Anti-drone activists arrested while attempting citizen’s arrest of Creech AFB commander

img_0709from Code Pink, Veterans for Peace and Nevada Desert Experience

On Thursday morning, November 10, activists blocked the main gate to Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada, impeding early morning Air Force commute traffic. Activists called upon base personnel and Las Vegas police present to “stand down” or assist in the arrest of Commander Col. Case Cunningham for “Crimes Against Humanity.” Creech Air Force Base plays a central role in the U.S. drone targeted assassination program, where the U.S. uses remotely controlled unmanned planes from the desert of Nevada to kill suspects in many countries overseas. Thousands of civilians, including hundreds of children, have been killed according to independent researchers.

During the protest, as the police were giving dispersal warnings, the symbolic “International Peace Patrol” announced their own 5 minute and 3 minute warnings through a megaphone, ordering military personnel to disperse immediately and to stop being complicit in the crimes against humanity being committed at the base. Five activists then carried a huge banner that stretched fully across the entrance road into the base that read “SHUT DOWN CREECH,” while carrying handcuffs high up in the air. They repeatedly announced, as they marched slowly toward the base boundary line, that they were obliged to arrest the commander of Creech Air Force Base for the illegal and violent crimes at the base. Dozens of military and Las Vegas police were present in anticipation of the civil disobedience that was expected.

Meanwhile, other protesters carried full-size cardboard figures representing some of the 15 Afghan civilian men who were killed by U.S. drone missiles on September 27, 2016, while sleeping in their beds. Thirteen other Afghan men were injured in this tragic incident. The United Nations is investigating the incident as a potential war crime. The Afghan men had gathered together in Eastern Afghanistan to welcome a relative/friend who had just completed his lifetime sacred pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj.

As the five activists approached the boundary line, they continued to hold the handcuffs high above their heads, crossed the police line, and were immediately arrested and taken to the Las Vegas Jail. All were released by the end of the day, though one was held many hours longer due to an unresolved previous drone protest and arrest at Creech the previous year. Those arrested included Christian Stalberg (Santa Rosa, CA), Joseba Zulaika (Reno, NV), Linda Sartor (Santa Rosa, CA) and Toby Blomé (El Cerrito, CA).

The Thursday protest was part of a week of resistance against drone killing that takes place at Creech Air Force Base. It included early morning and afternoon protests and vigils throughout the week. The convergence of peace activists included a very diverse collection of people from California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada and Indiana. The group included an elder leader of the Western Shoshone nation, a retired 29 year Army Colonel and State Diplomat, a Muslim from Pakistan, a German immigrant with Iranian ancestry, a British immigrant, an Indian Springs Mexican immigrant, recent and older U.S. veterans, and many others with diverse backgrounds, all gathered for a common purpose: to halt the illegal drone assassination program. The Western Shoshone elder led the group in a daily prayer circle before daybreak to prepare the group spiritually and mentally for the peace work of each day.

On Friday, November 11, due to the Veteran’s Day holiday and minimal activity expected on the base, the activists drove the hour drive to Las Vegas, to join local activists to create a contingent in the Las Vegas Veteran’s Day Parade. Carrying large banners and signs with pro-peace messages, they managed to march in over half of the entire route of the parade until, ultimately, they were forced to leave the parade by organizers and Las Vegas police, even though they had obtained the required permit. Five U.S. veterans participated in the anti-war parade contingent. Apparently there is no room for peace in the Las Vegas Veteran’s Day Parade.