31 arrests at New York drone protest; donations needed for bail fund

photo by Maurice Morales


from Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars

Thirty one members of the “Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars” were arrested on April 28 at Hancock Air Base protesting what they believe is the illegal use of drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries. Drones are flown from Hancock Field. Over 275 people marched in a solemn funeral procession to demand that Hancock Air National Guard Base cease drone strikes. People carrying banners and coffins identified countries where U.S. drone attacks have killed over a thousand innocent civilians. As they were arrested, some read the names of people who have died in the drone attacks.

People who participated in the demonstration, including some who were arrested, came from all over the country to raise an outcry against the proliferation of drone strikes abroad, including countries with whom the U.S. is not at war. Drone use violates the U.S. Constitution. Demonstrators also object to the militarization of the police and the growing domestic use of drones. They believe that because the use of drones creates more terrorists, it does not make Americans safer.

Demonstrators attempted to deliver a war crimes indictment to the base. It reads:

We, the people, charge the U.S. President, Barak Obama, and the full military chain of command, to Commander Colonel Greg Semmel, every drone crew, and service members at Hancock Air Base, with crimes against humanity, with violations of part of the Supreme Law of the Land, extrajudicial killings, violation of due process, wars of aggression, violation national sovereignty, and killing of innocent civilians.

The thirty one arrestees were arraigned in De Witt Town Court before Judges Benack, Gideon, and Jokl, who imposed bails ranging from $500 – $3500, totalling $34,000. Some of the defendants were released with appearance tickets   Others are refusing to post bail and will be held in jail until the next court dates on May 7 and 8. Donations may be sent to the Syracuse Peace Council.  Please make checks payable to Syracuse Peace Council and note that it’s for the Upstate Drone Action Bail Fund.  Mail to Syracuse Peace Council, 2013 E. Genessee St., Syracuse, NY 13210.

View photos from the Post Standard here.

Those arrested were:

Beth Adams, Leverett, MA

John Amidon, Albany, NY

Cynthia Banas, Vernon, NY

Ellen Barfield, Baltimore, MD

Russell Brown, Buffalo, NY

Cait De Mott Grady, Ithaca, NY

Beatrice Dewing, New York City, NY

Max Farhi, Ithaca, NY

Sandra Fessler, Rochester, NY

Daniel Finley, Ithaca, NY

Bruce Gagnon, Brunswick, ME

Jack Gilroy, Binghamton, NY

Charlie Heyn, Damascus, PA

John Honeck, Hamlin, NY

Rae Kramer, Syracuse, NY

Joanne Lingle, Indianapolis, IN

Mary Loehr, Ithaca, NY

Bonnie Mahoney, Buffalo, NY

Harry Murray, Rochester, NY

Valerie Niederhoffer, Buffalo, NY

Julienne Oldfield, Syracuse, NY

Jules Orkin, Bergenfield, NJ

Elizabeth Pappalardo, Crystal Lake, DE

Joan Pleune, Brooklyn, NY

Beverly Rice

Grace Ritter, Ithaca, NY

Matthew Ryden

Andrew Schoerke, Shaftsbury, VT

Mary Snyder, Johnson City, NY

Eve Tetaz, Washington, DC

Patricia Wieland, Northampton, MA

photo by Maurice Morales

Update on the “Hancock 31”

As of 9 p.m. Monday, almost everyone is out of jail!

Twenty-one people had been arraigned on Sunday, most charged with disorderly conduct and  obstruction of governmental administration second degree. All were given orders of protection and their bails ranged from $500-$3500. Everyone else was bailed out today with the exception of three people. Two will be bailed out tomorrow and one is hoping for a bail reduction (and will be bailed out if that doesn’t happen).

The total “bail bill” was $34,000. We are starting a revolving bail fund for future bail needs. To donate to the fund, send a check made out to the Syracuse Peace Council, 2013 E. Genesee St., Syracuse, NY 13210. Be sure to note that it is for the revolving bail fund.

The next court dates for those arraigned are split between among May 7 and 8.

The remaining ten received appearance tickets and will be arraigned on May 1 (that’s the only date we know about, but we didn’t hear from everybody).

-Carol Baum

People arraigned:
Elizabeth Adams
Cynthia Banas
Ellen Barfield
Beatrice Dewing
Russell Brown
Cait Demott Grady
Bruce Gagnon
Charles Heyn
Rae Kramer
Joanne Lingle
Bonny Mahoney
Valerie Niederhoffer
Jules Orkin
Elizabeth Pappalardo
Joan Pleune
Bev Rice
Grace Ritter
Andy Schoerke
Mary Snyder
Eve Tetaz
Paki Wieland

People with appearance tickets:
John  Amidon
Max Farhi
Sandra Fessler
Daniel Finley
Jack Gilroy
John Honeck
Mary Loeher
Harry Murray
Julienne Oldfield
Matt  Ryan


Bruce Gagnon, photo by Maurice Morales

Protecting Drone Crimes – Report on Hancock Air Field Civil Resistance

by Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

I was honored to be involved in the weekend drone conference and protest in Syracuse, New York organized by the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars.  I’ve just returned home after spending Sunday night in jail (with maybe one hour of sleep) and the long eight-hour drive back to Maine.  So my mind is slipping a few gears, my wrists still hurt after about 11 hours of wearing handcuffs, but my heart and soul feel strong from the experience.

