Four arrested in drone protest inside Hart Senate Office Building

One of four drone protesters being arrested.  Photo by Ted Majdosz

One of four drone protesters being arrested. Photo by Ted Majdosz


by Luke

On the 18th of November, 26 activists against the US drone killing program packed into pro-drone Senator Schumer’s office demanding he issue a statement denouncing the use of armed drones for assasinations.

His national security staffer was present and refused to even call him to seek such a statement. As a result the protest escalated into arrests.

Sen Schumer’s Foreign Affairs/National Security staffer complained that the protesters were a “fire hazard,” drawing a rebuke that the drones are a worse hazard. He offered to discuss matters in the hallway, protesters knew bettter and stayed in his office. They opened a passageway to allow entry and exit to prevent anyone from using obstructed access as an excuse.

At this point, activists resumed reading the names of the dead, and began taping pictures of drone victims to the walls, the desks, the TV, and the front glass doors.

When Capitol Police arrived, they did not demand activists leave. Instead, they insisted on closing the doors. At this point most activsts left, but three grandmothers and one man, all with considerable experience in antiwar activism stayed behind.

It eventually became obvious the Capitol Police or more likely the Senator’s staff had decided to avoid arrests over the drone program and the 4 activists could stay all day. At this point all four changed tactics. They exited Sen Schumer’s office and began reading the names of those killed by US drone over the edge of the balcony into the massive Hart Building atrium. Anytime protesters start speaking out there, a massive din always rises.

At this point, Capitol Police warned the 4 activists to stop reading names of the dead or be arrested. All four called the threat, all four were arrested. As of 6:30PM, two calls to the US Capitol Police seeking information on whether or not they would be released have not been answered or returned, so it is being assumed they are being held overnight.


UPDATE: All four activists were released later that day with a citation to appear in court on December 11, 2013. They have been charged with “Crowding, Obstructing, and Incommoding”.


Senator Schumer's office covered with photos of victims of U.S. drones. Photo by Ted Majdosz

Senator Schumer’s office filled with protesters, the walls covered with photos of victims of U.S. drones. Photo by Ted Majdosz

Letter the protesters tried to deliver:

Honorable Senator Schumer:

We are members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, and are deeply concerned about our government’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, to assassinate people in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places. NCNR representatives would like to meet with you on Nov. 18, 2013 to urge you to support an end to this assassination program which we believe to be illegal. We are quite flexible, and would accept a meeting any time on Monday.

In 2011 in Yemen, CIA drone attacks were used to kill, first, Anwar Al-Awlaki and weeks later his son. They were U.S. citizens, who were never charged, brought to trial, or convicted of any crime. In fact, two other U.S. citizens have been assassinated by killer drone strikes without any pretense of due process.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights brought a lawsuit in US federal court against the Obama Administration regarding the assassination of Al-Awlaki. The suit was lost on procedural grounds; however, the judge in the case stated “Can the executive order the assassination of a US citizen without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based on the mere  assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organization?”

The killer drone strikes only promote more terrorism directed at the US. This point was made by Malala Yousafzai when she met with President Obama and his family. On Oct. 11, 2013 Philip Rucker of THE WASHINGTON POST wrote this: “Yousafzai said she was honored to meet Obama and that she raised concerns with him about the administration’s use of drones, saying they are ‘fueling terrorism.'”

We are also disturbed by the lack of transparency and oversight by congress. In spite of assurances from President Obama that the victims of drone strikes are surgical targets, it has been reported that hundreds of victims who are innocent of crimes against the US have been killed including civilian men, women, and children. These people have names and families who love them.

According to a report, “US: Reassess Targeted Killings in Yemen,” released on October 21, 2013 by Human Rights Watch “United States targeted airstrikes against alleged terrorists in Yemen have killed civilians in violation of international law.” The report added that the strikes are creating a public backlash that undermines US efforts against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

We hope that you will take our concerns seriously, as it is our position that killer drone strikes are wrong on many levels: the illegality and immorality of assassinations, the violation of international law and the Constitutional protection of due process, the targeting of civilian populations, and the disregard of sovereignty. We have great concern for people caught up in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia and Yemen. We believe the US killer drone program must be brought to an end immediately.

Please respond to our request to meet and to discuss the termination of the assassination program. This is an opportunity to consider our proposal of reconciliation and diplomacy rather than pernicious killer drone strikes. A U.S. policy of endless wars must be placed in the dustbin of history. We look forward to your response.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 18, 2013


WHO: Members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR] have been active in challenging U.S. invasions and attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.  Most recently, NCNR has been expressing a grave concern against the use of drone strikes to assassinate people in various countries.  On October 22, five members of NCNR were convicted of trespass at the Central Intelligence Agency on June 29 while seeking a meeting to discuss drone strikes.

WHAT: As part of the CodePink Global Summit on Drones, citizen activists came to Washington to raise the issue of killer drone strikes. And about thirty of them went to Senator Chuck Schumer’s office in Washington, D.C. to urge him to renounce his pro-killer drone strikes position.  While there, the citizen activists spoke with foreign policy staffer John Jones, recited the names of children killed by U.S. drone strikes, taped to the office walls photographs of drone victims and mourned the death and destruction.

Eventually four of the NCNR members stood outside his office and continued to read the names of child drone victims and chant for an end to the assassination program.  Capitol Police officers then arrested Elizabeth Adams from Western Massachusetts, JoAnne Lingle, Indianapolis, Richard Ochs, Baltimore, and Alice Sutter, New York City, and charged them with demonstrating inside a Senate Office Building.

WHEN: Monday, November 18, 2013 at 2:30 PM

WHERE: just outside 322 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington D.C. 20510

WHY: The NCNR activists hoped to convince the New York senator that he must change his position on the unconstitutional killer drone policy.  On August 7, 2013 HADAS GOLD reported that Sen. Chuck Schumer promoted the drone war:  “’On terrorism, the president has been tougher than anybody else,’” ‘the New York Democrat said on CNN’s “New Day.’” “’Remember, George Bush wouldn’t let the drones go into Pakistan, and Al Qaeda flourished. The president did, and terrorism is way down. He’s pursuing the tactic in Yemen, and I think it’s working.’”

The NCNR citizen activists disagree.  No declaration of war has been declared against Yemen, and civilian casualties are rampant.  And it can be argued that drone strikes are just breeding more terrorists.  In fact,  Malala Yousafzai, when meeting with the Obama family, raised concerns about the administration’s use of drones, saying they are “fueling terrorism.” Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a recent report speculating that U.S. drone strikes may be war crimes.

The activists were unable to convince Sen. Schumer to support the termination of the assassination program. However, the forty drone victim photographs were collected, and staffer Jones indicated that Schumer would see them.  Is it possible that what took place in his office might have some influence on him?  Regardless, NCNR activists will continue to support reconciliation and diplomacy and to condemn pernicious killer drone strikes.  A U.S. policy of endless wars must be placed in the dustbin of history.