On or about November 27, 2021, members of Ban Killer Drones held protests in 13 communities to keep public attention focused on the August 29th U.S. drone killing of 10 Ahmadi family members in Kabul, Afghanistan, including seven children, and to call for an end to U.S. drone attacks. The protests also called for the U.S. to unfreeze Afghan bank accounts to counter starvation there.
Here are reports of the events:
by Mary Anne Grady Flores
Judy Bello has posted many of our Syracuse photos of our Black Friday (Nov. 26) witness in downtown Syracuse Christmas tree lighting from 6:30 – 7:30 pm during a sprinkle of snow. https://upstatedroneaction.org/wp/
There were a couple of thousand people facing the Clinton Square skating rink with the tree at the end and with folks coming and going as the hour proceeded. There were 10 of us from different New York State communities with flyers and banners.
We stayed at the periphery with a 10 x 1 foot banner, “Tis the season for peace in the world.” Two of us walked back and forth at the Christmas tree-side of the square as we were holding our huge 10 x 4 foot banner on 8 feet poles that said: “Don’t look away!” HANCOCK AFB, END DRONE KILLING! and included nine Ahmadi family photos at the bottom.
We battled 15 – 20 mile an hour winds as we held the banner, feeling like we were holding a sail, about to fly. When we could, we put the 8 feet poles up on our stomachs like a color guard, elevating the banner about 12 feet above the crowd. Many looked. A few stopped to hear and agreed with our message. One little girl was photographed reading the banner and seeing the faces of the Ahmadi children.
We had good conversations with people who didn’t know until reading the banner that drones kill from Hancock. Today (11/29 -Mon) I went to pay the wonderful printer who reported that he saw the back of the banner near the Christmas tree on Syracuse TV news. He recommended we scour the online press as there were tons of people taking pictures. I had hoped to get closer to the tree just as the lights were to be turned on as a photo bomb but we might have bopped people with the banner as the wind gusts were strong.
I stress that only three out of the many hundreds of people who saw us said we didn’t belong there: a guy who said it was the wrong time to be there, and he was from the Syracuse Peace Council! Another was a Democrat who said he was with us, but we were there at the wrong time. A third made his statement, quietly dousing the lower part of the banner with his cup of beer.
On Saturday, Nov. 27 from 10-11 am, five Ithaca Catholic Workers stood with the same big “Don’t Look Away” banner and other smaller ones on Park Street, at Ithaca’s busiest intersection (39,000 cars pass daily), across from the entrance to popular indoor farmers’ market. This is a constant vigil for many years, every Saturday, with the message of no killer drones, no nuclear weapons, and peace. Drivers were very receptive to our message, with thumbs up and positive honks. The big banner was easy to read, but you need two strong people to hold it up.
Volk Field, Wisconsin
by Joy First
Monday November 29 marked three months since the murder of ten members of the Ahmadi family, of which seven were children, by a US government drone in Afghanistan. Five activists in Wisconsin stood at the gates of Volk Field, a Wisconsin Air National Guard base where personnel are trained to operate the Shadow drone. We mourn all those who have been killed by US killer drones.
Today, December 1, marks 10 years since we first stood at the gates of Volk Field. We have been there on a regular basis for ten years, several times risking arrest. Normally, about 100 cars from the base drive past us as we stand there.
We must remember that although President Biden has told us that the war in Afghanistan is over, we continue to fly drones over Afghanistan, dropping bombs and killing innocent people, even though the military admits that 90% of those killed are not the intended target. Children continue to die by our bloody hands in Afghanistan.
Watch for information on how you can get involved in ending these crimes by our government in January and February. Please don’t look away.
by Leslie Harris
On Monday, November 29, 2021, we gathered at the Earle Cabell Federal Building in Dallas for a remembrance of the Ahmadi family and a demonstration to remind the public of the brutality of the US drone program that killed them.
