More than 30 members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars were arrested this week after participating in a protest outside the Hancock Air National Guard Base near Syracuse. Some of the US military’s killer drones are operated and flown to targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries from the air base.
Three of the arrested protestors are from Rochester, according to a statement from the anti-war group, and about 275 people participated in the protest. The coalition staged a mock funeral procession, carrying coffins labeled with the names of countries where US drones have been blamed for civilian casualties.
Arrested protestors were arraigned in the De Witt Town Court with bail ranging from $500 to $3,500, according to the statement.
President Obama’s use of unmanned aircraft for information gathering and aerial attacks is among the most controversial decisions of his presidency. While some military analysts say the drones are more precise, less expensive, and highly effective at killing known terrorists, others disagree.
Critics say the drones are responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people, including women and children. And using them violates international law, they say. Drones are capable of crossing borders almost undetected in pursuit of targets.
The coalition also warns of technology creep, and how soon the drones could be used by law enforcement for domestic surveillance and killing. Worse, the drones are fomenting even more mistrust and hostility toward Americans in some parts of the Muslim world, the protesters argue.
The coalition's protests more than a year ago drew regional and national attention to Hancock National Guard Base, but many local residents are still unaware that drones are flown from Hancock Field, activists say, making upstate New York a potential target for reciprocation.