Following are reports by two students actively involved in the protest at the Fordham University Commencement on Sat., May 19, 2012 at the Bronx Campus. In addition, there is a War Criminals Watch report on protests outside the campus and another graduation event at Radio City over the three-day weekend of May 19th-20th. Please see the video as well. Photos will be posted soon.
Fordham University’s commencement events on the weekend of May 18th-20th attracted advocates of justice as the university awarded an honorary doctorate to commencement speaker, John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security.
Brennan, an alumnus of Fordham and former senior CIA official, defended the US program of “targeted killing” by drone as consistent with international law, despite repeated evidence that such strikes kill civilians and would-be rescuers. Brennan "is widely know for his advocacy of kidnapping-for-torture (aka 'extraordinary rendition') and killing 'militants' (including US citizens) with 'Hellfire' missiles fired by 'Predator' and 'Reaper' drone aircraft," wrote former CIA agent Ray McGovern, also a Fordham graduate.
“Public figures who promote the spreading and secret use of drones to kill people with impunity should not be honored, much less by a university with a religious connection,” said Stephanie Rugoff, coordinator of the protest for World Can’t Wait.
Nick Mottern, director of Know Drones and an organizer of the Fordham protests, said: "We are challenging the white-washing and willful disregard of US war atrocities at the highest levels of government, religion and academia."
On campus, opposition to the selection of the commencement speaker resulted in a petition calling for a repudiation of Brennan as antithetical to Jesuit values. In addition, on a Facebook page concerned students have called on their fellow graduates to wear orange ribbons on their graduation gowns to symbolize opposition to the use of torture and to stand up and turn their backs when Mr. Brennan begins to speak to silently show their disagreement with his policies and what he stands for.
FROM THE INSIDE
Counter-Terrorism Adviser Non-Transparent at Fordham
By Michael Pappas (Scott McDonald contributed to this article)
Updated version from OpEdNews.com.
On May 19th John Brennan, Deputy National Security Adviser and former CIA senior official, delivered Fordham University's 167th commencement address. When the invitation to Brennan was announced in early March, those Fordham students who were aware of and cared about what Brennan represents did their best, in vain, to get Brennan dis-invited. They saw scandal in the reality that the violent policies Mr. Brennan stands for remain in stark contrast to the principles Fordham University was supposed to stand for as a Catholic Jesuit University.
Controversy on campus grew, catalyzed by two protest petitions created by Fordham students and multiple articles in the school newspaper, The Ram. Eventually, Fordham senior and co-organizer, Scott McDonald, requested a meeting with university president, Joseph M. McShane, S.J., to discuss why Fordham's trustees could not be trusted to invite someone more representative of what we understood to be Fordham's core values.
Why "Off the Record?"
During the meeting McShane, Vice President Jeffrey Gray, and the university secretary, Margaret Ball, attempted to rationalize Brennan's selection. In the meeting multiple comments were made, which the administration officials present repeatedly termed off the record and "not to leave this room," presumably to avoid giving scandal. Scott McDonald left the meeting wondering if the moral theologians at Fordham would agree that torture has now become a "gray area."
After the initial announcement that Brennan would give the commencement address, and even before it was also revealed that he would receive a Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, it became quickly clear that many members of the Fordham community were strongly opposed to giving such honors to Brennan -- Fordham-alumnus-who-made-it-to-the-White-House, or not. Some of the faculty drafted a letter to President McShane asking for a meeting with Mr. Brennan before graduation to discuss his policies.
Eventually the Fordham administration agreed to the faculty's request. As for including students, though, Fordham's leaders decided to invite only one student from each of Fordham's two main campuses -- the Bronx and Lincoln Center.
It seemed clear at the outset that the main aim of the Fordham administration was to win agreement from protester students to sit meekly like lambs -- not stand like Fordham Rams with their backs to Brennan at the commencement. This was confirmed when Dean of Students Christopher Rodgers summoned student co-organizer Mike Pappas to his office and offered him the kind of deal he could not turn down. Except Mike did.
Students, Know Your Place
There could be a meeting with John Brennan, said the dean, if the students would agree not to stand during the commencement exercises. After speaking with fellow organizers, Mike and Scott said, "No deal." The administration then decided to allow a token student presence at the meeting, even though the student protesters reserved the right to stand in witness against Brennan's policies at commencement exercises later that morning. It quickly got worse.
