Protesters arrested several weeks in a row at Des Moines Drone Command Center

On Saturday, May 20, the 9th day of a continuous vigil and picket line at the entrance of the Iowa Air National Guard 132nd Drone Command Center in Des Moines, the Des Moines Catholic Workers and the Bill Basinger Des Moines Chapter of Veterans for Peace hosted the “Honor the Dead – Stop the Killing Arms Forces Day” Ezekiel 33 Watchman’s Witness.

Twelve protesters were present. The Iowa National Guard security and Des Moines police were ready for more, and the National Guard security had already closed down the main gate. This allowed the activists to set up on the drive in front of the closed Command Center entrance gate. Some of them shared reflections, including Gil Landolt and Ed Bloomer.

Frank Cordaro was the last to speak. He began with reading from the 33rd Chapter of the Prophet Ezekiel, and the call to the Watchman. Cordaro challenged the Des Moines Christian community and the local Catholic community in particular to take an honest look at what is going on at the Drone Command Center and begged all to move away from the practice of blind nationalism when it comes to war and peace issues.

Cordaro again challenged his fellow Iowans to demand the end of the killing of women and children from the Drone Center on the South Side of Des Moines. He challenged everyone “to honor our past military warriors, on this Armed Forces Day, who made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives by stopping today’s computer geek counterfeit warriors, who at best are assassins from the skies and at worst, killers of women and children!”

The Des Moines police and the Iowa National Guard security did not interfere with the witness at the gate. After the witness was done, they informed the protesters that they were on Guard property and needed to leave or they would be arrested. Everyone left the gate and returned to the grass at the entrance to the base, except for Frank Cordaro. who remained at the gate. He was arrested, taken to the Des Moines police station, given a written citation and released with a May 30 court date. Cordaro was also issued a “ban and bar” letter from the Iowa Air National Guard Drone Command Center property.

Photo by Frank Cordaro

UPDATE – AL BURNEY ARRESTED: The following Saturday, May 27, on the 16th day of a continuous vigil/picket line at the entrance of the Iowa Air National Guard 132nd Drone Command Center in Des Moines, members of Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines Veterans for Peace led a “Say NO to Iowa Reaper Drones” demonstration. Our numbers remain humble, matching last week’s crowd of 12. 

Des Moines Catholic Worker and Veterans for Peace member Al Burney risked arrest, blocking the main entrance to the Command Center. Base security and Des Moines police arrested Al, took him into custody on the base and released him to his support people outside the base with a citation for trespass with a future court date.
The Des Moines Catholic Worker and Des Moines Veterans for Peace intend to continue their vigil/picket line presence.
JAIL UPDATE:  On May 30, Frank Cordaro appeared in court.  He pled guilty and immediately began serving a two day jail sentence.
UPDATE – CORDARO ARRESTED AGAIN:   Des Moines Catholic Worker Frank Cordaro was arrested again at the Iowa National Guard Drone Command Center on Saturday, June 3.  He was cited and released with a June 5 court date at the Polk County Justice Center in Des Moines.  This was Cordaro’s second arrest in two weeks.

Court and Jail Report from Frank Cordaro, June 1:

    I just got out a couple of hours ago. Good Judge William Price gave me 48 hours and the lowest amount of cost he could. Fellow Des Moines Catholic Worker Aaron Jorgensen said he did not get an e-mail out to you all about the sentencing because I was not away along enough… fair enough
     I lucked out with drawing Polk County Judge Price.  I have a more than friendly conversation. (I once sang a verse of “Money makes the world go round” in a closing statement before Judge Price. He rightly told me after I sang that I should keep my day job.)
    Before giving me a 48 hour jail sentence, he asked me how I was doing. I told him, “The best I can in the era of Trump”. I then told him basically what was going on at the Drone Command and our need to keep protesting. I told the Judge I was “modeling my efforts after Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, who in the 1950’s protested annual air raid drills in New York City for five years in a row until the city stopped having the air raid drills.” I told the judge “Dorothy and the Catholic Workers pled guilty, refused to pay any fines and court costs and preferred to go to jail as a penance for those killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
     I told Judge Price that whatever jail time I do for this drone campaign, I was doing as penance for those killed by our U.S.-led drone wars, especially those killed connected with the work and mission of the Iowa National Guard Drone Command on the south side of Des Moines.
     Then Judge Price said, “So you want to go to jail, is that it?”
      “No” I said, “Nobody want to go to jail! All I am saying is, it don’t matter if you send me to jail or not, I’m going to keep coming back.”
      That’s when he smiled and gave me 48 hours.  I bow and thank him.