Five anti-drone warfare activists arrested at Holloman Air Force Base

photo by Shirley Tung

from Shut Down Drone Warfare

Five Anti-Drone Warfare Activists – Including Three Veterans – Arrested Wednesday Morning at Main Gates of Holloman Air Force Base Drone Training Center Near Alamogordo, New Mexico

HOLLOMAN AFB, NM (Wednesday, April 19) – Five anti-drone warfare activists – including three military veterans – were arrested here shortly after dawn on Wednesday morning for allegedly blocking the entrance to the main gates of Holloman Air Force Base, site of the largest U.S. killer drone training program in the U.S. (700 killer drone pilots/operators graduate annually).

Toby Blomé, Ken Mayers, Elliot Adams, Michael Kerr and Richard Bishop were arrested by Otero County, New Mexico deputies, and charged with misdemeanor obstruction of a roadway. A trial was set for May 15 in Otero County, New Mexico.

The national coalition of groups Shut Down Drone Warfare (SDDW) has been holding peaceful pickets at the drone training center at Holloman Air Force Base since last Saturday, and will continue through Sunday, April 22.

The April 19 action was a nonviolent Day of Resistance and peaceful civil disobedience: “You do not have our consent,” modeled on the words of Martin Luther King Jr., these acts of nonviolent direct action serve to “create and foster such a tension” as to demand a response. He wrote, “Nonviolent resistance is one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their quest for social justice.”   

At a 3:30 p.m. protest on April 19, the theme will be GI Support/Resistance and Doves Not Drones. 

In addition to a focus on Air Force personnel at Holloman, members will reach out to the local community of Alamogordo with several educational public events, including a panel at 7:30 p.m. on April 20 at Patron’s Hall, Flickinger Center for the Performing Arts, 1110 New York Ave., with music and singing by Emma’s Revolution.  

Participants hope to educate Air Force personnel about the full effects of the worldwide drone program and to urge those training to reconsider their participation, which can lead to severe psychic trauma and moral injury.

“In spite of 14 years of persistent opposition to the U.S. drone program and the terror it brings to vulnerable communities, the Pentagon and the drone industry profiteers are plowing forward, creating an ever more destabilized world of weaponized drones,” said coalition organizer, Toby Blomé.

Blomé added, “We will not be silent while young recruits continue to be trained in these heinous acts of remotely controlled violence, ultimately becoming victims themselves due to the consequences of moral injury. This is not the world we want for our grandchildren, nor for the generations that follow them.”

“With the rise of drone use in the war in Ukraine, and the recent announcement by North Korea of a test with an underwater drone that can carry a nuclear warhead, we are concerned that this ever expanding use of drones threatens us all,” says SDDW organizer Edwina Vogan. 

Vogan added, “The downing of the US MQ-9 drone flying near Crimea by Russian fighter jets exemplifies this potential risk for serious escalation.  In today’s volatile political climate, the heightened potential for misinterpretation and error when these weapons violate sovereign air space puts us at much greater risk for nuclear confrontation and annihilation.” 

Organizers believe peace is not achieved through preparing for war, but rather by preparing for peace.

Co-sponsored by CODEPINKVeterans for Peace and Ban Killer Drones

photo by Shirley Tung

Five anti-drone protestors arrested for blocking main gate at Holloman Air Force Base

Juan Corral
Alamogordo Daily News

Five protestors were arrested April 19 outside of Holloman Air Force Base for blocking the main gate entrance onto base.

The protestors were members of organizations Veterans for Peace and CODEPINK.

photo by Sharat Lin

Veterans for Peace member Kenneth Mayers was one of the five protestors. Mayers was charged with obstructing the road. A bench trial for Mayers was scheduled for Monday, May 15 in front of Judge Michael Suggs.

The four other protestors were also charged with obstructing a roadway. All five protestors planned to submit a motion asking to extend the date so they may all appear together.

