At 8am, a BART ride and carpool ride later, we arrive at the Federal Courthouse in Sacramento where 9 anti-drone activists were scheduled for arraignment that morning for charges of blocking the gate at Beale Air Force Base back in October 2012. Nine very brave individuals who blocked base traffic that day to present their demands to the Base Commander of Beale, which is of course where the 9th Reconnaissance Wing (9 RW) of the Twelth Air Force Command is located and performs its national and international surveillance training and operations in the skies, along with combat support and forces. Beale Air Force Base is the home of Global Hawk, among other drone aircraft. We hit the sidewalks in front of the courthouse with our banners, signs and bullhorn, as more activists arrived for the morning rally. It consisted of locals from the Sacramento, folks who lived near the base, folks from the Bay Area . . . from Elk Grove to Nevada City to Sacramento to San Francisco, peace activists who want to end illegal wars and stop the killing of innocents and "militants" in our name.
Since I'm the Newbie on the scene, I'll just point you a couple of articles that best summarize the happenings of the morning. First, there's Ken Butigan's blog, which is in my opinion, a "must read." There's also Reverend Sharon Delgado's blog. She's one of the 9 still facing federal charges, and a repeat demonstrator at Beale. She's stunning in her clear anti-drone position, and posts regularly about her activities at Beale. The Sacramento Bee covered the story of the 5 protesters (of the original Beale 9) who were arraigned on Tuesday the 8th and will return to court on April 15th. (BTW, that's me, in the front on the right, holding one of Toby's lovingly hand-made banners with the lovely Martha Hubert, another Code Pink activist.)
After the Beale 9 were dismissed from court, our group spent the next hour signing letters to Congresswomen Doris Matsui and Barbara Boxer, and began our attempts to meet with their Congressional staff persons in attempt to explain our position, and to give them our letters of demand. This is where the real ironic fun began for me -- in the Honorable Barbara Boxer's Sacramento office. Although one of the activists had phoned in the day before to let them know we were coming and to request a meeting, the receptionist/administrative assistant insisted that there was no staff member available to meet with us. A few of us decided to stay in the office and wait, while the rest of the contingent went to Matsui's office, and actually received an audience with a member of her staff, and were able to present their letter to be read at a later date. Although I was not exactly hopeful that Boxer's staff would lend us an ear, it was particularly enlightening to be in her office and stare at the art on the walls. It explains a lot about what we're up against in the anti-drone campaign.
On one wall of Boxer's office hangs the photograph entitled "Matriot."
|Read about Nina in Howard Fast's Peekskill, USA|
Here's a shot of my new friend Nina Folk sitting under "Matriot" in Boxer's office. Nina's an 83-year-old activist who lost a finger back when she was 18 years old, while attending a 1949 ACLU Freedom Concert in Peekskill, New York, and she was inside her vehicle when a rioting group broke the windows of the vehicle with stones, screaming racist profanities at her. The glass of the side window came in and severed part of her middle finger. Nina was, of course, afraid to visit the local clinic and the police laughed at her, stalling her ability to receive other medical assistance until it was too late to reattach the finger.
Can I just say that Nina rocks!, and I hope I have the perseverance and dedication of Nina in my own lifetime. Nina is still working, in geriatric care, with clients in the Bay Area, and she has many activist moves to share with her friends in the Movement.
But I digress.
On the other wall in the Honorable Barbara Boxer's office hangs this image of Beale Airforce men and woman standing in front of the surveillance drone Global Hawk:
|"Senator Boxer, Thank you for all your support."|
The whole point of visiting Senator Boxer's office was to have a discussion with her or her staff members about our wish to end drone strikes, to deliver the studies referenced below, and to give her our letters of demand. I invite you to read this information, and to write a letter to your own Congresspersons to advocate for change in the U.S. drone policy, both domestically and abroad. Should we continue in this vein, I imagine it won't be long until the international enmity we are creating will soon eat us alive, and leave many more dead and terrorized along the way.
Research Studies on the negative effects of the U.S. drone program and civilian casualties:
"Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan"
Columbia Law School's "Counting Deaths From Drone Strikes"
After leaving my Senator's office disappointed but determined to see her in future, we picnicked in front of the Courthouse, then I joined a group of folks headed to Beale Air Force Base to see what I could see. Here's a glimpse.
|Parking lot at the Main Gate w/ photo of Pakistani child killed by Hellfire missile|
|Standing in the Line of Protest|
|Corporate Flag of the United States of America|
|Militant? Killed by U.S. drone|
|Making our presence known.|
If you would like to have a sample letter to send to your Congressperson or want to get in touch with folks who care about the U.S. drone crisis, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The protests at Beale are ongoing, and we could use your help. Every action counts.
May you be well. May all people be happy and secure.