Some friends of mine have gotten arrested more times than I can count now for the offense of protesting drone use outside Hancock Air Field near Syracuse, N.Y. Sometimes they’ve blocked the gates to the base. Often they’ve been aware of the risk of being arrested. But they’ve gone into court and argued that the larger crime is being committed inside the base by drone pilots. The protesters have gone into court and said things like this:
I am proud to accept the consequences of my acts and any jail time. I do not want any suspended sentence. If you give me one, also please let me know how I can violate it before I leave the courtroom.
— Elliott Adams
If you’re among the tens of millions who have assiduously avoided becoming aware of major news stories, what my friends are protesting will come as a shock: President Obama has developed a program of murder, with drones as the primary weapon, that is unprecedented in size, extent, claims of legality, and almost-protest-free acceptability. On Obama’s list of people to kill are men, women, and children, Americans, and non-Americans. He has targeted and killed people in all of those categories. He has targeted and killed people whose names he did not know but who showed a pattern of behavior that suggested they might be resisting the U.S. occupation of a foreign nation. And the vast majority, almost all in fact, of the people our president has killed have simply been men, women, and children who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and not on the list at all. All of this is done in secret, without Congress, without courts, and without the public. It’s done at a scale that can only properly be termed “drone wars.” It’s done in nations where the United States was not previously engaged in any ground war but now is sending in troops as a result of the inevitable blowback from the drone wars. And the news stories are generated by the White House, which wants to brag about this effort.
I apologize to informed readers for passing along all of that old news, but volunteers keep phoning me from the Obama campaign and MoveOn.org who’ve never heard of this at all. They always promise to read up on it and get back to me, and then a different ignorant do-gooder phones the next day instead.
What is new, as far as I know, is what the police in the town of Dewitt, near Syracuse, have now done to try to prevent drone protests outside Hancock Air Field. They’ve found, out of all the individuals stationed on the base, one particular coward by the name of Earl A. Evans. The protesters I’ve spoken with had never heard of him before. They don’t know who he is or what he looks like. Here’s a photo I’ve found. He is apparently a Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the 174th Fighter Wing Mission Support Group. I suspect he might have access to some troops and some weaponry. But the Dewitt Town Court has banned some 17 nonviolent peace activists with posters from coming anywhere near him.
Each oh-so-dangerous demonstrator has been issued an order of protection — not to protect them but to protect the Lieutenant Colonel from them. Under this order, they’ve been told they will be arrested even if they demonstrate in permitted areas near the base. Presumably that is the order’s real purpose, to prevent demonstrations. But what the order says is that each nonviolent opponent of institutionalized mass murder may be sent to prison for up to 7 years if they go near the home of Earl A. Evans (although they don’t know where that is and have not been told), the school of Earl A. Evans (although they don’t know what or where that is and have not been told), the business of Earl A. Evans at 6001 East Molloy Road in Dewitt, N.Y. (which is the military base), or the place of employment of Earl A. Evans at the same address. They are required to refrain from all communication with Evans — and Evans in particular, as no one else on the base is named. And they are specifically forbidden from doing the following things to Evans (but not others?):
“assault, stalking, harassment, aggravated harassment, menacing, reckless endangerment, strangulation, criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, intimidation, threats or any criminal offense or interference with the victim or victims of, or designated witnesses to the alleged offense and such members of the family or household of such victim(s) or witness(es) as shall be specifically named Earl A. Evans.”
After all that, who couldn’t begin to almost feel sorry for the poor victim of these criminal protesters! I searched in vain to find any among them, however, who had ever contemplated engaging in criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation with this victim they’d never heard of or any other human being. Instead, they seemed oddly focused on preventing the criminal killing, dismemberment, and traumatizing of large numbers of children, women, and men in places like Pakistan.
Elliott Adams, one of the protesters, said:
This looks to me like an outrageous court action to block us from using first amendment rights to comply with international law. We have been arrested a number of times blocking one of the entrances to Hancock Air National Guard Base while trying to serve an indictment to the base for violation of international law with the drones operated from the base.
Adams called the order of protection “ludicrous.” “Apparently,” he said, “someone forgot to inform the judge that the commander at Hancock is the one with all the Humvees, the chain-link fence with barbed wire on top, the M16s and M4 assault rifles, not to mention the F16 fighter jets and the MQ9 drones, among other armaments. He has trained in and made a profession of aggressive violent behavior. By contrast the citizens petitioning their government for redress are the ones who have taken an oath of nonviolence.”
When nonviolent activist Paul Frazier asked if the order to stay away from the base included staying away from the weekly permitted demonstration area across the street from the base, Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant Daily said that if the “victim,” Evans, finds it irritating then yes it would be a violation. Sheriff’s Dept. Deputy Ferazolli then said, “I will do one better. If I see you there I will arrest you, and it will be a felony.”
I’ll give them this, at least: the brave law-enforcement officers in Dewitt and Onondaga have finally figured out a way for the Department of Defense to do something defensive.
Would that the same could be said for all of us. I write this on a Sunday as tens of millions of Americans take an hour or more to devote to millennia-old superstitious rituals aimed at making the world a better place. Imagine if they also, or alternatively, spent 10 minutes making two phone calls, one to the Obama campaign and one to the Romney campaign. Imagine if the message were: “Unless you adopt the following commandment, none of us will cheer for, vote for, or cooperate with your candidate: Thou Shalt Not Kill.”
Imagine the lives that could be saved.
Go forth and do likewise.