A town judge sentenced twelve people to jail for “disorderly conduct,” which they were charged with after demonstrating outside of Hancock Air Base, where the United States military is known to train pilots and fly drones.
DeWitt Town Justice David Gideon also renewed an order of protection for Col. Earl Evans, who the Post-Standard reported is a “mission support group commander at the 174th Attack Wing of the New York Air National Guard.” It will be in force until February 7, 2016.
“I do not know where this stops. It seems to be escalating, and in a bad way,” Judge Gideon said during sentencing. He added, “At some point you’re going to be confronted by an individual who’s violent.”
The protesters, however, were acquitted of trespassing because the boundaries of the base are unclear.
Sentencing came after a trial in the night court, where protesters were able to make opening arguments. The defendants maintained that they were not violating the law through their actions but were upholding international law to call attention to the need to stop war crimes. They also were exercising their First Amendment rights and nothing about what they did was “disorderly.”
Ellen Grady of Ithaca Catholic Worker recalled on October 25, 2012, the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and Stop the War was present to bear “witness” at the base where drones are piloted. She said the group believes they need to be there “as much as possible to point out the war crimes that are perpetrated from our backyard.”
On that day, seventeen people “blocked all three gates of the base to try to get in the way of the war crimes” and to “call a halt to the war crimes that are happening there.” They were at the gates for two hours before local sheriffs had them arrested.
Grady said the judge had a message for protesters that the town of DeWitt had suffered because of them. The town could not let this happen anymore because it was taking resources to control the protesters.
Twelve protesters were sentenced to fifteen days in jail. They were each given $250 fines that came with a $100 surcharge fee. more…