Carol Baum, Syracuse Peace Council, 315-472-5478 or 315-383-5738Mary Anne Grady Flores, Ithaca Catholic Worker, 607-280-8797
First Hancock Base "Order of Protection Violator" to Be Sentenced July 10
Peaceful Protester: "Drone attack victims, not base commanders, need orders of protection."
Syracuse, NY — Drone activist Mary Anne Grady Flores will be sentenced by Town of DeWitt Judge David S. Gideon on Thursday, July 10, at 6pm, DeWitt Town Court, 5400 Butternut Dr., East Syracuse.
The sentence, which could involve as much as a year's jail time, is being handed down for violating an order that the defendant, a grandmother of three, believes to be grossly unjust.
A member of Ithaca Catholic Worker, Grady Flores had been issued a "temporary order of protection" after participating in a 2012 nonviolent civil resistance action at Hancock Field Air Force Base. