Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hancock 17 Drone War Crimes Resisters' Verdict Is In

On Friday, February 7, Town of DeWitt Court Judge David Gideon found twelve of the Hancock Drone War Crimes Resisters guilty of disorderly conduct, but acquitted them of Trespassing. They had gone to Hancock Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, NY, on Oct. 25, 2012, to bring a Citizens War Crimes Indictment to the base and symbolically block the gates.  Their nonviolent action had called for an end to drone warfare.
Hundreds marched in a funeral procession in front of Hancock last April
 in commemoration of those killed by drone strikes.

 Saying, "At some point this has to stop," the judge gave the defendants the maximum sentence - 15 days in jail (starting immediately) and a $250 fine with a $125 court surcharge. He also imposed a two-year Order of Protection, prohibiting the defendants from going to the home, school, business or place of employment of Col. Earl A. Evans, Commander of Hancock's mission support group. Considering that the defendants had never met or knew of him before their arrest, it is clear the intent is to keep people away from the base.
Defendant Rae Kramer stated, "No person on the base was
 intimidated by us, that is clear. But the end result is to
 deprive me of my 1st Amendment Rights."
In their sentencing statements, the defendants spoke from their hearts and minds. Some reaffirmed their legal duties as citizens to stop war crimes:

Clare Grady said, "We went there to stop the war crimes. That was our intent." 

James Ricks hoped the judge would "sentence us to community
 service to investigate the war crimes they are committing at the base."
 Judy Bello said, "The people suffering are so
 significant...this requires a persistent response."
Mark Scibilia-Carver quoted the Pope saying "violence is a lie,"
 and "Faith and violence are incompatible."
Mark Colville challenged the Court, stating, "This
 court has been found guilty of stopping its ears
 to the laws that are in place to protect life.
 This court has been found guilty of stopping
it's ears to the voices of the victims of the drones."

The defendants were prepared for whatever sentence the judge imposed.
  In the words of Ed Kinane, "Any penalty this court
 can impose on me is trivial compared to the 
 sentences imposed on the drone victims."

Visit Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars to see inspiring videos of all of the sentencing statements.

Monday, February 10, 2014

New York State's 21st Congressional District: Living Under Drones?

by Joe Scarry

So here's an interesting question: the Federal Aviation Administration recently designated Griffiss International Airport near Rome, NY, as the hub of one of the first six designated drone testing locations in the country, in New York State.

Griffiss is located NW of Utica, near the southern edge of
New York State's 21st congressional district.
But where, exactly, are they going to be flying those drones?

If I lived in the northeast corner of New York State, I would be very concerned that I will soon be "living under drones."

You see, it takes a lot of space to test drones.  In fact, the military has grabbed so much of the states of New Mexico and Colorado for their test site that activists there have begun calling it "the Pentagon's 51st state."

Which is not to say that drone testing and training leaves people alone.  An infamous profile of drone training in New Mexico, published in The New York Times, shows just how "hands off" these activities are:
When I visited the base earlier this year with a small group of reporters, we were taken into a command post where a large flat-screen television was broadcasting a video feed from a drone flying overhead. It took a few seconds to figure out exactly what we were looking at. A white S.U.V. traveling along a highway adjacent to the base came into the cross hairs in the center of the screen and was tracked as it headed south along the desert road. When the S.U.V. drove out of the picture, the drone began following another car. 

“Wait, you guys practice tracking enemies by using civilian cars?” a reporter asked. One Air Force officer responded that this was only a training mission, and then the group was quickly hustled out of the room.
(See "The Drone Zone" by Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, July 6, 2012.)

And the new test site is not all. The district also lies a short distance from the site of Hancock Air Force base near Syracuse -- one of the main drone warfare operating centers in the U.S. and the site of ongoing protests by the large and growing community of antiwar activists in that area.

Hmmm ... drone base ... drone test site ... lots of space to test drones .... Will New York's 16,000 square mile 21st congressional district soon be claiming the state's motto -- "Excelsior!" (upward) -- for its exclusive use?


A lot of candidates and party operatives are eying the 21st and pinning their political hopes on it.  If the people of the 21st want to stop the drones, now's the time.

In recent days, the state GOP has designated its chosen candidate to run for the House seat in the 21st district. Will Elise Stefanik put her foot down about drones over the skies of the 21st?

Or perhaps that task will fall to the GOP "rebel," Joe Gilbert, who says he will continue to run against Stefanik. says he expected the endorsement of Stefanik by the region’s GOP chairs.
“My campaign is rooted in our founding principles. It is the individual freedom, the individual political sovereignty where we the people are the masters of government, not the other way around. My guiding principle is the Constitution. My guiding principle is the Bill of Rights. Government exists to protect the individual rights of its citizens. And if I feel it is not doing that any longer, then I am going to stand up very strongly and say no. My mission all along has been to bring my message to the people and to the voters and that’s what I’m going to do.”
And there is no news yet who will run on the Democratic ticket. The seat in the 21st is expected to be heavily contested: the incumbent, Democrat Bill Owens, is retiring, and the seat has traditionally been held by a Republican. Moreover, due to redistricting the borders of the district are different than in recent years.

The primary in New York State is expected to be held June 24

Related posts

There will be elections for 435 House seats in 2014. In at least some of those races, U.S. surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations will be an issue.

Herewith an Insider's Guide to the 7 S's (surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations) in the 2014 Midterms.

(See Will the 2014 Midterms be a Referendum on Obama's Surveillance, Secrecy, and Assassinations? )

April 2013 -- Following the Convergence to Action, a weekend of workshops, panels, and organizing meetings in Syracuse headed by the Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, nearly 300 activists came out to Hancock AFB on Sunday in a massive demonstration that helped to cap the nationwide April Days of Action Against Drones, which included events all throughout the state.

(See April Days of Action Against Drones Culminates with a conference in SYRACUSE and a massive demonstration at Hancock AFB- 31 arrested)

Events throughout New England were part of the April Days of Action Against Drones in 2013.

(See Boston, Maine, NH events during April Days of Action Against Drones)