Seven people were arrested during a protest at the Iowa Air National Guard air base in Des Moines today. Members of the Des Moines Catholic Worker community, Veterans for Peace, and affiliated organizations were protesting the guard’s new mission to fly drones. Some members of the group read a statement and stood nearby with signs — while seven who blocked a service road into the base were arrested after being told to move.
Organizer Frank Cordaro of the Des Moines Catholic Workers says those arrested ranged in age from 26 to 85. “We’re fighting from Des Moines, we’re killing people from Des Moines. When these drones get here we’re bringing the front lines of our empire’s war making to the south side of Des Moines, making my neighborhood a legitimate war target,”Cordaro says. The Iowa Air National Guard is in the process of training personnel to remotely operate the aircraft after the drones have taken off from other bases.
Michele Naar of Duluth, Minnesota says she and six others were issued citations for criminal trespassing and released after being transported to the Des Moines Police station. “Our intention was not to trespass or block their gate, we asked them to come in and talk about this situation, and if we could talk to the people who are planning to train the soldiers,” Naar says. Naar says she and the other six activists are now deciding whether they’ll plead guilty or not-guilty in court later this month.
Cordaro says the group picked St. Patrick’s Day for the protest because of the symbolism of the saint’s miracle of driving all the snakes out of Ireland, and also because St. Patrick is remembered as saying, “In Christ, there is no killing.” The Iowa Air Guard learned of its change from flying the manned F-16’s to the unmanned drones about one year ago, and say they are ahead of schedule in their training. They are scheduled to begin flying the drones at the end of 2015, but say they are ahead of schedule and could begin earlier.