from Disarm the Drones
On the morning of June 3, six peace activists representing “Disarm the Drones” were the first activists in Britain to be arrested and charged for anti-drones related offences. They were kept overnight at Lincoln police station after they planted a peace garden in RAF Waddington and went to court the next morning. The group was charged with conspiracy and intent to trespass and cause criminal damage. The conspiracy charge was soon dropped. They are scheduled for a preliminary hearing in court on July 4.
The nonviolent peace activists – the “DISARM the Drones 6” – managed to breach security at Britain’s top security drone control base in Lincoln. Their threat was considered so serious that their homes were raided by police at night while they were in jail and computers were seized.
Their action was timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the first UK Drone strike and the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.
The six individuals, who took in news stories about civilians killed as a result of drone strikes were: Chris Cole, Martin Newell, Dr. Keith Hebden, Susan Clarkson, Henrietta Cullinan and Penny Walker. They all felt moved to act after British Armed Drones (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) became operational from British soil on the 25th April 2013. The MoD has since confirmed that British drones controlled from RAF Waddington have made their first kill in Afghanistan.
Serious legal questions have been raised by the U.N., Britain and the U.S. about the legality and morality of drones, especially around their use in undeclared wars.
Chris Cole, anti-drone campaigner from Oxford, said, “To build real peace and security in our world we need to breech the silence and secrecy that surrounds remote warfare and expose the impact of the drone wars on global peace and security as well as the lives of ordinary Afghans.”
Penny Walker, grandmother from Leicester, said, “We created a gateway and peace garden at RAF Waddington in order to make a way for other people of peace to do their civic and moral duty and disarm these drones.”
Dr. Keith Hebden, Anglican Priest, said, “After entering RAF Waddington we planted a Vine and Fig tree, echoing the words of the prophet Micah, ‘They shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.’”
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Susan Clarkson is a Quaker pensioner who visited Kabul earlier this year with a peace delegation, where she met civilians who had lost innocent loved ones to drone strikes.
Dr. Keith Hebden, father of 2, is an Anglican priest and author of “Seeking Justice”.
Penny Walker is a grandmother and works closely with the asylum community of Leicester.
Father Martin Newell is a Catholic priest who runs a night shelter for asylum seekers in London.
Henrietta Cullinan is a mother of 4 and a school teacher.
Six arrested after drone protest at RAF Waddington
UAVs are remotely controlled from the MoD base for use in Afghanistan against the Taliban
• Ben Quinn
• guardian.co.uk, Monday 3 June 2013 19.31 EDT
Six protesters have been arrested after breaking into RAF Waddington, from where drones used to target insurgents in Afghanistan are remotely controlled.
The group, which entered through a fence around the Lincolnshire at 8am and included a Catholic priest and an Anglican priest, managed to set up banners and plant a “peace garden” consisting of a number of shrubs before they were arrested.
Supporters of the six, who were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, claim that police later visited homes in London and elsewhere and seized computer equipment.
Among those detained was Chris Cole, a blogger and co-ordinator of the Drone Campaign Network, who said: “To build real peace and security in our world we need to breech the silence and secrecy that surrounds remote warfare and expose the impact of the drone wars on global peace and security as well as the lives of ordinary Afghans.”
According to a statement issued by the campaign group, Disarm the Drones, the others who were arrested were: Martin Newell, a Catholic priest; Dr Keith Hebden, an Anglican priest, Susan Clarkson, a Quaker; Henrietta Cullinan, a teacher in London; and Penny Walker, a grandmother who has campaigned for asylum seekers in Leicester.
“We created a gateway and peace garden at RAF Waddington in order to make a way for other people of peace to do their civic and moral duty and disarm these drones,” said Walker.
The action was timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the first UK drone strike and the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.
Lincolnshire police said that officers were called to RAF Waddington after reports that a number of people had damaged a perimeter fence. The force added that six people were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage.
Missions of the missile-carrying Reaper aircraft began from a newly built headquarters at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire in April – five years after the Ministry of Defence bought the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to monitor and attack the Taliban.
Hundreds of peace campaigners have subsequently gathered outside the base to protest.
The MoD has defended its use of drones in Afghanistan, stating that they have saved the lives of military personnel and civilians. MoD officials have also said that Reaper aircraft are piloted by highly trained professional military pilots who adhere to laws of armed conflict and the same clearly defined rules of engagement which apply to traditionally manned RAF aircraft.
Drone base invasion steps up pressure on those attempting to maintaining secrecy
by Chris Cole
Six anti-drone protesters (myself included) were arrested inside RAF Waddington on Monday (June 3). The protest had three aims; 1) to symbolically breach the secrecy and silence surrounding the British use of armed drones; 2) to bring information about the impact of airstrikes on Afghan civilians and 3) to symbolically begin conversion of the air base to peaceful purposes. We did this by creating a peace garden within the base, displaying information on buildings, hangars and sign posts about the impact of airstrikes on Afghan civilians (see bottom of post) and trying to find out information about the day-to-day use of drones at Waddington.
We were in the base for over an hour before being detained and arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. After being held on the base for some time we were driven off the site and saw large queues of traffic. Our presence had meant the base was ‘locked down’ with all activity coming to a halt and no one was allowed to enter or exit the base.
We were detained by the police for over two hours before being processed. At this point we were told that we were being held incommunicado and not allowed a phone call to inform anyone of our arrests or to contact a solicitor. Unbeknown to us permission was being sort to gain entry to our houses in order to seize computers, mobile phones, diaries, and documents. In the afternoon we were each interviewed and told that we would be released and bailed pending further enquiries. By 10pm however it was becoming clear that we would be held overnight.
At 2am we were each awoken to be told we were being charged with aggravated trespass and conspiracy to commit criminal damage. These are both serious charges with the conspiracy charge meaning a trial in crown court rather than a magistrates court. In addition I was told there was a warrant for my arrest for non-payment of fines relating to a previous acts of civil disobedience.
Next morning we were taken to court only to be informed that these more serious charges had been suddenly and mysterious withdrawn and we were instead to be charged with ‘simple’ criminal damage to a fence. We all pleaded not guilty intending to argue that our actions were justified given the circumstances. An interim hearing will be held on July 4 and a trial will take place later in the year. We were given bail on condition that we did not re-enter Lincolnshire except to attend court hearings.
I was then held overnight again before being driven to Camberwell Magistrates Court in London. At first the court refused to accept me as they knew nothing about any warrant. However eventually I was brought before a magistrate who wiped the outstanding fines and court costs due to ‘time served’, given time to pay the remaining balance, and released.
The extreme reaction to our presence at RAF Waddington with the laying of very serious charges only for a complete and sudden reversal within hours betrays, I believe, the nervousness felt by those in charge of UK drone operations.
Behind the scenes it appears that the powers that be now appear to questioning whether or not to maintain the ‘just say nothing’ tactic as it is perceived as no longer working, with a growing chorus of MPs, Peers, journalists, lawyers and activists demanding answers and information about the use of armed drones. Those maintaining the secrecy around the use of drone are coming under increasing pressure – and the message from us all is that it will only increase.