Nov 02, 2011 Amanda Seef Uncategorized
The Syracuse Peace Council provided video of April’s protest. Check it out on YouTube.
Opening statements in the case of the Hancock 38, which is down to 32 after plea agreements, guilty pleas and dismissals, are expected Wednesday night at DeWitt Town Court.
In April, the 38 protesters from Syracuse – but as far away as Honolulu, Hawaii – were charged with two counts of disorderly conduct after proceeding with a “die-in” at the main entrance to Hancock Air Base, in DeWitt. More than 300 protested the unmanned drones, which are being used in the war on terror overseas. Pilots of the drones train and work at the Hancock Air Base. The drones are often used to kill targeted members of terrorism groups, but the group protesting argues drones are used as “assassination” machines and innocent civilians often die in their attacks.
At the end of the protest, the 38 laid down in the driveway to participate in a “die-in,” where the protesters laid down in “bloodied” clothing to symbolize those who die from drones overseas. Police arrested the protesters after they refused to comply with their order to disperse and for restricting vehicular or pedestrian traffic, police said.
“It was to show our discomfort with the way the war is being prosecuted,” said Judy Bello, of Webster, northeast of Rochester. “We were showing our discomfort with the drones flown from our backyard and the way they’re used in general.”
The Air Base employs pilots who fly drones over Afghanistan and maintenance technicians are trained there, according to the Syracuse Peace Council.
“We are now in the midst of a war zone,” Syracuse resident Ed Kinane said. “It’s leading to a breakdown of international law. We have a responsibility to speak out and educate the public.”
Kinane says the charges shouldn’t stand.
“My basic thought is it shouldn’t be occurring because those who were arrested were engaged in behavior protected by the First Amendment,” he said. “We were arrested in the midst of us doing our civic duty.”
About 50 people assembled in front of the Syracuse Federal Building at noon on Tuesday to raise awareness of the drone program. A group assembled in front of the Hancock Air Base, the site of their arrests, prior to trial starting Tuesday.
Prior to the trial beginning, each member of the Hancock 38 had to be arraigned on new charges. An original charge, obstruction of governmental administration, was dropped and a disorderly conduct charge was added. Hon. David Gideon arraigned each defendant Tuesday night and spoke with each regarding their decision to go pro se, or to represent themselves. Only nine of the original 38 charged hired legal counsel, represented by attorney Ron Van Norstrand.
Six of those charged have either plead guilty or their charges have been dismissed. One elderly man in his 90s was given an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, should he stay out of legal trouble for one year.
In court Tuesday, the defendants and supporters each wore a bright blue scarf or ascot, in order to show support and solidarity for the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, Syracuse Peace Council’s Carol Baum said.
“We want to go on trial,” defendant Jim Klume, of Syracuse, said. “That’s normally something we would contest.”