Five peace activists arrested, spend night in jail after Armed Forces Day direct action at Des Moines drone command center

photo by Susan van der Hijden

from Frank Cordaro

The 3rd annual “Honor Vets, Ground Drones” Armed Forces Day Rally and Direct Action at the main entrance of the Iowa Air National Guard Drone Command Center took place as planned on Saturday, May 18 at 3 p.m., right before a major thunderstorm hit Des Moines! Twenty-five people gathered to protest the Des Moines Armed Drone Command Center.

Gil Landolt, from the Des Moines Catholic Worker and President of the Des Moines Bill Basinger Veterans for Peace chapter, was the first to speak. Gil speaks from his heart, as a Vet for Peace. It’s always moving to hear him speak. 

Our second speaker was Susan van der Hijden, one of three European Catholic Workers visiting the States who joined us in Des Moines for this witness. Susan is from the Amsterdam Catholic Worker

The third to speak was Des Moines Catholic Worker Frank Cordaro. Frank read a news release and an official kick off announcement of the  “End Drone Warfare Presidential Candidate Pledge” campaign. The Des Moines chapter of Vets For Peace and the Catholic Worker are joining in getting presidential candidates to sign a pledge to:

1. Stop all attacks by U.S. drones and to close all U.S. drone control centers inside and outside the U.S.

2. Work for an international ban on weaponized drones.

The final speaker was Des Moines Catholic Worker Jakob Whitson. Jakob was wearing a green jump suit with a big white heart painted on the back with an “A” in the middle of the heart. He shared about recent dreams he’d been having, and then connected them to the “work” of the Drone Command Center. Dreams that connected him to the victims of drone killings, experiencing the fear and death at the other end of the Drone Command’s work.

Then Jakob joined fellow Des Moines Catholic Workers Frank Cordaro, Ruth Hart and Eddie Bloomer, along with Jerry Ebner, a Catholic Worker from Omaha, walking on the drive to the closed gate and guard house at the entrance to the base. They carried a banner stating “Honor Vets, Ground Drones” in-front of them.Jakob was also carrying a ladder.

The rest of the folks walked behind them, five to ten yards away.

As soon as the five reached the closed gate, Jakob put his ladder up against the gate and immediately climbed up. He was greeted by a crowd of base security (some with guns), and told not to climb over.

Jakob complied, and climbed down his ladder. He joined the other four holding the banner.

After three separate announcements over a loud speaker that we were going to be arrested if we did not move off the base (enough time for everyone else to get back to the main gate and public property), all five were arrested, cuffed and taken by police transport to the Polk County Jail.

The five spent the night in jail in the holding cells, with a thin blanket and a cement slab or floor as a bed. They all saw the judge in the morning. Four pled guilty and were given fines. Ruth pled not guilty and has a court date. All were released by 2 p.m., and were back at the Catholic Worker for shift!
May 18, 2019  DM Armed Forces Day protest at Drone Command Center – 5
Catholic Worker’s arrested. Long version…7 minutes plus
May 18, 2019  DM Armed Forces Day protest at Drone Command Center – 5
Catholic Worker’s arrested. Short version 2:30
Frank Cordaro’s Talk, DM Armed Forces Day Rally at Drone Command
Center, May 18, 2019