"I am here today because President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people," said Brennan -- oops, that was not at Fordham; rather it was during a major speech by Brennan on April 30. The orchestration of the May 19 early morning meeting with Brennan was so transparently meticulous as to make a mockery of such pledges of transparency. The meeting had to be extremely private behind closed doors -- leaving one to wonder what Fordham and Brennan believed they had to hide.
Why Not ON the Record?
After Scott McDonald was chosen to be the Bronx campus' sole student representative, he explained to Dean Rodgers that the meeting needed to have transparency and full disclosure. Scott said that he would attend only if Fordham agreed to have either press or an independent videographer at the meeting with Brennan. He would not be mouse-trapped again.
At Scott's earlier meeting -- the three-on-one "don't-quote-me" deal he experienced with considerable wonderment on April 26 -- there had been no accountability whatsoever. Accordingly, this time Scott, Mike, and other student organizers felt that the "don't quote me" deal had to go. Mr. Brennan would need to be held to account, for his answers to questions, for example, on the morality of torture -- and, this time so did Fr. McShane.
Dean Rodgers said that this would not be possible and moved quickly to invite a student to replace Scott as the Bronx campus student representative. Rather than host an open discussion with Brennan, Fordham's leaders -- and presumably Brennan himself -- wanted there to be absolutely no accountability for what Brennan or any other participant would say.
Scott McDonald and Mike Pappas decided to go to the meeting anyway in hopes they would be allowed in with a video camera. But the tall white door to the Fordham president's inner sanctum was slammed shut in their faces, despite Scott's attempts to explain why he and his cameraman (Mike) should be allowed in. They were turned away with a "Have a good day," and escorted out by Security.
After Scott and Mike were barred from meeting with Brennan, Fordham students went to the main entrances on the Bronx campus, where they began distributing orange ribbons (symbols of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and other torture sites) and pamphlets on Brennan. Students handed out 2,000 information pamphlets outlining exactly who Mr. Brennan is, why his policies and actions are not in line with Fordham's Jesuit values, and why students would be protesting at the commencement exercises. See an image of the pamphlet below...
Students also handed out 1,000 orange ribbons to students, alumni, family, and friends of the Fordham community. And during Mr. Brennan's address, 10 to 15 people stood and turned their backs, including one Fordham family of four.
Too Clever By Half
The protest of Brennan and the policies he stands for gained so much recognition on campus that he found it necessary during his commencement address to try to dismiss the protesters with a sarcastic comment:
"Much has been attributed to me over the course of my career. And after recently reading some of the things that I reportedly have done, said, or have been responsible for while I was at the CIA and the White House, I must admit that I was deeply torn between giving the commencement address or joining the protesters and petitioners who have so energetically opposed my appearance."
President Joseph M. McShane, S.J. also dedicated a large portion of his own speech to putting the best face on the administration's ostensible openness to dialogue on the thorny issues provoked by the invitation to Brennan. An article posted on Fordham's website dutifully reported:
"In his own address, Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, noted that he and Brennan met that morning with faculty members, students, and members of the Board of Trustees to hear and respond to concerns that had been raised about Brennan's selection as speaker."
As one can see from the points made above, President McShane's statements were not only highly misleading, but betrayed the Potemkin-village nature of the meeting with Brennan. It was hardly a gathering that just any student could attend, nor one that remotely held Mr. Brennan accountable for what he said -- whatever that turned out to be (we have no way of knowing). Clearly, this was just a PR stunt pulled by McShane and his courtiers, in a transparent attempt to create a better image for Fordhan in the public eye.
So much for transparency.
While Mr. Brennan, did offer to come back to Fordham for a discussion with Fordham students next year, it is an open question as to how open free any dialogue would be. Based on the experience at commencement, a return visit will likely be equally opaque if Fordham's McShane and Barack Obama remain incumbent presidents, and Brennan keeps pushing drones and other methods of summary execution with nary a nod to the Bill of Rights.
Watch the video here.
Michael Pappas graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a certificate in Peace and Justice Studies. He plans to attend medical school in 2013 and eventually work with marginalized populations domestically and abroad.
Scott McDonald graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a minor in mathematics. Scott plans to attend law school in 2013 and eventually practice law in the public interest.
By Ayca Bahce
White House “Assassination Czar” Confronted at Fordham
Updated version from OpEdNews.com.
With “pro-life” Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, proudly looking on, White House
counterterrorism adviser John Brennan gave the Fordham commencement address and received an honorary degree on May 19. The hypocrisy of honoring the “assassination czar” was too much for some Fordham grads, including me, a Muslim-American graduate in political science.
