional misdemeanor for allegedly violating an order of protection taken out by the base commander.
Video of the action, uploaded to Youtube by SyracusePeacdeCouncil, can be seen below:
Fifty-nine-year old peace activst Mary Anne Grady Flores is currently serving a six-month sentence for her for her act of nonviolent civil disobedience at the base. As Bill Moyers wrote last week:
President Obama and the Pentagon insist that using drones in pursuit of terrorists causes minimal civilian casualties and protects American troops, but Grady Flores takes issue with that justification. She told us she had been moved, in particular, by reports of the staggering numbers of civilians killed by US drones, and she says her fears were confirmed by documents recently leaked to journalists at The Intercept revealing that during one five-month stretch, 90 percent of those killed in one part of Northeastern Afghanistan were not the intended target.
Grady Flores says she was also shaken by the 2013 testimony before Congress of a family from Pakistan that had suffered a drone strike in North Waziristan. A grandmother of three herself, Grady Flores listened as Rafiq ur Rehman recounted his mother’s death in the presence of her grandchildren. “She was out in the fields picking okra with the kids around and a drone strike happened, and she was sent to four winds… now the kids live in terror,” Grady Flores recalls.
“That’s why citizens are at the gates of Hancock,” says Grady Flores. “That’s why we’re there.”