Eleven anti-drone protesters were arrested Friday and cited as trespassers on Beale Air Force Base, the most people detained at one time since arrests of the demonstrators began 18 months ago.
Approximately 29 arrests have been made since a protest on Oct. 30, 2012. Nine individuals have been prosecuted in Sacramento federal court on misdemeanor charges of entering a military installation without permission.
The nine – groups of five and four – were found guilty by two U.S. magistrate judges. In a third nonjury trial, the second prosecution of Shirley Osgood, 66, of Grass Valley resulted in an acquittal based on inconclusive evidence.
Although the charges carry a maximum of six months in prison, those convicted have been sentenced to short terms of probation that included community service.
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Beale is home to the Global Hawk, an unarmed reconnaissance drone that is controlled from the Yuba County base and flies thousands of miles over terrorist-infested countries to pinpoint human targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones, and then returns to Beale.
The protesters are adamant that the Obama administration’s regular use of these weapons has resulted in the death of uncounted innocent people, including children, and that the lethal attacks increase anti-American sentiment worldwide. The administration has consistently defended the use of drones to combat terrorists and says every effort is made to limit civilian casualties.
Friday’s demonstration drew 50 participants, one of the largest turnouts staged by the protesters critical of the drone program. It included prayers, songs, Holy Communion, and reflections by internationally recognized peace activist Kathy Kelly, who has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Following the service, some of the protesters crossed a demarcation line – white paint across a road approaching the base but a long way from the gate – in an attempt to deliver to the base commander a letter and two statements from religious groups. It was that act of civil disobedience that triggered arrests.
Among those arrested was Kelly, 61, of Chicago, whose record of peace activism dates back to 1978. She is coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare. In 2011, Kelly was on a U.S. boat that was part of an international flotilla protesting the alleged Israeli occupation of Gaza. She has made nine trips to Afghanistan, living with Afghans in Kabul. She has joined protesters of U.S. drone warfare against terrorists at military bases in Nevada, upstate New York and Missouri.
Kelly is no stranger to prison, having spent time there for planting corn on nuclear missile sites and for crossing the boundary of Fort Benning’s military training school.
Also arrested on Good Friday were four clergy – the Rev. Gerald Pedersen, 88, a retired Lutheran pastor from Sacramento who served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II; the Rev. Elizabeth Griswold, 35, pastor of the Parkside Community Church in Sacramento; the Rev. John Auer, 70, a retired United Methodist pastor from Fresno; and the Rev. Sharon Delgado, 65, a retired United Methodist pastor from Nevada City.
Others arrested were Michael Kerr, 65, a member of Veterans for Peace from Bay Point, Contra Costa County; Rodger Stall of San Rafael; Arthur Whitman-Bradley, 70, of Fairfax, Marin County; Nancy Reiner; Bob Russell of Pleasant Hill, Contra Costa County; and Pamela Osgood, 68, of Grass Valley.