An email exchange only last week, based on research he had done, with Malachy Kilbride, brought news that he had found a lobbying office for General Atomics right around the corner from the White House. General Atomics is a manufacturer of parts for drones. Given the 10th anniversary of the US occupation of Afghanistan, and the mobilization of an occupation/encampment which began on October 6, at Freedom Plaza in Washington, we quickly decided to protest General Atomics.
3 1/5 scale models of Reaper drones, produced by Nick Mottern of Consumer for Peace, and a group of upstate NY activists. (There are 9 more drone models in the works. Hung on the drones were signs such as "assassination vehicle."
3 banners, including a 30 foot long one saying "DRONES: making
enemies faster than we can kill them."
Symbolic representations of babies wrapped in shrouds, carried by a dozen protesters.
Assorted antiwar signs, symbols, drums, cameras, voices, and stories.
About 250 people aged 16-80.
Based on a couple of announcements and emails, we didn't know who would march beyond supporters of Code Pink, Upstate (NY) Drone Action and World Can't Wait. But as we gathered in the middle of Freedom Plaza, dozens materialized, and soon we took off on a march with over 200. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17729809
The original idea was to have a silent march -- but we were going right by the White House. How could we be silent? On the spot we developed a chant: "When drones fly, children die! Stop the wars NOW!"
By the time we got in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we paused, partly by plan, and partly because again, we had to. Here lives the Commander in Chief who sent more troops than the Bush regime ever did to Afghanistan, and who has used drones 8 times as much as Bush did, spreading the drone war to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and even recently, Iraq. I had to tell those gathered that the slang term used by pilots of the unmanned drones -- who sit at video monitors half way across the globe -- for their targets, is "squirters."
We went on to General Atomics, in a drab office building on Pennsylvania Avenue. A few people looked out the window as we marched up -- we were loud. Spontaneously, dozens of people went up to the door of the building, and went in. Some held the doors open, and fairly soon, they were ejected, roughly by security guards. DC police blocked the doors, but too late, we had taken the steps. We held a one hour rally on the steps, spilling across the sidewalk and into the street. David Swanson, Malacky Kilbride, sisters from Code Pink who have protested drones at Creech Air Force Base and in upstate New York, Greg from Wisconsin, a Veteran for Peace, Ray McGovern and Ann Wright, spoke from the steps along with me.
Afterwards, I heard from quite a few people who stopped me to say that they learned much along the way about the Obama administration's expansion of drone warfare, and more detail about how the drones are used. I could see people in the crowd, including those who were holding the "shrouded babies," crying. I explained how in January 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, the Israel's bombardment of Gaza, I had seen a photo of a large extended Palestinian family, standing around 3 tiny shrouded bodies. Whatever the Obama administration claims -- including the ridiculous assertion that "not one civilian" was killed this year by one of their drones -- we know that civilians are being killed, because the Afghans, the Pakistanis, Yemenis and Somalians tell us.
While several people were suggested to me, as the impromptu MC, that we get someone to speak on the "economic" issues, a fellow from Madison came up to speak, and I thought, being from Wisconsin, he'd talk about the repression on unions, and other issues that brought people to surround the state capitol this winter. But Greg spoke about how his wife and other relatives who are teachers are "sick" of having their students go off into the military because they have no jobs and no future. What an outrageous situation in this country where the only steady work people can get is as part of an occupying army!
The building's front door was shut down for an hour. We began to get peace signs flashed to the crowd from people inside. Probably they didn't work at General Atomics, but we made sure everyone inside heard our chant: STOP MAKING DRONES!