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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/22/13

Anti-Drone Activists Stopped at U.S. Canadian Border due to "Orders of Protection" given to Commander of Drone Base

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*By Charley Bowman

In mid-June, 2013, Western New York Peace Center board member Valerie Niederhoffer was stopped and interrogated for several hours at the U.S.-Canadian border when returning to the US from an afternoon doing Tai Chi in Canada with friends.

The U.S. immigration and customs officer entered Val's name into his computer system and discovered Val had an Order of Protection. He then asked her to pull over for an extended interview.

Orders of Protection (restraining orders) are generally given for spousal abuse, but this unique Order of Protection has been given to activists who have been arrested for challenging the U.S. assassin drone policies.

In a Gandhian action at the Drone Convergence on April 29, 2013 at Hancock Field near Syracuse NY, Valerie Niederhoffer and 30 others were arrested at the main gate. The 31 arrestees were protesting our government's drone policy by lying down in front of the main entrance to the Hancock Field drone base and covering themselves with "bloodied" sheets.

The protests at Hancock Field have been going on since 2010, with the first arrests on April 22, 2011. Town of DeWitt NY authorities are trying to discourage such non-violent protests through judicial means. The current judicial methodology is two fold: upping bail for repeat "offenders" and applying an "Order of Protection."

Western New York Peace Center board member Bonny Mahoney was charged $2,500 for bail and Peace Center member Russell Brown, $2,000. First-time arrestee Val was charged $500 for bail.

The WNY Peace Center bailed out Bonny and Russell, while the Peace Education Fund of Riverside Salem UCC/DC bailed out Valerie.

Val was charged with two crimes: disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration in the second degree.

The latter charge read:

"...Valerie Niederhoffer, after being advised by Onondaga County Sheriff's Deputy ... to disperse and get out of the roadway, they [sic] refused and they [sic] continued to intentionally cause public inconvenience, annoyance by congregating with other persons in a public place, standing in the roadway obstructing/blocking vehicular and pedestrian traffic from entering and exiting the NY Air National Guard base entrance at E. Molloy Rd T/o Dewitt [sic]. This action prevented the Onondaga County Sheriff's Office from performing an official governmental function of keeping the road way clear for vehicular traffic and to prevent injuries to protestors/pedestrians."

Val received a temporary "ORDER OF PROTECTION" (non-family offence -- not involving victims of domestic violence).

In Val's Order of Protection, the victim of Val's alleged act of non-domestic violence, was Col. Greg A. Semmel, Commander of Hancock Field 174th Drone Attack Wing.

The Order of Protection continued...

"It is hereby ordered that [Val] observe the following conditions of behavior:1. Stay away from Col. Greg A. Semmel, the home of Col. Greg A. Semmel, the business of Col. Greg A. Semmel, the place of employment of Col. Greg A. Semmel and other [sic] Col. Greg A. Semmel.

2. Refrain from communication or any other contact by mail, telephone, e-mail, voice-mail or other electronic or any other means with Col. Greg A. Semmel.

3. Refrain from assault, stalking, harassment, aggravated harassment, menacing, reckless endangerment, strangulation, criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, intimidation, threats or any criminal offense or interference with the victim ... members of family, household ...

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Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)
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