Two Yale students and a long-time peace activist from New England were arrested Monday in a unusual protest at a Central New York air base. The trio are bent on stopping drone strikes on civilians in distant lands.
Concerns about civilian injuries and deaths due to American drone strikes in several countries are on the rise. Missiles fired by a U.S. drone slammed into a convoy of vehicles traveling to a wedding party in central Yemen on Thursday, killing at least a dozen people: The Associated Press cited a military official who passed word the drone mistook the group for an Al-Qaeda convoy. He said tribesmen known to the villagers were among the dead.
Once airborne, drones are remote-controlled from installations in the U.S. including Hancock Air Force Base in Syracuse.
Carol Baum is a Central New York peace activist aligned with the Upstate Anti-Drone Network. She alleges some degree of profiling goes into organizing drone strikes. "There's no war being declared by the United States in these places that drone attacks are happening. There's no accountability, no public discussion. It's just these assassinations basically planned and carried out and there's no law behind any of it. Often times they talk about 'collateral damage.' Children, friends, other people around. When they're talking about 'Obama's Kill List' they talk about some of the signature strikes, which are strikes on young men between certain ages who have a certain kind of look. So they don't even necessarily believe that these are high level Al Qaeda people. They're just people who seem like they fit the bill."
Mark Colville is one of three religious peace activists arrested at Hancock. He is a resident member of the Amistad Catholic Worker House in New Haven, Connecticut. "We know that drones are being operated from Hancock and that they are being used for violent military missions in Afghanistan and we also know that typically at least three-quarters of the victims--- usually more than that --- are civilians"
Colville, accompanied by two Yale Divinity School Students, traveled to the air base in what he describes as a “peace gesture” during the Christian season of Advent. "I had been at a rally there at Hancock a year ago October and I was arrested at that point and those charges are still pending. And in the meantime, the judge there in DeWitt County Court issued an order of protection on behalf of the base commander, Colonel Earl Evans. So essentially, Col. Evans has an order of protection against non-violent citizens. An order of protection is the law that is typically used to defend victims of domestic violence. So to me this is really a mockery of law to issue an order of protection against some of the gentlest people on earth."
The judge's order of protection on behalf of the military stipulated that even demonstrating legally outside the gates could trigger arrests with potential felony charges. The trio were apprehended and charged with several misdemeanors, and Colville also received a contempt charge, which potentially carries a year in prison. The three have a court date on December 17th.
Colville says the community in turn issued its own “order of protection” on behalf of women and children and families in Afghanistan. The order is posted below. Base Commander Colonel Earl Evans did not return calls for comment.