Arrests in Two States for Drone War Foe

A principal organizer for more than a decade of periodic protests at two U.S. drone warfare bases was arrested with little warning as she held signs near the entrance of each base this fall. 
The first of Toby Blomé’s two unintended arrests came during the Shut Down Creech actions held September 26 – October 2 outside Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. Creech is the heart of training and operations for all U.S. remotely-piloted armed warplanes.  This year, more than two dozen people – including members of Veterans for Peace, CodePink and Ban Killer Drones – greeted the “chair force” commuters twice a day, morning and evening. With banners and dramatic tableaus depicting innocent victims, they demanded an end to U.S. drone attacks and a ban on “killer drones.” Other messages urged the military personnel to follow their conscience, and visit for support to leave warmaking behind.

During the group’s Tuesday morning vigil, Toby Blomé and another activist held a banner reading “U.S. Drone Kills Kabul Family. Dead: 7 Children, 3 Adults.” They stood on the shoulder of the entry road in front of an area marked for the lone counter-protester. After Blomé had a brief interaction with him, he called police nearby which apparently triggered her abrupt arrest without a second warning. 
Blomé was charged with making false statements and obstructing an officer, then taken to the Clark County detention center in downtown Las Vegas. To resist the unfair practice of forced scanning and radiation exposure of people not yet proven guilty of any crime, Blomé refused the body scanner at the jail. Her shoes and socks were confiscated, and her jail slippers taken away before she was locked alone in a cell for over 24 hours. After refusing her first meal, no other food or drink was offered, and multiple requests for a phone call were refused. She was finally released from jail on Wednesday evening.
Two months later on November 22, Blomé joined several stalwarts for the monthly vigil and leafletting at Beale Air Force Base in Marysville, California. Beale is the command center for Global Hawk surveillance drones, an integral component of the global drone warfare enterprise. 
Blomé stepped into the same median area painted on the intersection where she’s stood for eleven years to leaflet the departing service members as they stop to enter the highway.
Military police have often disputed leafletters’ rights to this “gore” space but never followed through with threats of arrest. The month before, some of the Beale vigilers had even walked up the entry road a short distance to the gatehouse, and blocked traffic for long enough to pass leaflets to the line of backed-up vehicles. The vigilers then returned back to the highway, avoiding arrest. 
But this time, military police quickly confronted Blomé. She asserted her free speech rights and the cops withdrew to consult with their superiors. When they returned, they issued a formal order to disperse and then immediately handcuffed the surprised activist. Blomé was detained inside the base for over two hours, but has yet to be formally charged. While in custody, she used the opportunity to talk about U.S. drone war crimes with everyone she met.
Back in Las Vegas on November 23, Blomé was represented by a pro bono attorney at a pre-trial hearing where the district attorney dropped the Nevada charges.
After these two incidents, Blomé wonders, “Are our anti-drone protests at military bases having a great enough impact that the police are increasing their abuse of power, and cracking down?”
Woman arrested at California drone base while distributing leaflets
Drone protester Toby Blomé was handcuffed and detained for more than two hours on November 21, after demonstrating and handing out flyers at a drone base in Marysville, California.
A small group of antidrone activists (with Codepink, Ban Killer Drones and Veterans For Peace) held protests at two gates at Beale Air Force Base during commute times at the beginning and end of the work day. Flyers and banners were used to educate military personnel about two critical issues: 1) The August 29th U.S. drone attack that killed 10 members of the Afghan Ahmadi family, all civilians, at their Kabul home, and 2) The U.S. military’s critical role in the global climate crisis that leaves a gigantic carbon footprint annually, due to the 800+ foreign bases worldwide and the ongoing state of “endless wars.

One banner read: “Creechers Say: END WAR, 4 the CLIMATE,” with activists dressed up as and holding puppets of animal creatures, in response to the recent Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 global climate conference that excluded the U.S. military’s major role in greenhouse gas emissions in the global solution agreements.

One of their leaflets, titled “Don’t Look Away,” included color photos of the seven young children of the Ahmadi family killed in Kabul by a U.S. drone attack. The protestors say that this was not an exceptional “mistake”, but a common reality in drone attacks, where victims of U.S. drone strikes are most often civilians or “not the intended target.” This reality was revealed in military documents leaked by drone whistleblower Daniel Hale, who is currently serving 45 months in jail for exposing drone war crimes.

The group was successful at distributing flyers and bannering at the Wheatland gate at Beale Air Force Base during Monday’s early morning commute, but plans at the afternoon vigil at the Doolittle Gate were quickly disrupted by Beale security police.

Peace activist and grandmother Toby Blomé, wearing a white bunny suit with tail, attempted to distribute her flyers while holding a heartshaped sign: “Love Not War.” Within minutes of arriving to an area she has frequented for over a decade, that provides easy access to military personnel pulling out onto a highway, base security police claimed she was on military base property and had to leave.

This “gore” area, separated from traffic flow by a double yellowlined triangle, has been in dispute between the military and peace activists for over a decade, with the military repeatedly changing their claims as to where the invisible base property line crosses the entrance road. However, in 11 years of dispute, Beale security officers have never arrested Ms. Blomé and she has always asserted her free speech rights to be there. This time she was handcuffed and removed very quickly, eventually taken onto the base for fingerprinting. She was detained for about two and a half hours before she was cited and released into the dark of the night at the gate.

“I’ve been passing out leaflets at this same Doolittle Gate location, monthly, for most of the last 11 years now, and have never been arrested,” says Toby Blomé. “Why did Beale security police on this day decide to violate my cherished 1st Amendment rights and arrest me unjustly? I was not on the base property, though this is what they claim.” The Beale military refused to give the name of the supervising officer ordering the arrest, though Ms. Blomé requested the identity several times during her detention. Near her release time, one “Tech Sergeant,” Officer Beck, finally took responsibility, but it is unclear to Ms. Blomé whether he was covering for someone else or not. A plain clothed officer, “Kyle,” who gave much of the direction and guidance to other officers during Ms. Blomé’s on base processing, refused to give his last name.

“Why was today different?” ponders Ms. Blomé. The only difference she noted was that this time her leaflet included colored photos of the seven children killed by a recent U.S. drone attack. “Could this be too much truth for the U.S. military to be exposed to?” she asks. The military refused to offer any explanation, except claiming that Ms. Blome was “trespassed on base property.” Ms. Blomé says that she has probably distributed from one to two thousand leaflets to base personnel over 11 years, at this same location, in spite of past military harassment.

“The public and military personnel all have the right to know the truth about U.S. foreign policy and human rights violations committed by these policies, and free speech rights have to be strongly defended if our fragile democracy is going to endure. In addition, if soldiers are going to risk their lives in foreign countries, supposedly to ‘defend our freedom, they should never be asked to violate our freedom at home,” said Ms. Blomé.

Beale Air Force Base Background:
Beale Air Force Base controls the Global Hawk surveillance drone that identifies, surveils and tracks suspected targets for the secretive U.S. drone assassination program. Military who work in the Global Hawk program at Beale collaborate with personnel at Creech Air Force Base, a key killer drone base in Nevada, as well as with the CIA, as part of this expansive covert program. Thousands of civilians have been killed remotely by U.S. drones, including hundreds of children in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere. Daniel Hale, a drone whistleblower, leaked military documents revealing that, at times, 90% of the victims of drone attacks are not the intended target. He is currently serving a 45 month sentence for exposing the criminal side of the U.S. drone program. To date, not a single U.S. official or drone operator has been held accountable for the many innocents killed by U.S. drone attacks.