Friday, August 1, 2014

Hancock Show Trial #2: Vietnam Vet Drone Resister ACQUITTED!

Russell Brown
in front of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station
to protest the use of drones by the military.
photo: James Neiss
In the second of a string of "show trials" aimed at quashing First Amendment activity in Upstate New York, after two hours of deliberation,Vietnam Veteran and Buffalonian Russell Brown, was acquitted July 31 by a six person jury in DeWitt Town Court, East Syracuse. He was facing charges of Obstruction of Governmental Administration (OGA), a misdemeanor carrying up to a year incarceration and up to $1000 fine, as well as Disorderly Conduct charge, a violation. Brown, who went before the court Pro Se (he served as his own counsel, was assisted by Buffalo Attorneys Daire Irwin and Paul Fallon.

Russell Brown was arrested during a nonviolent protest at Hancock Air National Guard Base on April 28, 2013. In a roadway across from the Airbase, he lay down to symbolize the death of drone victims. There are biweekly demonstrations at Hancock Airbase. Several times a year there are larger demonstrations and nationally coordinated events. On six occasions there have been arrests, leading to six trials since 2011. Mr. Brown's trial is the second acquittal. There are twenty activists are facing prosecution, working with Upstate Drone Action.

During testimony, Brown told what he did leading up to the "Global April Days of Action" gathering in Syracuse. This included his writing a poem that links the drone attacks conducted at Hancock with the missions he conducted in Vietnam. A marine from 1965 - 1967, he told of the war he experienced. His participation in senseless killing and brutality in Vietnam informed his understanding of the Drone War Program at the 174th Attack Wing. Russell now finds allegiance with the victims of the drone attacks.

Laying on the street with "blood" spattered clothes lifted a weight of guilt from Brown. Transforming guilt to regret makes possible a voice: poet, marcher in a 'legal' protest, drone victim laying in the street were deemed protected speech. The message was closely attended by the jury. Brian Hynes said, "They saw the human power of the message and the public value of the method used to deliver it. Drones kill senselessly and illegally and traumatize our airmen."

Brown said that the wars of the last decade brought back his experiences in Vietnam. “Lying in that road was the most peaceful moment I've experienced since I left Vietnam,” he said. "I was silent then in the face of those atrocities and I can't be silent anymore."

The jury was smiling as they returned to give the verdict. Later one juror asked a supporter to "Thank Russell for us! My brother was in the Vietnam War and lost his leg. We know what the vets went through." The juror also acknowledged the PTSD drone pilots experience. Another juror said, "We did what was needed to be done. It was fair and just".

The Struggle to Publicize the Truth About Drone Killings Controlled from Hancock

Upstate Drone Action has been protesting the Drones at Hancock Base since 2009 with bimonthly vigils, annual rallies and a Gandhian Wave of civil resistance.

Because U.S. drone killings are carried out in secret -- and often never even acknowledged off-the-record -- activists at Upstate Drone Action and others around the country have been engaged in a sustained struggle to publicize the truth about the drone killings, bring about their cessation, and bring the killers to justice.

Legislation now pending in the U.S. Congress would require full disclosure of the details of the U.S. killing program, but as yet only ten (10) members of Congress have stepped forward to co-sponsor the legislation, and none of those are from New York State.

There are 10 more trials scheduled for Hancock protesters in DeWitt between now and next July stemming from the April 28 protest. Several more trials are pending. (In addition, Mary Anne Grady Flores was convicted of violating an Order of Protection by standing in the road in front of Hancock Base and was sentenced on July 9 to one year in prison.)

Related posts 

The trials of citizen activists in Upstate New York are part of a government plan to put a chill, once and for all, on citizens' exercise of Constitutional rights.  The citizens rely on Bill of Rights protections, Constitutional provisions about civilian control over the military, and the international treaties covering conduct of war and human rights, to which the United States is a party. The position of the government is that no dissent will be tolerated, and that the severity of the penalties for expression will be rapidly escalated, until the point where dissent is cut off entirely.

(See The Hancock Show Trials: Quashing Dissent Against America's Criminal Drone Killing Program )

As indicated above, the majority of the trials (including the first) stem from protests that occurred at the end of April, 2013.

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