The day I read in Fordham’s newspaper, The Ram, that John Brennan would be the commencement speaker at my graduation, it felt like a knife went through my heart. As a Muslim-American who knows the horrors that Brennan’s draconian policies of spying, drone attacks and torture have caused my Muslim brothers and sisters and their families around the world, I was determined to protest his speaking at my graduation.
In the week before graduation, Fordham’s Progressive Students for Justice set up a Facebook page: Action Against Brennan on Graduation, where students engaged in a dialogue regarding Brennan’s policies. I was shocked at how viciously those of us protesting Brennan were criticized by ignorant, misguided students.
As if the persistent ad hominem attacks were not enough, numerous vitriolic comments were filled with hurtful Islamophobic rhetoric as well. Many were purely ethnocentric in nature and were based on blind emotion rather than sound, pertinent reasoning. It truly amazed me how some students could have such a clouded perception of the reality of U.S. foreign policy, and how they do not seem able to understand how these policies do so much harm.
On the day of graduation, I readied a 24-inch-by-36-inch poster for my protest. On it, I had mounted a photo of Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old boy killed by a drone missile two weeks after his father, Anwar Al-Awlaki, also was killed by a missile from a U.S. drone. My poster read, “16 Y/O U.S. CITIZEN KILLED BY U.S. DRONE.” Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki’s photo has become an iconic symbol representing the countless Muslims who have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia.
Father and son were both American citizens. The younger Al-Awlaki was born in Denver, Colorado, while the elder in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The elder Al-Awlaki had not been charged with a crime and received no due process before his extrajudicial execution. The U.S. government simply labeled him a senior al-Qaeda operative in Yemen.
To others, he was an Islamic scholar who preached against the injustices that the U.S. has inflicted on Muslims, and who encouraged Muslims to fight to protect themselves and their religion — and, in particular, defend themselves against foreign occupiers.
Like Father, Like Son…Dead
With regard to Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, U.S. officials have refused to answer questions on the record about how or why he was killed on Oct. 14, 2011, in a remote part of Yemen, along with eight other people. Some unidentified U.S. officials have told reporters that he was not targeted but was killed as “collateral damage” in a strike allegedly aimed at a co-traveler, Ibrahim al-Banna, an Egyptian said to be a senior operative in Yemen’s al-Qaeda affiliate.
Whether Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki was targeted and killed because he was Anwar Al-Awlaki’s son, or his killing is listed under the classic euphemistic rubric “collateral damage,” the boy is dead. And it is repugnant whichever way he died.
As for the euphemistically dead — with their corpses placed on the “’collateral damage” heap — their killing is no less unconscionable, the more so, inasmuch as civilian deaths are a common and frequent occurrence. Brennan’s recent claim that such killing is “exceedingly rare” cannot bear close scrutiny. Copious evidence on the ground proves otherwise.
Brennan said the following in his April 30 speech on drones:
As the President and others have acknowledged, there have indeed been instances when—despite the extraordinary precautions we take—civilians have been accidently injured, or worse, killed in these strikes. It is exceedingly rare, but it has happened.
Taking in stride the killing of civilians (even when “accidental”) is, in my view, simply unacceptable. Tacking on the tag “militant” (whatever that is supposed to mean) helps not a whit.
In my opinion, the U.S. has no business raining down missiles on “militants” or “suspected terrorists” in countries, like Yemen, with which the U.S. is not at war. Such violence serves only to ensure an endless reservoir of hatred for the U.S. and the governments it props up, an endless chain of business orders for the profiteering military-industrial complex (MIC), and an endless stream of dollars from the MIC to members of the House and Senate.
Breaking Fordham’s “Demonstration Policy”
Brennan is now being called the “assassination czar” for his central role in planning and approving such strikes. Indeed, according to a new report from the Associated Press, Brennan has seized the lead in choosing who will be targeted for drone attacks.
Essentially, with a nod from Brennan – and approval from a shadowy selection process – a CIA functionary sitting at a console simply pushes a button to release a missile from a drone buzzing in the skies thousands of miles away. AP quoted one official expressing concern over “how easy it has become to kill someone.”
On graduation day, about two minutes into Brennan’s speech, I left my seat, held my sign high and walked toward the front of an audience consisting of classmates, faculty and families. In an effort to have Fordham administrators and trustees see my sign, I went up the Keating Hall steps to show the audience the painful truth.
