Challenging Drone Warfare in a U.S. Court | Sojourners

Challenging Drone Warfare in a U.S. Court

On Oct. 7, Georgia Walker and I appeared before Judge Matt Whitworth in a Jefferson City, Mo., federal court on a charge of criminal trespass to a military facility. The charge was based on our participation in a June 1 rally at Whiteman Airforce Base protesting drone warfare. Walker and I attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the base commander, encouraging the commander to stop cooperating with any further usage of unmanned aerial vehicles, (drones) for surveillance and attacks.

The prosecutor, USAF Captain Daniel Saunders, said that if we would plead guilty to the charge, he would seek a punishment of one month in prison and a $500 fine. We told the prosecutor we could accept a “no contest” plea but were not willing to plead guilty. The prosecutor then said he would recommend a three-month prison sentence and a $500 fine. The judge refused to accept a “no contest” plea. We then requested a trial, which has been set for Dec. 10.

Brian Terrell, who also attended the hearing, has previously been tried before Judge Whitworth on the same charge. In October 2012, Whitworth sentenced him to the maximum penalty of six months in prison. His co-defendant, Ron Faust, also went to trial and was initially sentenced to five years probation, which was later reduced to one year. Mark Kenney, also a co-defendant, pled guilty and received a four month sentence.

Drone strikes on Oct. 7 killed seven people, in Pakistan and that this is the third day in a row of drone attacks in Pakistan’s Waziristan area. On Oct. 6, eight people were killed and six wounded. Today also marks the 13th year of U.S. war in Afghanistan, a country which was considered, in 2013, to be the epicenter of drone warfare.

“I feel we’re compelled by our conscience, “ Walker told a gathering of 35 people in Kansas City the previous evening. “We’re compelled by our own spirituality, to keep speaking up and to keep getting people to know that silence is complicity. We have to speak out to say ‘Not in my Name.’”

"I’m sure that Georgia and I didn’t commit a crime,” I told them. “We tried to send out an alarm about a crime that’s being committed at the base. Innocent people, including children are killed by the drone strikes.”

We later met with supporters and attorneys to discuss plans for a vigorous defense on Dec. 10, which happens to be International Human Rights Day.

Kathy Kelly ( Kathy@vcnv.org ) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence .

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