Feast of the Holy Innocents commemorated with arrests at Davis Monthan AFB, the Pentagon and Offutt AFB


Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ December 28. photo by Charlie Rooney


John Heid Arrested at Davis Monthan AFB, Home of Active Combat Predator Drone Unit

On the morning of the Feast of Holy Innocents, December 28, about 15 peace activists gathered outside the gates of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona to commemorate and grieve the contemporary slaughter of innocents.  The group held signs calling for an end to drone warfare.  An Arizona Air National Guard unit based at Davis-Monthan since 2007 operates armed Predator drones used by U.S. military in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

John Heid read his statement to the group (see below).  The names of children killed by U.S. drones were then recited.

Heid, Gretchen Nielsen and Jim Marx met with the security people at the gate to request a meeting with the person in charge of the drone program.  The request was refused and Tucson police were called.  They arrested Heid when he refused to leave.  He was charged with trespass and released from jail at 11 p.m.

For more information, contact John Heid at <jefhsparrow@yahoo.com>.

                                           Holy Innocents Drone Vigil 12/28/12

“I saw men, women and children die during that time. I never thought I’d kill that many people. In fact I thought I couldn’t kill anyone at all.”
former drone operator Brandon Bryant

The U.S. carried out 333 drone strikes in Afghanistan in 2012 alone – more than the entire number of drone attacks in Pakistan over the past eight years combined.

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is the staging site for the 214th Reconnaissance Group of the Arizona Air National Guard, a Predator drone unit. Personnel of the 214th have conducted more than 3,000 sorties since 2007 and provided more than 55,000 flying hours of combat mission support from Tucson.

The U.S. military has begun to use the term “harvest” to describe the killing done in this push-button combat of drone warfare. Recently the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Britain documented 178 children among over 900 civilians killed by U.S. drones in Pakistan and Yemen alone.

Why is there such an aversion to acknowledging the human cost? Our drones are harvesting their children. These revelations are too much to bear sitting still.

“They had their whole lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”  Thus said President Obama at the memorial service for the 20 children killed in a Connecticut school two weeks ago. The president added: “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this.”

Today, December 28th, on the Commemoration of the slaughter of Holy Innocents, we embrace President Obama’s exhortation on behalf of the children by coming to Davis-Monthan AFB to call for a change of heart, of policy and practice. Cease drone operations immediately on behalf of the children and all victims of this warfare including U.S. drone pilots who are increasingly being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress syndrome. Our plea is for an end to all warfare. May we pursue peace by peaceful means.

john heid

Casa Mariposa
Tucson, AZ


Report on the Holy Innocents Faith and Resistance Retreat in Washington, D.C.
December 27-29 2012, Washington, D.C.

by Art Laffin

Focusing on the theme: LET ALL THE WORLD’S CHILDREN LIVE–REMEMBER THE MASSACRED CHILDREN AND CREATE THE BELOVED COMMUNITY IN A DISARMED WORLD, over 50 people from the Atlantic and Southern Life Communities, and the New Jerusalem Community in Philadelphia, gathered in Washington, D.C. from December 27-29 for the annual Holy Innocents Faith and Resistance retreat.

On December 27th early evening, Rosemary Thompson, director of the Murphy Initiative for Peace and Justice, offered a moving reflection on the retreat theme which ended with a powerful Litany (see below). This was followed by an action planning session and evening prayer.

On December 28, the feast of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, the community gathered at the Pentagon to remember the massacred–past and present–and to offer Resolutions for the New Year. During a procession from Army-Navy Drive to the Pentagon, the community stopped twice to offer the litany remembering all children who are victims of violence and war today. Most of the community then proceeded to the so-called designated protest zone near the Pentagon metro entrance while six who were risking arrest remained on the Pentagon sidewalk. As five did a symbolic “die-in” representing massacred victims, Patrick O’Neill read the Litany of Victims. As the six were being arrested by Pentagon police, everyone sang the “Vine and Fig Tree” song. The six were taken to the new Pentagon police center (what used to be the Pentagon Daycare Center), where they were processed and then released. They were charged with “Failure To Obey a Lawful Order” (sic) and given an April 5 court date at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA.

Following the arrests, retreatants offered an explanation of who we are and why we were at the Pentagon on this day. The scripture account of the Holy Innocents was read, and different members from our respective communities offered compelling testimonies about who the Holy Innocents are today that are being massacred–from Newtown, to the streets of Philadelphia, to the Gaza victims of Israeli bombings, to the victims of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere, to the victims of U.S. warmaking in Afghanistan and Iraq. We then offered our Resolutions for the New Year. The witness concluded with an invitation to the police to join us in singing the Coventry Carol.

Later in the afternoon the Rider-O’Neill family offered a powerful presentation on Nonviolence and Resistance. The evening program focused on the Transform Now Plowshares action as Sr. Megan Rice and Mike Walli (two of the three actors of the group–Greg Boertje-Obed is the third), shared about their July 28 hope-filled plowshares witness which resulted in the empire’s premier nuclear bomb complex in Oak Ridge, TN being closed for over two weeks. Paul Magno also shared about the significance of this action and that the three face a maximum prison sentence of 35 years. Paul concluded with a prayerful reflection of Psalm 114. For more info about the Transform Now Plowshares action and trial now scheduled for May 7 in Knoxville, TN see: transformnowplowshares.wordpress.com.