To nobody’s surprise, two of Brennan’s security guards, panting and out of breath, approached me and demanded that I come with them. As they were leading me towards the Fordham security office, one student asked me in an angry, condescending tone: “What are you doing?” I told her how Brennan was responsible for numerous children being killed in drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. At that moment, one of Brennan’s security officers grabbed my sign from my hand.
At Fordham’s security office, Brennan’s security took down my name, address, phone number and student ID number. I waited for about 30 minutes and finally one of the security agents told me: “We’re not going to arrest you.”
I asked why they would arrest me in the first place. One of the men stated: “You were going towards the podium and you were only allowed to stand and turn your back to Brennan in protest.”
I replied: “I was going up the stairs in order to show my sign to the school’s trustees and administrators.” Brennan’s security detail filed an incident report against me with Fordham because I allegedly “broke the demonstration policy” of the university. I was then escorted off campus.
Although I missed the bulk of Brennan’s speech, I had the opportunity to learn about a brief segment he had delivered, since it was made public on Fordham’s web page in an article titled “National Security Adviser Delivers Last Lesson to Class of 2012.” It became clear to me that significant portions of Brennan’s speech were condescending, disingenuous — and, at times, farcical.
Brennan Brushes Off the Standing Protesters
Referring to the protesters, Brennan resorted to this timeworn chestnut:
"But that's what makes our country great: our individual ability to openly and freely express our views, whether or not they are popular, whether or not they are in the minority, or whether they are even based on misimpressions. … That's why I still do my job, because the values that this country was founded on, to include freedom of speech and freedom from harm, are worth fighting for.”
The truth of the matter is that Brennan’s actions belie his claim that he believes in protecting free speech. For example, Brennan was among the first to advocate and brag about eavesdropping on American citizens without the court warrant required under the original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
More recently, Brennan called the NYPD/CIA spying on Muslim communities in the Northeast “heroic.” http://www.ap.org/Content/AP-In-The-News/2012/White-House-helps-pay-for-NYPD-Muslim-surveillance .
Muslim-Americans Hit the Hardest
Many innocent Muslim-Americans have had their privacy invaded as a result of that surveillance and other spying techniques.
As part of their federally funded spying operation and with CIA assistance, the New York Police Department has targeted innocent student groups, shops and places of worship – in the process, throwing the legal concept of “probable cause” out the window. Rather, there seems to be an implicit, widespread and un-American presumption of wrongdoing based solely on a person’s Muslim faith. And Brennan has high praise for such efforts!
Worse still, many Muslim-Americans have been convicted on trumped-up, terror-related charges because their ideology and speech were antithetical to the war policies of the U.S. Government towards Muslim-majority countries. Several of those prosecuted were victims of entrapment.
In his commencement speech last Saturday, Brennan piled on more feel-good sound bites and tried his best to appear magnanimous by alluding to the protesters in this overly clever way:
"Much has been attributed to me over the course of my career. … And after recently reading some of the things that I reportedly have done, said, or have been responsible for while I was at the CIA and the White House, I must admit that I was deeply torn between giving the commencement address or joining the protesters and petitioners who have so energetically opposed my appearance."
The aforementioned is, of course, a common self-deprecating tactic, which Brennan uses before Arab and Muslim-American audiences as well. He resorts to a string of rhetorical devices and catchy quotes in order to divert attention from the violent policies and tactics that he supports and implements.
A Matter of Conscience
I don't know how John Brennan can say he rests “peacefully at night,” when he knows my fellow Muslims are wrongfully detained, imprisoned, spied on, and literally murdered by his policies.
In Islam, God tells us that an evil person does not always come in the form of the devil spewing outright hatred and condoning mischief; rather, such a person comes to mankind preaching peace and goodness to gain fame through affected charm. John Brennan fits this description quite well.
To this day, he persistently tries to justify the torture, surveillance, and murder of Muslims around the world in the name of making America safer. It is, in fact, making America less safe — more vulnerable to the increasing number of outraged families mourning the deaths of relatives and friends killed in drone strikes.
Brennan said he calls upon the “life lessons” he learned from his theology, philosophy, and political science professors at Fordham to help him do his job. Consequently, he added, He emphasized, “I can rest peacefully at night, and I do.”
As for Brennan’s thanks to his professors for giving him the wisdom to justify what he does, and still sleep well at night, I have no idea whether his former theology and philosophy professors are okay with having Brennan’s “life lessons” on their consciences. John Entelis, Brennan’s former political science professor and now director of Fordham’s Middle East Studies Program, however, is another story. He clearly has no problem with his role in shaping Brennan’s worldview.
