Nukewatch Quarterly Winter 2013-2014
In a major victory for peace activists working to stop US drone atrocities, five Catholic Workers were acquitted Oct. 24 of disorderly conduct charges incurred after they blocked an entrance to Hancock Air Base in Syracuse, New York. Linda Le Tendre, Ellen Grady, Carmen Trotta, and Catholic Priests Bill Frankle-Streit and Bill Pickard committed the civil resistance action Feb. 13 to draw attention to US drone killings of civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere.
“These strikes are illegal and immoral,” the group’s statement said. “Under international agreements which the US has signed, the killing of civilians, extra-judicial murders, violations of national sovereignty and violations of due process are all illegal acts.” Hancock Air Base is home to the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard and is a “Reaper” drone hub where pilots remotely control missile-firing drones over Afghanistan.
Representing themselves at the trial, the five convinced DeWitt Town Court Judge Robert Jokl that their action was one of crime prevention, to uphold rather than break the law. They cited Article 6 of the US Constitution, which declares US treaties the “supreme law of the land.” They testified to the effects of drone strikes and the relationships their friends had established with the people under attack.
Recent reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International confirm that US drones have killed scores of civilians in Yemen and Pakistan. A Bureau of Investigative Journalism report counted as many as 1,000 civilian deaths, 200 of them children, by US drone war just in Pakistan since 2004.
“We pray that the children of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and all countries will someday soon be without the terror of drones or any wars,” defendant Ellen Grady said.