The drone conference began on Friday evening at a local community center in the Syracuse black community.  More than 200 folks showed up for the event that featured some of the great activists from around the county like Col. Ann Wright, Kathy Kelly, David Swanson, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Charley King, Mark Johnson, Elliott Adams, Howie Hawkins, Nick Mottern, Joe Lombardo, the Grady sisters, Tighe Barry, Debra Sweet and a large delegation of Veterans for Peace members from many states.

I spoke Saturday morning on a plenary panel along with Kathy Kelly and David Swanson. This gave me the chance to put drones into the larger context of US strategy and space technology development that is being used to advance the “interests” of corporate globalization and their effort to control resources around the planet.  I suggested that we might think of military space satellites as being the “triggers” that makes it possible for drones to fire their deadly “Hellfire” missiles that frequently kill innocent civilians in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.

In addition I did a workshop entitled “Full Spectrum Dominance” that allowed me the time to thoroughly cover the nuclearization and weaponization of space issues.

On Sunday morning we gathered for a meeting on the planned civil resistance action later that day at Hancock Air Field from where the “Reaper” drone is flown over Afghanistan by military personnel sitting in front of computer terminals at the base – all hooked up by military satellites and Space Command down-link stations spread around the world.

The rally near the Air Field began around 1:00 pm and featured several speakers.  I was invited to say a few words.  I said that it was understandable that Americans are upset when innocents, including children, were killed and injured in the recent Boston bombing.  “Isn’t it equally wrong for us to do the same thing in Afghanistan and Pakistan?” I asked.  Our nation is so full of hypocrisy when it comes to the word terrorism.  When others do it we get all riled up but when we do it somehow our soldiers become heroes.  It’s been this way in the US since we began killing the Indians.

After we had moved to the base in a slow funeral procession four of us from Veterans For Peace (VFP) stood next to the yellow crime scene tape the military and the local police used to mark the point we were not allowed to pass without risk of arrest.  A large number of activists crossed this line and performed a die-in blocking the entrance to the base.  They covered themselves in white sheets covered in red.  While a policeman was issuing a warning with a bullhorn the four of us from VFP began reading the names of children killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan.  Once we finished reading the names we stepped over the line and were quickly grabbed by the cops, handcuffed, and escorted to the waiting big black police bus.

Once everyone had been arrested and the remaining rally participants had walked back to their cars the county police drove the bus to one of their offices where one-by-one they got all of our personal information.  This took some time and when they had finished and were set to take us to appear before a judge in another place, the bus would not start.  So we sat waiting for the military to send one of their buses that we eventually boarded and were then taken to the small courthouse in the suburban town of Dewitt where the base is located.  This nightmare was to last until midnight for us as we sat on the bus, still in handcuffs, while the “wheels of justice” took their ever-loving time to grind on.

We’d had no food or water since noontime and the police where not interested in giving us any.  After hours of sitting in the courthouse parking lot some of us began to negotiate with the police to give us water and bathroom visits.  It took awhile but we finally prevailed and each got about 1/2 of cup of water in the smallest Styrofoam cup possible and a chance to go to the toilet with our handcuffs still binding us.

It was taking nearly 30 minutes to process each of us by the judge who had been called in to deal with our arraignments.  Once I finally got inside my wrists had begun to swell from the tight cuffs.  The judge showed no mercy and set bail for me at $1,500 with others (for various reasons) reaching as high as $3,000 each.  This was outrageous and I told the judge I thought the bail was punitive and excessive.  He said something like, “Well you all are costing the citizens of Dewitt alot of money and we want to make sure you come back for next court appearances.”  (Often when I’ve been arrested at these kind of events I’ve been released on my own recognizance or only had to pay $50-$100.)

We finally got to the county jail (in another location) about 1:00 am and inside our holding cell (men in one and women in another) some time later.  Needless to say none of us slept more than one hour that night on the narrow cold cement benches that ran the length of both sides of the cell.  Only after having to ask were we given toilet paper.

At 4:30 am the police entered our holding cell and asked if we were ready to make our one allowed phone call.  We looked at each other with an astonished laugh and said no.  At 6:30 am I was able to call home and talk with Mary Beth who began the process of making my bail arrangements with great help from the folks from the Syracuse Peace Council who did support work for those in jail. (Others got to the phone at various times during the day – the last getting to make his call around 4:00 pm on Sunday.)  Every step with the jailers was like pulling teeth.

Finally I was released at 5:00 pm on Sunday and quickly got myself loaded into my rental car and made way for Maine.  I was very tired and was not sure how far I could drive before needing to stop.  I grabbed a cup of tea and some gas and said good-bye (for now) to Syracuse.  I drove four hours and made it to Wayland, Massachusetts where a friend of ours took me in for the night.

