Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shrove Tuesday Vigil, Potluck, and Ash Wednesday Service at Beale AFB

All events will take place at Beale's main (Schneider) gate.
Tuesday, March 4:
            3 to 5 pm-Shrove Tuesday anti-drone vigil 
            5:30  to 7:30 pm-  Community potluck and campfire
Wednesday, March 5:
            6:30 am- Anti-drone vigil and service of repentance
            8:00 am- Prayerful nonviolent direct action to witness against drones

The March 5th Ash Wednesday Service of Repentance and direct action at Beale Air Force Base has expanded to include a Shrove Tuesday vigil and potluck on the afternoon of March 4.  People from all faith traditions are invited to join us for any or all of these events, which will take place at Beale's main (Schneider) gate. 
Shrove Tuesday's vigil will take place on March 4, from 3 to 5 p.m., at the side of the road, as Beale employees are leaving the base.  (We have developed a good relationship with base employees during these past three years of peaceful protests.)  During the vigil, there will be a nonviolence training offered in preparation for the next day's direct action.  
After the vigil, we will have a potluck dinner, as regular Beale demonstrations do every month.  Then we will sit around the campfire sharing stories, songs, and other forms of community building.  We will briefly discuss plans for the service and direct action that will take place the next day.  Bring some simple food to share. 
Following the campfire, several options for lodging are available for those who want to stay overnight.   People are invited to camp, as some people do each month.  There are also homes with beds, pads, and/or sleeping bag space in Marysville (10 minutes from Beale) and in Nevada City (35 minutes from Beale).  Motels are also available in Marysville if you prefer privacy.   To reserve space in a home, call (530) 265-5976
We will get up bright and early to begin our Ash Wednesday vigil and Service of Repentance at 6:30 a.m. on March 5.  In addition to focusing on repentance for the harm caused to drone victims, we will issue a call to repentance for: the harm done to the Indigenous people who used to live where Beale is now, the harm being done to Mother Earth by our building and deploying high-tech weapons and weapons of mass destruction, the harm done to families and communities who suffer cutbacks in public services while billions are spent for the military, the overall harm caused by the global reach of US military power. 
The service will be led by clergy from several denominations which will involve a call to faithfulness and action, songs, prayers, scripture, Holy Communion (open to all), and the use of ashes to symbolize repentance and to acknowledge our mortality and interrelatedness with the whole web of life.  Some will carry white crosses with drawings memorializing children killed by US drones.  All are welcome to bring whatever signs or symbols are meaningful to them. 
At the end of the service, several people will engage in a prayerful nonviolent direct action as a witness against U.S. drone attacks.  Others are invited to stand in support of this witness. 
Find out more at the OccupyBealeAir Force Base FaceBook Page or by emailing  To stay current with demonstrations at Beale, check out the Occupy Beale AFB website.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Come Occupy Beale AFB today and tomorrow!

In the wake of the Wheatland 4 being charged for demonstrations there last April, many who oppose drone warfare and surveillance like that being carried out by Global Hawk drones piloted from Beale, a base located near Sacramento, will hold a vigil there tonight, 2/24, between 6 and 9 PM and tomorrow morning between 6 and 9 AM. 

A vigil held last November created opportunities for dialogue.

Shirley Osgood was one of several brave demonstrators arrested in a past vigil
 for attempting to bear witness to the victims of drones like those operated at Beale.
Col. Anne Wright (ret.), famous for resigning in protest of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, will be in attendance at both demonstrations.
"I have served my country for almost thirty years in some of the most isolated
 and dangerous parts of the world. I want to continue to serve America.
 However, I do not believe in the policies of this Administration and cannot-
 morally or professionally- defend or implement them. It is with heavy
 heart that I must end my service to America and therefore resign..."
-Col. Anne Wright (ret)

CLICK HERE to learn more about how to be a part of either vigil, and get involved in future anti-drone events at Beale AFB!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Wheatland 4" Charged with trespassing for action last April at Beale AFB

 4 activists arrested last April in a demonstration at Beale AFB were found guilty of trespassing after a day-long trial in a Sacramento Federal Court on Monday, February 3. 

 In last April’s protest, over a dozen activists blocked the main traffic artery into the base for over an hour. 
 When highway patrol arrived to break up the blockade, five of the protesters proceeded to enter base property to deliver a letter to the base commander, Col. Phil Stewart.  The letter charged Col. Stewart, President Barack Obama and all military personnel involved in drone warfare, with crimes against humanity and violations of international and national laws. While each activist was being arrested, she or he handed a copy of the letter to the serviceperson arresting them, requesting that it be delivered to the commander.  Before being released, the arrestees were given a "Ban & Bar" letter, signed by Col. Phil Stewart. This letter formally ordered them not to enter or re-enter Beale AFB, and warned of a penalty "fine" of an undisclosed amount and/or maximum imprisonment of 6 months should the order be violated.

Robin Ryan being arrested at Beale AFB last April

On Monday, after a lively pre-trial anti-drone rally with local media coverage, the courtroom filled with anti-drone activist supporters.  The defendants:  Martha Hubert, Robin Ryan, Bill Doub and Toby Blomé all felt strongly that they were not interested in arguing over whether or not they trespassed. In their eyes, they were there to put illegal U.S. drone warfare on trial.  They wanted to focus on their intent, which was not to trespass, but to hold their government and military officials accountable for crimes against humanity.  They publicly resisted this illegal activity through nonviolent direct action. They wanted to educate Beale AFB personnel about drone warfare and its negative effects on the perpetrators as well as the victims.  

