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HANCOCK ANTI-DRONE RESISTERS JAILED TONIGHT

In Anti-War, Military on July 29, 2015 at 9:38 pm

Four anti-drone resisters were sentenced tonight in Judge Joseph J. Zavaglia’s DeWitt (NY) Town Court for alleged trespass at a “die-in” on April 28, 2013 at Hancock Air Base, home to the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard, just north of Syracuse, NY. At their four-day trial this past June trial the six-person jury acquitted the four of disorderly conduct and obstruction of government administration.

The four are members of Upstate Drone Action Coalition – a scrupulously nonviolent, loosely-knit grassroots network which, since 2009 has actively opposed the Hancock Reaper drones flying missions over Afghanistan. The Reaper, an unmanned robot, is notorious for violating international law by killing, maiming and terrorizing civilians in several U.S. undeclared wars.

There have been over 160 anti-drone arrests at Hancock resulting in bails as high as $10,000, numerous trials, many incarcerations, and Orders of Protection (a legal device usually meant to protect spouses and other vulnerable persons against violence).

The four defendants are: Joan Pleune of Brooklyn, Beverly Rice of Manhattan, Ellen Barfield of Baltimore, and Jules Orkin of Bergenfield, New Jersey. Pleune is a former Freedom Rider; Barfield, Rice and Orkin are active with Veterans for Peace.

All four were identically sentenced to one year’s conditional discharge, $250 fine, $125 court costs and a two-year order of protection. Both Pleune and Rice told Judge Zavaglia, through their attorney Lewis Oliver, that they would not agree to the conditional discharge – which led him to sentence the two to 15 days in Jamesville Penitentiary. Pleune and Rice were taken from court in handcuffs.

contact:  www.upstatedroneaction.org

Ellen Barfield (410) 908-7323

Jules Orkin, (201) 566-8403

Ed Kinane, (315) 478-4571

 

FOUR HANCOCK ANTI-DRONE ACTIVISTS GUILTY OF TRESPASS, BUT ACQUITTED OF DISORDERLY CONDUCT AND OF OBSTRUCTING GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION (OGA), A MISDEMEANOR.

In Anti-War, Court, Military on June 28, 2015 at 10:28 am

During the afternoon of June 27th, after deliberating a couple of hours, a six-person jury found the four not guilty of obstructing government administration (OGA) at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, New York, but guilty of trespass, a violation carrying a maximum 15-day imprisonment.

Today was the last day of the four-day trial presided over by Judge Joseph Zavaglia, a corporate attorney. The four were represented by Atty. Lew Oliver of Albany. They were among 31 arrested in the driveway to Hancock’s main gate on East Molloy Rd on April 28, 2013 for “dieing-in” with bloody shrouds or for attempting to  read aloud to the military personnel behind Hancock’s barbed wire fence a list of children killed by U.S. drones. The activists said they sought to “prick the conscience” of base personnel and the chain of command responsible for the war crime originating there.

A lowpoint in the trial came when Judge Zavaglia did not permit Pardiss Kebraiaei, a national security and international law expert, to testify. Kebraiaei, who has testified before Congress, had come that morning from NYC where she’s an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Since 2010 Hancock has been the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard – an MQ9 Reaper drone hub piloting weaponized drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and likely elsewhere. Also since 2010 Hancock has been the scene of twice-monthly anti-drone demonstrations outside its main gate as well as occasional larger demonstrations and scrupulously nonviolent civil resistance organized by Upstate Drone Action, a grassroots coalition. These have led to over 160 arrests, and numerous trials in DeWitt as well as $375 fines, Orders of Protection, and numerous incarcerations.

The four defendants are:

~ Ellen Barfield of Baltimore, 410) 243-5876

~ Jules Orkin of Bergenfield, NJ, 201) 566-8403

~ Joan Pleune of Brooklyn, 718) 855-2581

~ Beverly Rice of Manhattan, 646) 335-2404

Questioning “Winning The Drone War”.

In International, Interpretive Editorial, Military on May 19, 2015 at 9:53 am

“Is the US winning the drone war?”  Doyle McManus poses this question in his  April 30 Post-Standard syndicated column.  It’s a question every U.S. taxpayer and policy maker might ask.

But let’s first define the terms.

What do we mean by “war”? There was a time when war was declared, and mutually visible forces clashed. A time when war entailed risk, sacrifice, and courage. A time when war might entail ideals.

What does it mean to “win” a war? That we get the greater body count? That we demolish the most cities? That we terrorize more of their citizens? That we get to maintain or install their puppet government? That we grab precious resources (oil!) or control more markets, pipe lines, trade routes or cheap labor? That our war machine creates more – otherwise unnecessary and toxic — jobs? That our corporations pile up even more outlandish profit?