We held our event during noontime to take advantage of the busy foot traffic with employees and visitors going in and out for lunch. We had three banners: one a large black & white banner that said, “BAN KILLER DRONES; FREE DANIEL HALE”…one with the 9 photos of those killed in the drone strike and the messages “DON’T LOOK AWAY; Stop killing innocents; Ban Killer Drones”…and one with our demands:
–END PENTAGON COVER-UP IN THE AHMADI FAMILY DRONE KILLING,
–PROVIDE REPARATIONS TO THE AHMADI FAMILY,
–UNFREEZE AFGHAN MONEY TO PREVENT STARVATION IN AFGHANISTAN,
–HOLD WAR INDUSTRY PROFITEERS ACCOUNTABLE FOR MAKING REMOTE-CONTROL KILLING POSSIBLE.
We were surprised at how many pedestrians stopped to talk. All the conversations were amicable – pretty rare in Dallas! One member of our group positioned himself right in front of the revolving doors of the Federal Building, holding a heart-shaped sign saying, “ARMS ARE FOR HUGGING,” passing out flyers, and striking up one-on-one conversations for the entire duration of the event.
Others stood on the corner of the building at a busy intersection, displaying the banners and waving fluorescent signs that said, “DON’T LOOK AWAY” and the old standard, “HONK FOR PEACE”…and, yes, there were tons of honks, as well as people saying “thank you” or nodding in approval. We passed out lots of flyers, and surprisingly, only a few of the people we approached were totally disinterested in reading or talking about what we were doing. I think the “Don’t Look Away” message and the photos of the family really drew people in.
After bannering-flyering-conversing, we had a die-in, chalking bodies and writing the names and ages of the murdered Ahmadi family members as well as messages to leave behind after we were gone.
There was no battling the weather. I almost felt guilty about the beautiful 70-degree, sunny, windless day we had. Props to those who braved the wind & cold!
A couple more pics:
by Jack Gilroy
“DON’T LOOK AWAY” – A cold afternoon in Vestal, NY.
Jim and Ann Clune and Tim Taugher stood at the entranceway to the Vestal Mall with signs and photos of the Ahmadi family. Cecily O’Neil and Jack Gilroy first positioned themselves in front of Target (the anchor store in this mall) and covered the in and outdoors. Most people accepted our “DON’T LOOK AWAY” handbill, with color photos of the seven Ahamedi family children and with our demands to break Pentagon cover-up, provide reparations to the Ahmadi family and unfreeze Afghan money to prevent starvation.
We were asked by a security officer to leave. He was low-key but firm. We allowed him to exit and continued issuing the flyers. After about ten minutes (and many who accepted our flyers) we were told again by a second security person. Neither man was rough—just doing their corporate job of preventing the right of free speech through using the usual “private property” argument.
We left for Bed Bath and Beyond but found few people so we walked about 500 yards to Kohl’s. Lots of takers at Kohl’s (see photo of Cecily O’Neil who was busy much of the time getting folks to accept the handbills). Most people were fine with us. We had some stern no’s or no contact or response.
After about 20 minutes at Kohls a young security guard inspected the flyer and said he understood why we were there, but that we had to leave. Asked why, he said we were “soliciting”. I noted that we were not selling anything, simply offering information with no expectation of payment of any kind.
We left, feeling satisfied that we passed out a hundred or so flyers between us both.
We will have a think tank about future actions.
Binghamton, NY Area and Cornell University
by Jack Gilroy
On Saturday, November 27, 2021, I contacted my Church of the Holy Family parish office in Endwell, NY with a message to the Pastor, Fr. Clarence Rumble. I noted that I planned to hand out flyers to people after they left 4 PM Mass. I sent the flyer electronically. He replied (through his secretary) that I was not to hand out any flyers.
At 4;05 PM after Mass began, I inserted our “Don’t Look Away” flyer with the assassinated Ahmadi children photos and an appeal for a Congressional Investigation into over 150 car door handles. (A number of parishioners work for BAE and Lockheed, both nearby.) That night I received a message from Pastor Rumble to absolutely not do that again. (I asked the parish secretary to remove my name from the parish list.)
The following morning, I went to my former parish, St. James, in Johnson City, NY (that I left after their years of silent commitment to war in the Middle East) and stood at the door after 10 AM mass and gave out about 60 or 70 flyers. People receiving the flyers said “thank you” as they received the information.