According to a press release by the Otero County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were diverting traffic to Holloman Air Force Base through the west gate for 20 minutes because of the protestors. Deputies gave a one-minute warning for the approximately 18 protestors to clear the entrance or face arrest. All but five protestors moved from the main gate.

Deputies then arrested those five for obstructing roadways.

“All five protesters were transported to the Otero County Sheriff’s Office for booking and taken to Magistrate Court for their initial arraignment before a judge. All five protesters were subsequently released on their own recognizance,” a news release from the Sheriff’s Office read.

According to its site, Veterans for Peace is a 20-year-old organization created by military veterans and allies that informs people on the cost of warfare and causes of war.

CODEPINK is a grassroots organization led by women to support human rights initiatives and end militarism. Member Toby Blome was present at Wednesdays protest, and was one of the five protestors arrested.

“Outside of the protest at Holloman, we have had daily vigils, every day we have been here Monday through Friday, twice a day which were all two hours. All different themes and focuses the drone issue. We connect the dots between the climate crisis and the environmental destruction that militarism has on the earth,” Blome said.

According to the site, Veterans for Peace and CODEPINK started project Shut Down Creech, which became a 14-year campaign known as Shut Down Drone Warfare. The original campaign consisted of week-long protests outside of the Creech Air Force Base and had protestors block entrances to the base.

According to the organization’s website, the campaign was moved from Creech Air Force Base to Holloman because the drone pilot training program was moved from Creech to Holloman.

According to Holloman Air Force Base, it produces operational ready F-16 pilots and MQ-9 aircrew. MQ-9 aircrew are then ready to “protect and defend the United States, allies, and partner interests at a moment’s notice,” said Holloman Air Force Base officials.

F-16 are fighter jets and MQ-9s are unmanned aerial vehicles.

According to an article published on Holloman Air Force Base’s website, in 2009 “the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base was the only Unmanned Aircraft System Formal Training Unit (UAS FTU) location,” which offered space for the program to expand which was not available at Creech.

“The base operated under normal conditions last week and supports the right to assembly and free speech. New Mexico Police and Otero County Sheriff’s Office had jurisdiction of the protest area,” Holloman Air Force Base officials said.

“We tried to distribute fliers around town. We understand that the community here is highly dependent on Holloman Air Force Base for economic sustenance, so they rely on them for jobs. It’s an unhealthy relationship. The community, understandably, sacrifice their jobs for making the right decisions for the earth and environment,” Blome said.

April 15 protestors for Shut Down Drone Warfare began the campaign in Alamogordo and April 19 was the first day they blocked the gate to HAFB.

Mayers said blocking access to Creech and Holloman is nonviolent direct action.

“It’s to show the intensity which people are willing to risk arrest and going to jail,” Mayers said.

“We did that this week on Wednesday and five of us were arrested but in this instance, they took us to the magistrate’s judges rather than to jail,” Mayers said.

Protestors planned to return to Alamogordo and Holloman Air Force Base every spring.


Preliminary Report:  Shut Down Drone Warfare, April 15-22
5 Anti-drone Activists Arrested April 19, including 3 Veterans, while Blockading the Main Gate to Holloman Air Force Base
Co-sponsored by CODEPINK, Veterans For Peace and Ban Killer Drones

Tuesday, April 18, Morning  demo at Holloman. Photo by Sharat Lin.