There was a time, not so long ago, when winning a war meant foiling the invader, the conqueror, the imperialist, the bully. It meant defending our shores. It meant winning hearts and minds and securing the peace. There was a time when war wasn’t so conveniently “global” or “perpetual.”

McManus tells us drones are “precise,” but fails to resolve the paradox of how it happens that drones incinerate and dismember so many civilians and non-combatants. And he fails to note the hundreds of thousands of tribal people in Afghanistan and Pakistan forced to flee their homes and villages, dreading sudden death from the skies.

McManus tells us that in this drone war, “There’s a lot to like about lethal drones….” But goes on, “as long as you’re the owner, not the target.” Exactly. Not so astutely he claims the lethal drones are “less costly than many of the alternatives including manned bombers and boots on the ground.” He ignores life-serving and more economical alternatives: humanitarian aid; negotiation; discontinuing arms sales – especially to war-torn regions; no longer propping up tyrants and rogue governments; respecting U.N. resolutions and treaties that would reduce hatred toward the U.S.  And embracing treaties to significantly reduce the climate change generating global disruption, migration and strife.

Perhaps McManus’s column is just part 1 of two parts. In part 2 he might define what he means by “terrorist.” This is so readers won’t be left thinking the word only refers to anyone opposing the U.S. war machine, whether foreign or domestic. And in part 2 McManus could tell us about the threat lethal — as well as non-weaponized surveillance — drones pose to civil liberties here in the United States.

Ed Kinane, Syracuse, NY

Kinane is a co-founder of the Upstate Drone Action Coalition [upstatedroneaction.org].

Constitutional Rights Under Attack in Georgia Police Deny Street Permit for Annual Vigil at Ft. Benning

In Americas, Constitution, International, Media Advisory, Military on July 22, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Editor’s Note: Central New York has a long relationship with supporting the School of the America’s Annual Vigil through a local chapter of the School of the America’s Watch known as “The Central New York SOA Abolitionists”.#SOAWatch

Columbus, Georgia – The Columbus Police Department, continuing its history of antagonizing the movement to close the US military training camp known as the SOA/WHINSEC (School of the Americas, renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), has this year placed unjust, unsafe and unconstitutional restrictions on the annual SOA Watch Vigil, essentially attempting to shut down the peaceful protest at the main gates of Fort Benning.

In his letter to grassroots solidarity group SOA Watch, Police Chief Ricky Boren explained that the thousands expected at this year’s Vigil, the group’s 25th, would have to somehow limit themselves to no more than 200 and stay on sidewalks five feet back from the street. The permit for the stage and sound, which has for years lifted up the voices of those targeted by the infamous military training school, like Padre Melo from Honduras, who’s been threatened since speaking out against the SOA graduate-led coup in 2009, was also denied.

Nevertheless, SOA Watch pledges to return to Ft. Benning, hold the annual vigil, and continue its nonviolent tradition of protecting family-friendly, safe and legal protest. In response to police chief Boren, the human rights group writes, “we have responsibilities and freedoms under our constitution to peacefully assemble and to speak truth to power.”

“This year, more than any other, we are called to demonstrate our solidarity with the people of Latin America, 25 years after SOA graduates committed the brutal massacre at the University of Central America,” said veteran and founder Father Roy Bourgeois. He continued, “When our military training continues to target communities, forcing the unaccompanied migration of thousands of refugee children, we must speak out. It is no surprise that when the stakes are this high, our movement is faced with political attacks on our constitutional rights.”

The Columbus Police Department has a history of active opposition to SOA Watch’s right to free speech, including harassment and intimidation by plainclothes officers, low-flying helicopters used to disrupt the solemn vigil, changing insurance requirements in a last-minute effort to target SOA Watch, and more. In 2001, the city tried to stop the protest in court; in 2002, police conducted mass warrantless searches of all participants, for which SOA Watch filed suit. In both cases, federal courts vindicated the movement’s constitutional right to free speech and assembly.

Thousands of human rights activists have gathered every November for the demonstration since the first anniversary of the 1989 SOA graduate-led massacre of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos and six Jesuit priests at the University of Central America in El Salvador. The November Vigil commemorates those who have been killed by SOA/WHINSEC graduates, and calls for the closure of the institute, which perpetuates coups, torture, extrajudicial killings, and human rights abuses in the face of social and political problems. The SOA/WHINSEC made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released SOA training manuals that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Among its graduates are at least 11 dictators as well as leaders of infamous Central American death squads. Currently, SOA graduates are linked to the Honduran military coup and the repression campaign against social movements there, among other humanitarian crises.

Contact: Hendrik Voss, 202-425-5128, hvoss@soaw.org

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Sign the petition to Police Chief Boren urging him to reconsider his unjust denial of the right to peaceably assemble at the main gates of Fort Benning.