Anti-drone protesters arrested, cited at Creech Air Force Base
from the Air Force Times
by Sally Ho, The Associated Press
LAS VEGAS — Anti-drone protesters who said they wanted to spotlight war crimes and connect with pilots were arrested on March 6 after trying to block the entrance Friday at a US Air Force base in southern Nevada.
More than 100 people were assembled Friday morning outside the Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs near Las Vegas, officials said.
The protesters attempted to block the entrance but the workers were able to come and go during the shift change between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., officials said.
Organizers said protesters stood or laid down on the road in front of the two access gates. Others were stationed along the highway carrying photos and tombs to represent drone warfare victims.
“We consider it highly successful,” said Kit Kittredge of the protest she helped organize. “We shut down Creech.”
A total of 34 people from the protest were arrested and cited misdemeanor charges. They were released but another person was taken in for an outstanding warrant, according to Las Vegas police.
Base commander Col. Jim Cluff defended the operation in a statement, saying its mission was to provide life-saving intelligence and surveillance.
“The protesters are exercising their Constitutional right to peacefully assemble, which is a right we as members of the United States military are honored to uphold and protect. That being said, the protests have not and will not affect our mission here at Creech,” Cluff said.
The protesters said they have been at the site for a week to speak out against remotely piloted aircraft flying armed missions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Organizers said the protest drew people and advocacy groups from 18 different states.
Casey Stinemetz of Veterans for Peace said the St. Louis-based organization saw the event as an opportunity to reach out to the “cogs in the machine,” such as the pilots and other Creech personnel who carry out drone operations.
“It’s a huge opportunity to reach across the line, even if it’s just planting a seed in their mind,” she said.
Those arrested were:
Mari (Toby) Blomé
Catalino Dela Cruz (JR) Dazo
Michael E. Kerr
Patricia (Paki) Wieland
Mary A. (Ann) Wright
Jerome (Jerry) Zawada
Anti-drone protesters arrested at Creech Air Force Base
From the Las Vegas Review-Journal
by Keith Rogers
INDIAN SPRINGS — Metro police arrested Father Louis Vitale and 33 others for trespassing and blocking a road at Creech Air Force Base on March 6, where 140 peace activists had gathered early Friday to protest U.S. drone operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Overseas operations involving unmanned Predator and Reaper aircraft are controlled remotely via satellite links at the base, 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas, by pilots and sensor operators who sit at computer consoles.
The protesters, who had camped out this week across from the base to prepare for civil disobedience actions, blame U.S. drones for killing innocent civilians in attempts by the Air Force and the CIA to curb overseas terrorist attacks with laser-guided Hellfire missiles and bombs, in the case of Reapers, fired from drones.
“Shut down Creech!” the throng chanted after Las Vegas police gave a five-minute warning for the crowd to disperse at 7:20 a.m.
“This is an outrage to God and the universe,” Vitale, a Franciscan priest from Oakland, Calif., said as he knelt on a white line on an entrance road.
“Here we are reaching out thousands of miles away and killing people. It’s a horrible thing,” he said as police approached to apprehend him. “I have talked to people here that work on the drones … scared to death and say, ‘I love the Air Force but can’t stand what I do.’ ”
The protest was nonviolent. No one was injured.
Creech officials provided a reaction to a Review-Journal query early in the week that quotes the 432nd Wing commander, Col. Jim Cluff.
“We respect the members’ rights to protest peacefully, and as we’ve done in the past,” he said. “We are working closely with civilian law enforcement to ensure safety of those entering and exiting the base, as well as the safety of those protesting off base.”
In all, 34 men, women and two juveniles were arrested in four waves of civil disobedience actions near base entrances. They were cited and released on state misdemeanor charges of trespass or pedestrian in the roadway. One person was arrested on an outstanding warrant, according to Las Vegas police.
The protest was organized by contingents of peace and faith-based activists, including those from the Nevada Desert Experience, Veterans for Peace and Code Pink: Women for Peace.
A Vietnam War Navy veteran, Phil Frank, of Indian Springs, protested the protesters.
“I consider myself an American patriot,” he said, standing by a sign that reads “RPA’s (remotely piloted aircraft) Protect Freedom. God Bless Our Troops.”
“I believe our military has our country’s best interest at mind, and this program is helping to keep our families safe, our country safe. That’s what it amounts to,” Frank said as protesters walked from their makeshift Camp Justice across U.S. Highway 95 to a Creech base access road.
Nick Mottern, who produced and funded a 15-second TV spot that urges drone operators to refuse to fly them on military missions, responded to an email asking what is the solution to stopping terrorist acts that kill innocent people.
“Americans have been led to believe in the fantasy that drones are special weapons that can stop ‘terrorism,” he wrote. “But the solution to ‘terrorism’ is obviously not for the United States to do more killing. The answer must begin with the United States stopping its part in the cycle of killing in the Middle East and Afghanistan, ending its occupation there, and allowing people to resolve their own issues.”
Cluff reacted to the TV spot and a statement by Jackie Barshak, of Women for Peace, who urged him to stop deadly drone violence. In an email, he said his wing’s primary mission “is intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) first. Precision strike, or kinetic engagement, only occurs when needed and when the appropriate approval clearances, and rules of engagement have been met.
“That being said, our combatant commanders expect and demand unique ISR capabilities that only the Air Force can provide, and we will continue to strive to meet those demands 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days year,” Cluff said.
From Popular Resistance
UPDATE: Police are reporting 38 arrests including Col. Ann Wright, a twelve year old and a seventeen year old.
Hundreds of people from more than 18 states have converged at Creech Air Force Base for an event organized by the peace group CODEPINK coined #ShutDownCreech to protest the flight of killer drones from the base.
Activists have created 100 tombstones with the names and ages of children murdered by US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. These will be displayed along the Drone Victim Memorial Highway, aka Route 95, that runs by Creech AFB.
Dozens of veterans from all over the country (most members of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War) are among the activists.
Today, March 5, activists will participate in non-violence training, in preparation for tomorrow’s civil resistance action. They plan to halt business as usual, and SHUT DOWN CREECH AFB to express their outrage at the atrocities committed by the illegal drone program. A memorial ceremony will take place at 8:00 pm this evening with coffins, banners, white masks and funereal attire. Activists will position themselves at the entrance to Creech AFB and read the names of drone victims.
“Activists are anticipating arrests with the charge of trespassing during their nonviolent protests tomorrow. How dare they accuse us of trespassing, when the very nature of the drone assassination commits lethal trespassing and terrorizes communities all over the world. Drones Make Enemies,” said Martha Hubert, one of the organizers from CODEPINK.
The activists have been persistent in spite of temperatures below freezing at the early morning vigils.