Thirty-three were arrested April 22 by Onondaga County sheriff’s deputies for protesting at upstate New York’s Hancock Field air base over the use of unmanned drones in Afghanistan. The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones brought together activists from Veterans for Peace, Occupy Buffalo, the Western New York Peace Center and other groups for the protest. Activists planned to deliver a “war crimes indictment” to base personnel, but were “pre-emptively” arrested as they approached the base.
Three women succeeded in reading aloud the text of indictment at the base gate. Addressed to “the Service Members of Hancock Air Base,” the statement read: “By giving material support to the drone program, you as individuals are violating the Constitution, dishonoring your oath, and committing war crimes. We charge the chain of command, from President Barack Obama, to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, to Commander Colonel Greg Semmel, to every drone crew, to every service member supporting or defending these illegal actions, with the following crimes: extrajudicial killings, violation of due process, wars of aggression, violation of national sovereignty, and the killing of innocent civilians.”
Members of the New York State National Guard’s 174th Fighter Wing at the base outside Syracuse have used satellite uplinks to fly unmanned MQ-9 Reapers in Afghanistan since 2009. The military also uses its airspace above Fort Drum in New York’s Jefferson County to train personnel in how to fly Reapers. The National Guard wants to launch regular, unarmed MQ-9s above the Adirondack Mountains to train drone crews from Hancock Field and Fort Drum, but this proposal is still awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. (Buffalo News, April 25; Albany Times-Union, OpEd News, April 23)