By Joy First
Seven citizen activists were arrested for calling for an end to drone warfare at Camp Williams/Volk Field in Wisconsin on Tuesday April 24. They are joining together with activists in New York, Nevada, California, Missouri, Illinois, and Maryland who are risking arrest in actions as they raise their voices to draw attention to the travesty and illegality of drone warfare.
Camp Williams/Volk Field, a training site for drone pilots, is located in rural central Wisconsin. As families in Wisconsin are struggling to make ends meet, there are plans underway to build an $8 million drone training facility at the base, using both state and federal money.
On Tuesday, thirty-three peace activists from all corners of the state and from Illinois gathered at the gates of the base, as they have done on the last Tuesday of every month since December 2011. For five months they have sent a letter to Commander Ebben asking to meet with him to discuss their concerns. They have yet to receive a response.
Stopping drone warfare is a serious and urgent matter. It is difficult to get accurate statistics because our government is trying to cover up the facts, but the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that between 2,373-2,997 people have been killed in drone attacks. Anywhere from 391-780 of those killed are innocent civilians. Over 175 children have been killed in the attacks. These are parents who love their children just as much as we, in this country, love our children. You can Google images of drone victims to see the real horrors of what this means.
In an addition, drone warfare is illegal. The use of drones goes against the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions, and the principles of the Nuremburg Tribunal. They are also against US, and other international human rights laws, the laws of war, and the law applicable to the use of inter-state force. They constitute extra-judicial killings.
Drones are not making us safer. More and more young men in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and other places around the world are joining groups that will retaliate against the United States for the murder of their loved ones.
Because there has been no response from Commander Ebben in five months, the group decided that they would walk onto the base during the April vigil to seek a meeting. With copies of the letter and pictures of drone victims in hand, seven individuals, Bonnie Block, Joyce Elwanger, Joy First, Libby Pappalardo, Mary Beth Schlagheck, Don Timmerman, and Roberta Thurstin walked onto the base.
The Juneau County Sheriff was standing with deputies just inside the base and he advised the group that if they walked any further onto the base they would face arrest. They continued walking and began reading the letter to Commander Ebben aloud as Juneau County deputies handcuffed them and led them to police cars.
They were transported to the Juneau County jail in Mauston where they were charged with disorderly conduct, processed, and released within three hours. They have an initial court appearance scheduled for June 6.