IT WAS A HUGE SUCCESS:  Nearly 4 dozen activists participated in some or all of the first ever weeklong anti-drone peace convergence at Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico, where over 700 drone pilots and operators graduate every year. Over half of the participants were from New Mexico, and others traveled from 8 states, including, Minetaka Shimada, a journalist based in Maryland, who covered our story for a Japan-based newspaper, and a dozen or so young students from NMSU, Las Cruces and Albuquerque, who participated in the April 22, Saturday Earth Day rally in Alamogordo, co-sponsored and led by ANSWER/PSL, New Mexico!
Daily varying themed vigils helped to educate and raise consciousness about weaponized drones and our out of control military industrial complex that wreaks havoc on the environment, the climate and terrorizes global communities.
The week culminated in a nonviolent direct action to Shut Down Drone Warfare at Holloman:  
A peaceful blockade of the main gate to Holloman AFB, the largest drone training base in the country.  5 peaceful and determined activists and a handful of supporters, with signs and banners, forced law enforcement to redirect traffic to the alternative west gate  Ultimately, Ken Mayers (NM), Elliott Adams (NY), Michael Kerr (CA), Richard Bishop (MT), and Toby Blomé (CA) were arrested; the first three being U.S. veterans and members of Veterans For Peace.

“Holloman 5” being handcuffed.  Surprisingly, 4 of 5 arrestees were handcuffed in the front! Photo by Sharat Lin.

Of note:  Because it was our first-ever anti-drone demo at Holloman, there was a tremendous amount of uncertainty and concern about what the consequences of risking arrest would be, which led to some activists being hesitant to participate fully in the blockade, in light of southern New Mexico’s reputation of conservatism and far right alignment.  What surprised many of us was the professionalism and respect that all of the Otero County sheriff officers exhibited throughout the arrest and processing phases.  Ultimately all arrestees got to bypass jail, and were taken to the Magistrate Court house within a few hours.  All arrestees pleaded not guilty, and plan to take drone warfare to trial.  As Michael Kerr said to the judge during his arraignment:  “We weren’t blocking the roadway, we were blocking the [illegal] U.S. drone warfare program.”
Our trial date was set for May 15, but we will motion for a continuance (postponement), and a request for a joint trial before a jury (our legal right in New Mexico), and all defendants plan to represent themselves pro se. 
There are so many success stories to tell.  A longer report coming soon. 
For now here are just a few highlights of the successes:
  • Successful blockade of main gate at Holloman AFB to blockade the US drone terror program
  • Superb Nonviolence Training Workshops led by VFP activist, Elliott Adams
  • Professional and respectful Otero County Sheriff officers throughout the week!
  • These 2 commercial ads ran locally and throughout NM during our week of action:                                                                                            
  • Meaningful local coverage in the Alamogordo Daily News.
  • Excellent panel, April 20, that included: Bernice Gutierrez, local activist and downwinder victim from the 1st U.S. Atomic Weapon test, at Trinity, NM (1945),  Damascio Lopez, victim of Depleted Uranium Testing and decades long advocate for a global ban on depleted uranium weapons, and Nick Mottern, co-founder of
  • Awesome music from Emma’s Revolution at Camp Justice AND at the panel evening. You rock Pat Humphries and Sandy O.
  • Wonderful new connections made with local residents.
  • Our creative vigils and messaging keeps getting more creative, effective and impactful.
  • Many honks from trucks of all sizes during our vigils.  Who says truck drivers are conservative?
  • Camp Justice:  our beautiful group campsite that provided a place for respite, recuperation, team bonding and rejuvenation that included daily morning yoga led by Sharat Lin!
  • Delicious and Nutritious meals provided by our Cooking Team:  Virginia Hauflaire and Jane Kroesen.
  • Most importantly, we had an amazing group of activists that participated enthusiastically in our week of action…devoted, hard working and committed: Yes, and most want to come back!
So much more to report on, but for now, huge gratitude to all those who contributed in large and small ways.  This was a team effort, and we couldn’t have done it so well without each one of you!
Scroll down for press release, and invitation to our SF Bay Area fundraiser, May 18!  Wanting to pay a visit to the SF area?  Come in May, and celebrate with us and help support this expanding anti-drone campaign.  And special thanks to all those who supported us monetarily before our event, so we could afford to do this.  It made a huge difference!
Shut Down Drone Warfare Team,
Virginia, Ken, Denise, Charles, Toby, Greg and Edwina