Judge Claire had already denied them their constitutional right to a jury trial, and had denied them the right to use the "Defense of Necessity" argument or to discuss the Nuremberg Principles.  In the defendants eyes, justice had already failed.  The first half of the trial included witnesses from the base giving minute and monotonous details of the legal boundaries of the base property, what signs were posted to sufficiently (or insufficiently) warn visitors, etc.  The wonderful pro bono defense attorneys proceeded to find ways to get the charges dismissed based on loopholes, discrepancies, or mismanagement of the arrest. The military video of the arrest included footage of a highway patrol officer actually pushing some of the defendants onto the base property.  Called to witness, defendants Robin and Bill did an excellent job speaking for all of the defendants, testifying and emphasizing for the court record our intent to stop wrongdoing, bring accountability and save lives.  

Toward the end of the trial, Mark Reichel, Toby's attorney, inadvertently noticed a quote on the back side of a scribbled note handed to him earlier by Toby.  Atty. Reichel leaned over to Toby and whispered with enthusiasm, something to the effect:   "This is good.  This is really really good.  Do you mind if I read it to the judge?"  Ultimately, Judge Claire gave the defense attorney permission to read the excerpt from the NY Times letter to the editor, written by Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Desmond Tutu.  It speaks for all of us seeking an end to drone killings:
"Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the
 rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President
 Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny
 than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to
 tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century,
are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.” -Archbishop Desmond Tutu
 Ultimately, Judge Claire found all four defendants guilty of trespassing and sentenced them to ten hours of community service. She denied the prosecution's request for a "deterrent" fine of $300.  However, the judge did alert the defendants to expect a harsher sentence next time due to the "Ban & Bar" letter that was served them by the military at the time of their arrest. 

In Sacramento, though Judge Claire convicted the Beale AFB protesters of trespassing, she did allow the defendants to give post-sentencing statements. Each defendant spoke to different aspects of what motivates them to protest at Beale AFB. Bill spoke about his opposition to drone warfare and his hopes for a peaceful world for his grandchildren.  Robin told personal stories of wedding parties attacked, and PTSD suffered by our military.  Toby spoke of her personal experience, trying to right these wrongs, many futile visits to congressional offices, and never getting through to our “representatives”. Conventional approaches are ineffective, making it necessary to use "unconventional" tactics. Martha addressed the failings of the justice system.  For this case to be about trespassing is a farce.  Delivering a letter to the base commander at Beale AFB that day was exactly where these activists should have been as concerned citizens. 
The Wheatland 4: "We were NOT TRESPASSING" and
The trial received coverage by a variety of local and national media sources:

See the video below from NextNewsNetwork

Thursday, February 6, 2014

In the 17th: "But has he got drones …. "

Incumbent Rep. Mike Honda (D), CA-17
In one of the really interesting stories emerging in this midterm election year, The New York Times described today the challenge by Ro Khanna to the incumbent Congressman Mike Honda in California's 17th congressional district.

Apparently, Khanna is heavily favored (and supported) by leaders in the high-tech industry, and that matters in the Silicon Valley-centered 17th. But is it possible that something matters even more?

Honda is described as a progressive, civil libertarian, advocate for the "everyman."  "He bleeds little guy," the Times quotes Prof. Larry Gerston saying. Not insignificantly, Honda's "views on politics and civil rights were molded by his family's internment during World War II," says the Times.

Khanna, on the other hand, has the support of Google and Facebook.  And he's outraising Honda in a district that traditionally has expansive campaigns.

But has he got drones?

Democratic challenger Ro Khanna
The tech economy may be an especially "Silicon Valley" issue, but nationwide people are asking if the 2014 midterms be a referendum on the Obama administration's surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations.  At least, they are in every district where there's any kind of race going on.

And, of course, Silicon Valley companies have their own special place in the pantheon of surveillance actors.

So an interesting question emerges:  where do the contenders in California's 17th stand . . . on surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations?

Related posts

There will be elections for 435 House seats in 2014. In at least some of those races, U.S. surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations will be an issue.

Herewith an Insider's Guide to the 7 S's (surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations) in the 2014 Midterms.

(See Will the 2014 Midterms be a Referendum on Obama's Surveillance, Secrecy, and Assassinations? )

Over fifty (50) members of the U.S. Congress have banded together to increase the use of drones ("unmanned aerial vehicles") - including twelve (12) members from California. They are all members of the Unmanned Systems Caucus, also known as the Congressional drones caucus. One of the co-chairs of the caucus is Buck McKeon, who represents California's 25th district. (Read about the members of the drones caucus from other states.)

(See California Congressional Delegation: Drones 'R' Us!)

Major tech companies have put out a clarion call today: Reform Government Surveillance! AOL, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo have discovered that the public is fed up with being spied on and know exactly where to point the finger -- ?

(See Surveillance and the Tech Companies: THE JIG IS UP!)