The following day, Monday, November 29th I went to Binghamton University by myself and had a successful time handing out of many dozens of flyers to students walking between classes. The snow was blowing, but students were attentive to my story and one student came as I offered the flyers outside of the West Student Union and said to me. “Sir, I really appreciate what you are doing, thank you.” That made my day. I continued walking and gave out flyers to students along the way. I then passed out flyers at the East Wing of the Student Union. At no time was I approached by any security personnel.
I then went to the student newspaper office (The Pipe Dream) in the basement of the New University Union and spoke to Ciara Lavin, editor-in-chief of The Pipe Dream. I asked her to do a story on the need for a congressional investigation into the number of civilian casualties from U.S. drone attacks.
The next day, I went to Cornell University, in Ithaca, and walked the busy student sidewalks and trails speaking with students and giving them the “Don’t Look Away” flyers. They were very supportive and listened to my pitch and some took multiple copies and said they would give them to friends.
As I was leaving, a man rode into the Human Ecology Building bike parking lot, and I recognized him as Dan Lamb, a former assistant to one of the very best members of Congress, the late Congressman Maurice Hinchey. Dan and I talked for almost a half-hour, and then he was off to class (he’s now a professor at Cornell). Dan is very much with us. Maurice Hinchey would have been as well. Dan ran for the seat vacated by Maurice and lost to Claudia Tenney. Tenney is, perhaps, one of the worst representatives New York State has ever had. I promised to keep Dan in the loop.
Nashville, TN (Berry Field-Air National Guard drone control base.)
Reports of Karl Meyer, Jane Hussain and Jim Wohlgemuth, combined by the editor, Nick Mottern
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Dec. 28th, about 25 protesters gathered with anti-drone war signs and banners at the busy intersection of Murfreesboro Pike and TN-255, near the sign for the Tennessee Air National Guard drone control center, located at Nashville’s Berry Field.
Jane Hussain, of the protest organizers, said: “I was happy we got 25 people from all different groups,” noting that it has been difficult to get people out to protests since Barack Obama was nominated for president, but she thinks that is changing now.
Jim Wohlgemuth, of Veterans For Peace, reported: “We handed out leaflets to whomever would take them, and we talked to a couple of folks. The white folks primarily avoided eye contact, while the people of color were more than happy to give a thumbs up.”
Karl Meyer, another of the event organizers, left the group to go closer to the actual entrance to the base, joined by two Air Force veterans who were members of Party for Socialism and Liberation. He parked his van, which is covered with anti-war messages, near the main gate and reported that “Sgt. McCord of the Metro Police couldn’t have been more gracious” in allowing him to park on the shoulder near the gate.
At 1 p.m., the protesters took a lunch break, and at about 3:30 p.m., Karl reported:
“Once I had made things clear with the cops, Jane, her partner Al who takes great photographs, and one young man (from the Sunrise Movement), joined me in front of the main gate from 3:00 to 4:30, with two cop cars keeping watch 100′ up the road.
“Local Fox channel showed up and photographed three of us (and the van) standing with the very clear message signs in front of the main entrance gate; not a single vehicle went in or out. I think Fox did not run the story; three people, no conflict.
“At 4:30 we drove around the perimeter and found the secondary entrance gate just as two soldiers were closing the gate and hanging a padlock on it.”
The base commander had ordered the main gate closed in advance of the protest, and the guardhouse for the gate house empty. Apparently base traffic had been using the secondary gate during the protest. “They were all ready for us,” Jane said.
The protesters managed to pass out some leaflets, including the quite unique leaflet prepared by Karl, see below, that asks questions of base personnel.
Given the police presence and the efforts of the base commander to keep the base traffic away from the protesters, Jane said she considered the protest a success.
She and Karl say they will organize more such protests.
“End of story,” said Karl, “except that now that we know that this quiet base exists here in Nashville, I’m planning to follow-up with some modest organizing, and some creative David vs. Goliath tactics. But I’m not optimistic about any real results. Since Obama and the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq, there has been virtually no anti-war or international peace movement in this God-worshiping city.
“Ecclesiastes – “There is a time and a season…”.