The retreat concluded on December 29th morning with a spirit-filled community liturgy and send off for people returning home due to bad weather.

Mindful that Jesus, Emmanuel, is with us during this Holy Season and always, let us pray for each other, and for the grace and strength that we each need to stay sustained as we begin a new year.

Litany Remembering All Children Who Are Victims of Violence and War

Remember the 20 children who died in Newtown, Connecticut.
Remember the 35 children who died in Gaza this month from Israeli bombardments.
Remember the 168 children who have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan since 2006.
Remember the 231 children killed in Afghanistan in the first 6 months of this year.
Remember the 400 other children in the US under the age of 15 who die from gunshot wounds each year.
Remember the 921 children killed by US air strikes against insurgents in Iraq.
Remember the 1,770 US children who die each year from child abuse and maltreatment.
Remember the 16,000 children who die each day around the world from hunger.
These tragedies must end.

(This Litany is taken from an article published on Monday, December 17, 2012 by Common Dreams, Remember All the Children, Mr. President, by Bill Quigley)

Jerry Ebner being arrested at Offutt AFB, December 28. photo by Al Viola


Line crossing at STRATCOM, Omaha, Nebraska

by Frank Cordaro

Fifteen people braved the cold and snow, showing up for the 34th annual Feast of the Holy Innocents witness and line crossing at Offutt Air Force Base, home of STRATCOM.

We were there also to support Jerry Ebner, our fellow Catholic Worker, in his “crossing the line”. Jerry’s likely to end up doing jail time as a consequence.

Holding a banner that read “Herod Killed the Infants, STRATCOM Would Kill the World. Celebrate Christmas, Shut Down STRATCOM”, supported by the Des Moines Veterans for Peace banner, this handful of Catholic Workers, Veterans for Peace members and friends began the day with a 9 a.m. Mass celebrated by Fr. Jack McCaslin in the
basement chapel of St. John’s parish on the campus of Creighton University in Omaha.

We regrouped at the main entrance of Offutt AFB, took a group photo, read the Gospel of Matthew’s Christmas text, moved to the drive leading onto the base, were met by two Offutt AFB security people, warned to disburse, we sang “Joy to the World”, Jerry crossed the white “property” line on the drive, a few yards onto the base Jerry was met by base security, detained by base security (only local police or federal marshalls can make arrests on U.S. AFB’s), placed in a van, taken to the main gate entrance (about 1/3 mile from drive entrance), processed in the van and returned back to his friends and supporters within the hour. Jerry got a “ban and bar” letter. He now waits for the summons to report to federal court for trespass, which usually takes 4 to 6 weeks to happen.

See the slide show of the days’ events:

Statement of Faith and Intent
for December 28, 2012 line crossing at STRATCOM at Offutt AFB

Dear Friends,

My mother always taught me that “action” is much better than mere words. St. Francis said, “If you are going to preach the gospel, use words if necessary”

“I’d rather see a sermon that hear one any day”, a popular country song.

So what does all of this mean.

Why am I crossing the line at Offutt AFB , home of STRATCOM, the most dangerous place on earth?

Why would I do such a thing?

………because my silence , controlled by my fear, has now been for 7 years.
………because there has been no progress toward a world without nuclear weapons on the part of the Obama Administration. New Nuclear Weapons corporations are building and expanding now with drones.

I can no longer remain silent. We are told in scripture that “Love casts out all fear”.

I am crossing the line and violating a trespass law, because I love God, my country, church, friends and enemies too much to be caught in fear.

This the Christmas season again and we are still in war somewhere in the world. We all read the same news of wars everyday.

Christmas Day is the day that we remember the birth of the Nonviolent Christ Child, but with no ending of violence and war.

December 28, The Feast day of the Holy Innocents, is the day we remember the violence of the Kingdom of Herod, the killing of innocent children. Herod thought to  control people’s lives with fear and violence.

I am a reluctant follower of Jesus, who in his birth, God began the rule of the Kingdom of God, and no longer Herod or any other ruler. I cross the line this day as a simple symbolic way to say NO to this filthy rotten American Empire that only brings violence and death.

I rather re-commit myself to the Empire of God, the nonviolent reign of God given to us in the birth of Jesus.

I cross the line to remember my baptismal promises recited each Holy Week on Holy Saturday in the Catholic Calendar of Celebrations. We are asked in this liturgy:  “Do you renounce and reject the power of evil in all of it’s manifestations?”

Yes I do, this day.

I reject the power of evil manifested in all of the nuclear weaponry and it’s communications systems at STRATCOM.

I do this as a simple humble man who prays each day, “Lord make me an instrument of Peace”.

I do expect to take responsibility for my action, and expect a trial and prison time for this simple action of prayer.

Federal prison is a good place for prayer in silence and practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy among the poor.

I have been to jail before. I do not fear jail time.  I look forward to this time for a time of retreat and reflection.

I ask that my friends, pray for me, as I pray for you, that all may be able to break the chains of fear, and then speak openly with profound faithfulness.

God is with us all, in the coming of the Birth of Jesus the nonviolent One.

My words are weak and too many. I hope my actions to be strong and more faithful.

Blessings to all,
Jerry Ebner