On International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, two peace activists, charged with criminal trespass, will be tried in Jefferson City, Mo. The charge is based on an action at Whiteman Air Force Base last June 1st protesting US use of weaponized drones which are remotely piloted from the base. The trial testimony is expected to reflect a Nov. 24, 2014, report that for every intended target of a US drone strike, 28 unidentified persons are also killed. Drones change the nature of warfare, turning whole regions into battlefields where merely suspected militants, often uninvolved in combat, are identified and executed, without trial, from obscuring distances and with no chance to surrender.
The activists are Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Non-Violence, and Georgia Walker, director of Journey to New Life, which helps former prisoners obtain jobs and housing in Kansas City, Mo.
Kelly and Walker offered bread and a letter to guards at Whiteman Air Force Base, near Knob Noster, Mo., on June 1, 2014. The guards accepted the bread but refused the letter, which addressed the base commander citing a consensus of international legal experts condemning drone warfare. Because, in doing so, Kelly and Walker had stepped across a designated line on the road toward the base, they will be tried at 9 a.m. in the Federal Courthouse at 80 Lafayette St. in Jefferson City, before Judge Matt Whitworth. In a similar case in 2012, Whitworth gave three defendants sentences of 6 months, 4 months, and probation, respectively.
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Citing a Bureau of Investigative Journalism report, Georgia Walker stated, “In order for the US to kill a single terrorist leader with our militarized drones, US airborne attacks kill at least 28 innocent non-combatants. How can we tolerate these extra-judicial executions done in our name? These are weapons of mass destruction which are not making US people safer. These killings could feasibly recruit individuals to engage in anti-US activities. In the name of permanent and total war on terrorism, we are committing human rights violations. Have we totally lost the moral high ground?”
Kathy Kelly has accompanied numerous delegations to Iraq and Gaza where she lived through the US “Shock and Awe” and Israeli “Cast Lead” campaigns alongside ordinary civilians in communities under heavy bombardment. Her recent work in Afghanistan as a guest of Afghan Peace Volunteers, has also connected her with the drone issue. “I have lived with people who have shuddered, on the ground, under air attacks, some of which are carried out by drones and some of which have occurred because of information collected by drones,” she says. I’ve been at the bedsides of children whose bodies were ripped apart, and I’ve been with families who have exhumed the bodies of their children and held funerary rituals. Survivors entrusted me with their grievances and asked me to please beg the government of the country where I live to stop the airborne surveillance and attacks.”
Walker and Kelly will give testimony to the judge about the June 1 action and will cite Constitutional protections of free speech and of the right to peaceably assemble for redress of grievances.