This is the leaflet that Karl prepared for the Berry Field protest:
(Draft Leaflet from Karl Meyer -others are welcome to take ideas, or language from this. Karl)
Memo to: Staff of Tennessee Air National Guard
We want to remind you that you are not employees of State or National Governments, but ultimately of the People of the United States, as declared in the first words of the Constitution, “We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice…” In order to be accountable to us, and to your own conscience, we ask you to answer all these questions to yourselves and to the public.
1) Are you involved in remotely guiding Reaper Drones flying in the airspace of foreign countries?
2) Does your government have the consent of any, or all, governments of those countries to fly in their airspace?
3) If not, are such flights legal under international law, and your Standards of Conduct as U.S. soldiers?
4) Do you understand the language and cultures of countries under your surveillance?
5) Do your drone flights identify targets, or approve missile strikes to execute, without trial, individuals identified as intending attacks against the United States or U.S. citizens?
6) How do you know their intentions and capabilities?
7) If you have some kind of “intelligence”, how can you be sure of the target’s identity, and that your information is correct?
8) Do drone attacks often, or sometimes, kill innocent people, family, friends, who are with the intended target?
9) How do you feel when you learn that strikes resulting from your surveillance have killed innocent people?
10) How would you feel if other countries were to fly drones in Nashville’s air space, and identify you as terrorists because of your lethal, and illegal, activities in their airspace?
11) How would you feel if they struck at you with missiles while you and your family were at home, or were driving somewhere in your van?
12) Would you have any feelings, if you and your family were all dead as a result?
Please send your answers to Peaceable Assembly, 2407 Heiman St., Nashville, TN 37208
(the other side of this leaflet will feature text copied from the official Air Nashville Guard website, showing the “Mission Categories” performed at the Berry Field base in Nashville.)
by Steve Baggarly
Three Hampton Roads peace activists held a vigil during lunch break at the West Gate of Langley AFB in Hampton, VA on December 1, the first Wednesday of Advent. They stood holding pictures of members 10 members of the Ahmadi family, including seven children, all Afghan civilians “mistakenly” killed in a US drone attack three months ago this week, on the eve of the US military pullout from Afghanistan.
The vigil coincided with similar actions across the US at military drone installations. Langley AFB has been a site of on-going drone protest because it is home to the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing which monitors real time images being sent from drones in Afghanistan and elsewhere and plays a role in surveillance, communications, and targeting for drone strikes. The infrastructure in this type of warfare has been dubbed “Death T.V.” by air force personnel working there.
The death of these seven children and the three adults (the father was employed by a US non-profit. The other relative was a contractor with the US military) was not aberrant. Whistleblower Daniel Hale is now serving four years in prison because of disclosing U.S. government documents which showed that, over one five-month operation, “Operation Haymaker,” in Afghanistan, the drone attacks killed someone other than the “intended target” 90% of the time. What is unusual in the case of the attack which killed Zemari Ahmadi and nine of his family members is the international coverage which continues to expose the suffering endured by this family. This was one of thousands of US drone attacks that have terrorized and killed people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen over the past 20 years, with many deaths deemed “collateral damage.”
When asked why she was there by the Air Force security officer who stopped by to “collect demographics,” Kim Williams replied: “As a Catholic called to respect the sanctity of all life, I cannot ignore the deaths of these children and their caretakers. As a mother, I feel visceral pain for the mother who survived this loss. And I fear retribution, that violence will beget violence and will never end.”
Steve Baggarly mentioned his concern for US airmen and women involved in drone warfare: “Watching defenseless people get hunted down and blown up in real time from the other side of the world leads many to experience moral injury and PTSD. I would rather this not be done in my name and with my tax dollar.”
Beale AFB, Marysville, CA
Grandmother in Bunny Suit Arrested While Passing Out Educational Leaflets!
by Toby Blome
It was a glorious fall day. Four of us got up at 3:00 am in the morning in the Bay Area to arrive for the early commute traffic at 6:00am at Beale Drone Base, near Marysville. We weren’t planning to blockade any roads on Monday. In fact, we weren’t planning to do anything to put us at risk for arrest at any point in the day.
With banners and leaflets, our goal was two-fold:
To educate the Marysville community and Beale AFB personnel about some important topics,
1) The August 29th U.S. drone attack that killed 10 members of the Afghan Ahmadi family, all civilians, at their Kabul home.
