WCW Home Take Action Videos & Reports of Demonstrations 5-5-17 Demonstrations continue at Beale Air Force Base against drone attacks
5-5-17 Demonstrations continue at Beale Air Force Base against drone attacks PDF Print E-mail

By Matthew Pera

From The Union | Original Article

See more photos here.

Protestors at Beale Air Force Base have been arrested on almost 200 occasions, said Shirley Osgood, a Grass Valley resident who returns to the base monthly to demonstrate against the use of drones by the U.S. military.

Osgood began protesting at Beale in 2012, and has personally been arrested 20 times for trespassing on the base. Often charges are dropped immediately, but occasionally Osgood and others have gone to court in Sacramento, where judges have given the trespassers community service hours.

On February 28, the day before Ash Wednesday, Osgood joined a small group of demonstrators who spread ashes at the base to symbolize the lives lost to drone attacks. They were taken into custody on the base, in handcuffs, where they were fingerprinted and photographed before being released. Charges were dropped last week.

"My hope is that we will eventually get a bigger trial," said Osgood. "When you get a trial you have to opportunity to get more press, and shine a light on what's going on."

At times, Osgood said, she wonders if the protests are helping.

"Sometimes people at the base give us bad signs, but other times we get some kind of message that keeps us going. People give us a peace sign, or a thumbs-up, when they drive by us demonstrating. I definitely get the feeling that people are awakening to the reality of what's going on."

Osgood and the other protestors are concerned about civilian casualties around the world caused by U.S. drone strike missions.

On April 24, Syrian activists said eight civilians, including five children, were killed in an airstrike apparently carried out by the United States in the Islamic State-held town of Tabqua.

On March 17, over 200 civilians were killed by a U.S. airstrike in Mosul, Iraq. And in Yemen, ongoing U.S.-backed and assisted airstrikes have caused severe trauma to a country already devastated by food shortages, destabilization, and human displacement, said Toby Blome, another demonstrator at the base.

The protestors said they won't stand by while the U.S. continues to harm civilians across the world with drone technology.

The base is less than 40 miles from downtown Grass Valley and is home to the Global Hawk, a surveillance drone involved in the target drone assassination program. It helps locate and track potential U.S. targets and collaborates on drone strike missions, often resulting in high numbers of collateral damage, according to the protestors.

On March 28, the anti-drone activists stopped early morning commute traffic at Beale for nearly an hour. Four activists stretched their bodies and banners across the road leading to the base entryway. A fifth activist walked down the line of stalled traffic and handed out leaflets about recent civilian deaths to those who would accept.

"How would you feel if a foreign country attacked your place of worship?" asked the leaflet. "Beale personnel in the Global Hawk drone program witness this carnage on their computer screens. What toll is taken on their psychic and spiritual well-being?"

No arrests were made because the demonstrators did not trespass on the base.

Beale protesters say civilian war casualties have increased dramatically under the Trump administration.

"America is getting weary of the state of perpetual warfare that is costing trillions of dollars, reaping great profits for the defense industry and stealing dearly needed tax money from national programs for human needs and services," said Blome. "Neither major political party seems directed to stop it anytime soon. We will continue our ongoing protests and resistance until this state of perpetual violence ceases."

Blome says a small, dedicated group of activists has demonstrated at the base since 2010. Many come from Nevada County, and are joined by protestors from all around Northern California.

"We who follow what goes on there know only the tip of the iceberg," she said. "It's all so covert."

Osgood researches the names and ages of people killed in drone strikes. She makes cutouts of human silhouettes and decorates them to resemble what the civilians who have been killed may have looked like. She brings them along to the protests.

"It hurts my heart to know that my country is responsible for this," she said.

The group plans to continue demonstrations against surveillance drones at Beale, and increase presence at the Creech Air Force Base in Clark County, Nevada, which has drones armed with weapons.

"This is not the way of making the world a better, safer place," said Blome.

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