Entelis was Brennan’s sponsor for the honor of addressing commencement and presented him with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa degree. As Fordham’s advance publicity proudly asserts, it was under Entelis that Brennan became “enthralled” with the Middle East.
Entelis is openly proud of the path upon which he launched Brennan. This isn’t surprising considering that Entelis is a past board member and current lecturer at The Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID), which is an NGO funded by the U.S. State Department and U. S. Agency for International Development.
Essentially, this NGO attempts to use “soft power” (i.e. scholarly engagement) to subvert Shari’ah (Islamic Law) in Muslim-majority countries, in order to influence them to conform to liberal democratic policies. This is the sort of diluted Islam that, in my view, is not authentic in which Brennan would like to see emerge in the Middle East with the help of missiles from drones — “hard power.”
Hence, it should come as no surprise that, before he was killed, Shaykh Anwar Al-Awlaki had spoken out against NGOS like CSID, which are extensively mentioned in the RAND Corporation’s Report: “Building Moderate Muslim Networks.”
The Road Less Traveled at Fordham
I was pleased that in the midst of this controversy, there were 10 to 15 classmates who during stood up for justice during the commencement and symbolically turned their backs on Brennan and what he stands for.
It is not easy to stage a protest at a family event like graduation, but it is often those who take the road less traveled who are on the correct path. If you follow the beaten path, it will often lead you astray.
Ayca Bahce received her B.A. in political science at Fordham University in May 2012. She plans to pursue a degree in law for graduate studies. She is a second-generation American of parents who emigrated from Turkey.
ON THE OUTSIDE
Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishhop of New York, presided at the Fordham Baccalaureate Mass for the Fordham University Commencement for the Class of 2012.
Eight protesters, with banners, and signs, stood outside the main Fordham gate on Southern Blvd. in the Bronx urging the Cardinal to speak out against the drones controlled out of Hancock Air Base in Syracuse, NY, which is part of his ecclesiastical province.
On the morning of the main graduation event, held at the Bronx campus, protesters stood again outside the main gate with a drone model, two of banners and assorted posters. Cars were lined up trying to find parking space so everyone who came by there saw us. Close to 500 leaflets explaining the objections to Brennan were distributed.
The Fordham Graduate School of School Service awarded an honorary degree to Congressman Edolphus Towns, a member of the Congressional Unmanned Systems (Drone) Caucus, a lobbying arm of the drone industry within the Congress. A small group of protesters, with posters and leaflets, protested outside Radio City where this event took place.
...AND MORE FROM THE OUTSIDE
Graduation at Fordham: Worker Bees vs. Cowardly Drones
From WarIsACrime.org | Original Article
By Ray McGovern and Nick Mottern
We have reported on White House “Kill List” compiler and alumnus John Brennan’s second coming to Fordham for commencement inside Fordham’s Bronx campus. And several readers have expressed gratitude to learn that a few Justice-oriented graduates found inventive ways to protest this indignity at graduation on May 19.
Somewhat slighted in what we have written thus far are the other protest activities that took place at the gates of Fordham in the Bronx and also in Manhattan, most of them focusing on the use of drones to kill “militants” remotely. Seeing not even a remote connection between killer-drones and “Thou Shall Not Kill,” about 20 hardy witnesses, at one time or another over the three days of commencement activity, tried to spread some drone facts to sensitize people about what is being done in our name and to promote the thought that we all have a moral obligation to do what we can to stop it.
Those of us aware of the escalation of drone attacks have watched with some wonderment the White House’s (tacitly but clearly blessed by Fordham’s Trustees) method of choice for killing folks who don’t look remotely like us and, for some unfathomable reason, don’t seem to want our troops in their country.
Nick Mottern and his colleagues in their Know Drones Tour are visiting home districts of members of the Congressional drone caucus, using 8-foot long drone replicas to conduct sidewalk education on the legal and ethical issues of drone warfare. The honoring of drone aficionado Brennan at Fordham presented an unusually dramatic opportunity to use one of the replicas, together with leaflets and posters, to help people realize how willing they have been to let our institutions do our sinning for us.
Nick Mottern’s comments (below) point once again to the validity of Margaret Mead’s dictum: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
You don’t think so? Just wait and see.
