Chicago group protests drones

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Peace activists marched through West Liberty last Thursday to protest the use of drones by the United States.

Organized by the Chicago-based group, Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV), the “Ground the Drones” walk aims to bring awareness about the U.S. military’s use of unmanned aircraft.

“We want the mechanisms of warfare to cease dropping bombs on innocent people and to stop getting into everyone’s life,” co-coordinator and participant Buddy Bell said.

Around 16 protestors were seen entering town on Highway 70 at noon. They passed by onlookers through the downtown area, making their way to Kimberly Park for lunch.

Thursday’s portion of the walk began near Cedar River on Highway 22, ending on American Legion Road. It was a daylong 10-mile journey, a small portion of the planned 190 mile route.

Their ultimate destination is the Iowa Air National Guard Facility, whose home is at the Des Moines Airport, on June 23, where they plan to hold a peace rally.

VCNV chose Des Moines as a stopping point out of the belief the Iowa National Guard is planning to institute a new drone command center at the airport, allowing the facility to control drones in the state and overseas.

“It all comes down to drones that will be controlled from Des Moines. They’ll be in the skies of Iowa, and Afghanistan, and all over the world,” Bell added.

According to Major Ken Hartman, public relations officer at the base in Des Moines, the base has received orders from the government to change its current mission of housing S16 Fighters to running a remotely piloted aircraft facility, as well as gaining an intelligence group.

“Currently there’s no plan for the remote controlled aircraft to be based in Des Moines,” Hartman clarified. “The aircraft will still be based in other locations.”

Basically, from the Des Moines location, the Guard will be able to pilot the unmanned aircraft, but the actual units themselves will not be in Iowa.

Because the base is commanded by the U.S. government, Hartman recommended the protesters complain elsewhere.

“Quite honestly, we serve to support the constitution, including free speech. We don’t have a beef with this group. But, I think if they really wanted to make a difference their voices would be better heard in Washington,” he said.

The peace walk officially began June 10 at the Rock Island Arsenal after a rally at the Sisters of Humility Magnificat Chapel in Davenport.

The route weaves through Eastern Iowa, traveling through various towns to let the protestors’ message be heard. So far they’ve relied on campgrounds and private homes for shelter, including homes in Muscatine.

VCNV last February heard about the possiblity of a drone command center in Des Moines. They soon after conceived the idea to march. They’ve also done several walks for peace in the past.

During their lunch break the walkers looked tired, but ready to march on. So far they’ve come 45 miles.

“I’m glad to be here and glad to talk to everyone I meet, “ said James Knight, a protester from Los Angeles, Calif. “I just got tired of complaining on the internet.”
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