Drone protesters charged at Hancock Air Base for marching without a permit

— Thirty-three activists were charged after an anti-drone protest at Hancock Air Base Sunday, according to the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones.

The protesters, all with the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones, were charged under a DeWitt town variance that requires protesters to have a permit to march.

The group was at Hancock Air Base, in Mattydale, to deliver a message, or an indictment, to call attention to the drones that are deployed at the air base.

"They're something that don't just threaten people in Afghanistan or Pakistan, they're a very real threat to people in Central New York, they're very big brother-ish," said Syracuse resident Ed Kinane said.

Kinane, who regularly protests the drones at the site, was at the entrance of the base when he was placed under arrest for not having a permit to march in the town of DeWitt, he said.

Kinane says the bulk of the group was charged while walking down East Molloy Road toward the entrance, where Kinane and a handful of others were standing with indictments.

They regularly protest at the site, which is why the arrests are troubling today, Kinane said. He and a handful of others are at the base the first and third Tuesday of every month.

"It was an inappropriate arrest, as it was last year," he said. "Like last year we were exercising our First Amendment rights. We were all nonviolent, maybe overly-polite. We are actually trying to enforce international law, so I find it distressing that we would be arrested for trying to call attention to criminal activity."

Many of the protesters Sunday wore blue scarves, as many of them did when members of the group went on trial last year for disorderly conduct. The scarves are to show solidarity for the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.

Three dozen people were arrested last year for protesting at the base after holding a "die-in" at the entrance. They were later tried and found guilty of disorderly conduct in DeWitt town court and required to pay a fine.

Police have not yet returned calls for comment.

Amanda Seef is an editor/reporter for Eagle Newspapers. She can be reached at aseef@eaglenewsonline.com

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