Nick, along with Debra Sweet and Stephanie Rugoff of the World Can’t Wait, took leadership of drone protest activities on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the entrance to the Bronx campus and in Manhattan. (Nick had a previous commitment on Saturday, so others took up the cudgel …. er, I mean the drone. Members of the World Can’t Wait took part in the witnessing all three days, and gave strong support to protesters on campus in several other ways, as well. Here is Nick’s report:
On Friday, May 18, eight people assembled at the main entrance to Fordham to great those coming to the baccalaureate mass celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. We held signs and banners at the entrance on Southern Parkway; one banner said: "Cardinal Dolan: Drones Murder. Will You Speak Out?" And we handed out the following flyer to passengers in cars leaving Fordham as they stopped for the light, and to passersby as well.
Dear Cardinal Dolan,
On May 9, 2012 a dedicated anti-war group arranged to have a meeting with Bishop Robert Cunningham of the Syracuse diocese. They asked Bishop Cunningham to make a stand against the drones that have killed hundreds of civilians and assassinated “targets” which may or may not have been guilty as they are killed without warning, charges, or trial.
A report of the group’s meeting with Bishop Cunningham, reported that his response was: “You need to know that there are many people who do not agree with your position and also there are Catholics who support drones and work at Hancock (one of the Air Force bases from which drones are remotely piloted for air attacks in Afghanistan and several other sovereign countries).
IS THIS SPRITUAL LEADERSHIP?
Cardinal Dolan, Syracuse is within your ecclesiastical province, and you are President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will you take a stand against drone killing?
Know Drones Tour
We found that a number of people in the cars were quite pleased by the protest and eager to take the flyers, and we assumed they were Fordham faculty and other employees. One woman said: "It is because of people like you that I am still a Catholic."
Most people driving into the baccalaureate, however, did not like what we were doing (judging from the look on their faces). The traffic flow entering the main gate did not offer an opportunity to speak to the occupants of the cars or to leaflet them. We were there for an hour, starting at 5:15 pm, until the Mass was well underway. We left satisfied.
Earlier in the day on Friday, I had sent to the communications office of the New York Archdiocese a copy of the flyer and a press release for the three-day protest, but I got no response, and I have no idea whether the Cardinal mentioned anything about drones or the protest at the Mass.
[On Saturday, May 19, in addition to the witness activities at commencement exercises inside the Bronx campus, protesters again stood outside the main entrance for cars with a drone model, two banners, and assorted posters.
Cars were lined up trying to find parking spaces, so the protesters, drone, banners, and posters were seen by everyone in the area. About 500 leaflets explaining the objections to Brennan were distributed.]
(The report on these Saturday activities was written by one of the World Can’t Wait participants.)
On Sunday, May 21, five people came to picket the graduation ceremony of the Fordham Graduate School of Social Service that was held at Radio City Music Hall. The picket was being conducted because the school was giving an honorary degree to Congressman Edolphus Towns, a member of the Congressional Unmanned Systems (drone) Caucus.
The situation was ideal for speaking to those attending the graduation, a crowd that numbered close to 1,000. Some were lined up along the 50th-Street side of the music hall to enter a side door; others on the 51st Street side. As the 5Oth Street people waited to enter, I walked along the line and shouted out that we were protesting the awarding of the degree to Congressman Towns because he is on the drone caucus, a body formed to lobby for the drone industry inside Congress.
I was accompanied by Anna, who had responded to a call to protest by the World Can't Wait. Our signs said: "Cong. Towns: Are drones 'social work'?" and "Cong. Towns: Promote Life Not Drones". I asked people to contact Towns and ask him to quit the drone caucus.
About twenty people expressed concern and understanding about what I was saying. Several were surprised that Towns had anything to do with drones. More seemed interested and supportive of what we were doing but said nothing. I felt that the sidewalk education was quite successful, particularly since the people moved slowly into the building, and we got to present our messages to literally hundreds of people.
Initially two of the music hall security people tried to tell us that we couldn't talk to people in the line and incite them to protest inside the music hall. I advised them that we were on public property and that we were not inciting anyone. It was obvious to the security guards that people in the line were interested in what we were saying and were willingly taking flyers giving particulars about drone warfare and Cong. Towns. The guards relented, and we continued for about 30 minutes, until all had entered the building.
I was not able to find any press coverage of our protests or of the protests at the commencement address of Brennan, even though our press releases had been distributed widely. Given the political significance of Fordham in NYC I was quite surprised at the lack of coverage, particularly of the internal controversy.
I think our protest activity outside the Fordham gates and in Manhattan, even with such small numbers, gave heart to some people in the extended Fordham family. If that is so, that alone made it worth the considerable time it took for preparation and to be there.