Flyer #1: Don’t Look Away (Includes color photos of the 7 Ahmadi children killed)
2) The U.S. Military’s critical role in the global climate crisis, that leaves a gigantic carbon footprint annually, due to the 800+ foreign bases worldwide, and the ongoing state of “endless wars”… Following the failed COP 26 climate conference, it felt timely to point out the exclusion of U.S. military’s carbon emissions from solution finding efforts at global climate conferences!
Flyer #2: What Keeps Us Safe? (by Eleanor Levine)
We dressed in “Creecher” costumes and held animal puppets to help underline the growing and irreversible tragedy of mass animal extinction due to the worsening climate disaster.
After a very successful morning vigil at the Wheatland/South Beale Road gate, that included passing out leaflets to commuters, while enjoying the wintering birds above us (snow geese, sandhill cranes flying), a casual breakfast at the Brick Coffee House nourished and warmed us up. After breakfast, Susan and Toby stood near the WalMart entrance, a place where many military families shop, and successfully handed out about 25 more leaflets in about 40 min. The highlight of the day was the many diverse community members we spoke with of all ages and backgrounds, including 2 elder veterans who greeted us warmly, and a Pakistani father, with his two middle school aged children. The father reacted enthusiastically to our “Love Not War” sign, and then even more so when he saw the other side: “MUSLIM LIVES MATTER.” “I’m Muslim,” he declared with a smile!
We enjoyed a delightful respite from activism, after discovering, and then hiking, the two- mile Black Swan Trail……that included a lovely foot trail up to the top of a bluff that overlooked the pond/lake below, with scattered live-oaks and a green grassy rolling landscape.
AFTERNOON VIGIL: “THEATER OF THE ABSURD”: Grandmother in bunny suit gets arrested for leafleting!
After helping to put up three large banners about militarism, war and the climate/environment, Toby Blomé entered the “gore” area near the stop sign where military personnel exit the base. It is an area she has stood in for 11 years, almost monthly, to distribute educational leaflets to the military. The gore is a triangular area at the end point of the road, where it meets a highway. It is marked by double-yellow lines, offering the only meaningful place to stand to successfully distribute leaflets to military exiting the base. Toby has probably distributed 1-2,000 leaflets at that same location, over 11 years. The military often dispute our rights to stand in the gore, and at times harass us and threaten us with arrest, claiming it is “not safe” or “it is on base property,” etc. The military claims of where the base boundary line is across the roadway constantly changes, but in 11 years of dispute, the military has never arrested us for standing there, even though we have always “stood our ground.”
This time was different. Within minutes, military police arrived and threatened to arrest Toby if she didn’t leave the gore area. Toby commented on the absurdity of the situation where military personnel risk their lives to supposedly “defend our freedom” in foreign wars, and are now trying to violate our free speech rights to distribute literature to Beale personnel. Toby remained in the gore area, asserting her free speech rights. Military police then left the area to seek advice from their superiors. The officers returned, recited formal orders to Toby to disperse, and then immediately handcuffed Toby’s wrists and escorted her off the roadway. Susan Witka was present to document the arrest in these photos.
It initially appeared that Toby was going to be released after a short detention on the side of the road, but then she was re-handcuffed and taken deep onto base property for fingerprinting and processing because she didn’t have an ID on her. After two and a half hours of total detention, she was finally released, with a “trespassing” citation, in the dark of the night. Huge thanks to Fred Bialy and Susan Witka who waited patiently for Toby’s release at the gate.
Throughout the “processing”, Toby used every opportunity to educate Beale personnel about U.S. foreign policy as occupiers, torturers and drone assassinators. She repeatedly asked for the name of the officer in charge who gave the orders to arrest her unlawfully. She was never given that information, until just before her release, a “Tech Sargeant” named officer Beck, who newly appeared near the end, said, “you can put my name down.” When Toby asked him if he actually gave the orders, he just parroted back, “You can put my name down.”
The public and military personnel all have the right to know the truth about U.S. foreign policy and the devastating human rights violations committed by these policies. Free speech rights have to be strongly defended, if our fragile democracy is going to endure. In addition, if soldiers are going to risk their lives in foreign countries, supposedly to “defend our freedom,” they should never be asked to violate our freedom at home. May we one day celebrate the last militarized drone vehicle to be grounded to a permanent resting place.