Once home today I began to get a look at some of the news coverage of the protest and the many photos being posted on Facebook.  I had a call from the Iranian News Agency in Washington DC who wanted an interview and two of our local newspapers have taken notice as well.

One question from the media was why the harsh bail?  I answered that in a way it is the “supreme compliment”.  These drone protests at Hancock Air Field have been escalating during the past two years as more people learn about the Syracuse connection to the killing of innocent people overseas.  The local military and police authorities want to crack down to “deter” future protests.  They figure that people will think twice before coming to Hancock.  But in fact that strategy will backfire in their face.  The primary reason I went to Hancock was because of the “Orders of Protection” that have been given to everyone arrested there during the last two actions.

This ridiculous “Order” says that we must “stay away from Hancock… and refrain from assault, stalking, harassment, aggravated harassment, menacing, reckless endangerment, strangulation, criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, intimidation, threats or any criminal offense or interference with the victim or victims of, or designated witnesses to, the alleged offense and such members of the family or household of such victim(s) or witness(es) as shall be specifically named Greg Semmel.”  The judge handed me the “Order” to sign.  I said that I had no idea who Greg A. Semmel was…. as it turns out he is commander of Hancock Field.  I said I’d not know the man if I stumbled into him on the street.  The judge then said, good you don’t have anything to worry about then.

But this “Order” is something to worry about because it makes it possible for the State of New York to arrest me and incarcerate me for up to seven years for contempt of court if I return to protest at the base.  They are cracking down hard on the protests because they are working.  The public is beginning to learn about these killing drones and minds are changing.  The protests must be stopped.

Just as we are learning here in Maine, as our state Attorney General (a Democrat) tries to kill a bill that would require police to have a warrant before doing domestic drone surveillance, extraordinary steps are being taken by the government to “protect drones” from activists.

Obama has announced that 30,000 drones will be buzzing around the US in coming years snooping on all of us.  Our Attorney General in Maine calls drones “an economic driver” and our new Sen. Angus King from Maine called them “humane weapons” while being interviewed recently from Washington on TV.  As the fiscal fabric of America unravels drones are the latest economic stimulus package from the federal government and states are now lining up with their empty hands held out in subservient anticipation.  Drone protests are obstacles to be dealt with.

So rather than protecting the constitution, the lives of innocent people in war zones, and getting serious about real problems like growing poverty and climate change our political class is working overtime to guard the drone industry and threaten activists with serious jail time if we keep opposing them.

These twisted drone plans will indeed backfire.  Upon returning home I noticed emails flying around raising funds to help people pay for their bail at Hancock.  The protests will continue there, as they should.  More people will join this Gandhian wave.

People clearly understand that we must protect the peace, the innocents, social progress here at home and defend our basic right to protest injustice and wars. We have no other choice.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502
http://space4peace.blogspot.com/  (blog)

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.  ~Henry David Thoreau


photo by Mark Johnson, executive director,
Fellowship of Reconciliation

from Syracuse.com

30 drone protesters arrested at Hancock air base at conclusion of weekend rally

by James T. Mulder

Syracuse, N.Y. – Thirty people were arrested outside the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base this afternoon during a protest against the use of unmanned aerial drones.

The arrests came at the end of a series of workshops and rallies held in Syracuse this weekend and organized by the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars.

Today’s rally attracted more than 250 people who gathered on the grounds of OCM BOCES on Thompson Road, then marched in a funeral like process to the gates of the base, home to the 174th Attack Wing of the New York Air National Guard. The unit operates unmanned, armed drones thousands of miles away. The drones are used for intelligence gathering and bombing ground targets.

Protesters pounded drums, chanted and carried mock coffins. A baby doll smeared with fake blood was suspended from a tall poll carried by one protestor.

A sheriff’s deputy speaking through a bullhorn warned protesters laying on the driveway in front of the gate to get up off the ground or face arrest for disorderly conduct. After they refused, the protesters were handcuffed and escorted to a Sheriff’s Department van.
Protesters were arrested on a variety of charges including disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration and loitering. Their names were not immediately available.

DeWitt town judges granted an order of protection last fall against peace activists who were showing up unannounced at the base and blocking its gate. That order didn’t deter protestors today.

Elliott Adams of Sharon Springs, one of the rally organizers, called the order of protection “absurd.”

“It is a flagrant effort to deny us our first amendment rights,” he said.

Adams said when he participated in anti-drone protests three years ago many people did not know what drones were. Since then opposition to using drones has grown, he said.

“It’s a cowardly way to fight a war,” he said.

People came from all over the country to attend the rally.

Larry Center, 61, of Charleston, S.C., said he came because “ … this is ground zero for peace.” Center, who uses a walker, attends war protests across the country.

“I’m not going to shut up until we have an honest country again,” Center said.

Several peace activists addressed the crowd, including Bruce Gagnon of Florida, a coordinator of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
Gagnon said using drones is a terrorist act no different than the recent terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon.

“Isn’t it equally wrong for us to do the same thing in Afghanistan and Pakistan?” he asked.