Huge gratitude to Eleanor Levine, Susan Witka and Fred Bialy for all your contributions to this day of resistance to drone killing and U.S. militarism at Beale AFB.
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by Vicki Ross
Today (Nov. 30), we gathered (six over the period) and stood in the rain, wind, sleet, hail, and snow, asking people which they felt to be a priority for spending – people’s needs? (at home and abroad, especially Afghanistan); or military spending? We placed a penny in the one (of two) jars that represented their vote.
Fully 100% voted for people’s needs!! Albeit it was a very limited sample (27) in a very particular time and place (in a wintry mix at Bidwell & Elmwood in Buffalo). I also suspect that the people who might’ve voted for military spending wouldn’t talk to us. We will be continuing the effort at our weekly Women In Black vigil (complete with handing out the flyers, and when relevant the questionnaire).
Whiteman AFB, Johnson County, MO
On December 3, Brian Terrell attended a “Don’t Look Away” protest outside Whiteman AFB, reported on here:
by Nick Mottern
About a dozen vigilers gathered for the “Don’t Look Away” witness that was held during the regular 11 a.m. Saturday vigil on the Greenfield Common, organized by the Traprock Center for
Peace and Justice. As the photo above shows, it was a bright, sunny morning, but “cold and very windy,” reported Paki, who said Marty Schotz took the lead in distributing 40 flyers to “folks, mostly in cars.”
Paki said that “people were really happy” to take the leaflets, including members of the Greenfield High School hockey team who were fund-raising on the common.
by Nick Mottern
The Northampton Vigil to Stop the Wars devoted their Nov. 27 vigil to “Don’t Look Away”. The central feature of the event was a 1/6 scale replica of an MQ-9 Reaper drone, on wheels, pushed back and forth across Northampton’s main downtown intersection by me, costumed as “The Grim Reaper”, and assisted by Claudia Lefko, who carried a sign referring to the 10 members of the Ahmadi family who were killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 29th by a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone.
The wind was the major challenge and limiting factor of the day because it made the drone model difficult to manage, and, importantly, it continually blew over signs that were propped along the wrought iron fence of the Old County Courthouse, a prominent place for displaying vigil signage.
An Extraordinary Encounter
The drone model and “The Grim Reaper” were very successful in attracting the attention of people on the street, including cell phone photographers.
The model and my costume also brought about an extraordinary encounter with a man who came up to me, thanked us for doing the protest, and then said that he had been a friend of Warren Weinstein, an American who was killed by a mistaken U.S. drone attack in Pakistan in 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Weinstein
I was stunned to meet someone so personally connected to this tragedy and because, as I told him, only several weeks ago I had tried to reach Weinstein’s widow in connection with work I was doing as co-coordinator of BanKillerDrones.org in supporting demands for appropriate reparations to the Ahmadi family.
Specifically, In 2016, the U.S. paid $3 million to the family of Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian citizen, who was accidentally killed in the same attack that killed Weinstein. At that time, the U.S. government was apparently dragging its feet in making reparations to the Weinstein family. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-agrees-to-pay-nearly-3-million-to-family-of-italian-killed-in-cia-strike/2016/09/16/5c213af6-7c1a-11e6-bd86-b7bbd53d2b5d_story.html Based on what the U.S. paid to the Lo Portos, Ban Killer Drones has called for reparations to the Ahmadi family of $3 million for each of their 10 slain family members. I wanted to find out from Ms. Weinstein whether the U.S. had finally made a settlement with her family and possibly to learn whether it was comparable to what had been paid to the Lo Portos.
Unfortunately, Weinstein’s friend did not know anything about the reparations, and he had fallen out of touch with Ms. Weinstein for some time. We talked for a few more moments, he thanked us again for being there, and departed.
Here are links to press coverage of the event:
*Featured Image: Mary Ann Grady Flores and Mark Scibilia-Carver holding the “Don’t Look Away” banner at the Syracuse tree lighting ceremony. Photo by Peg Gefell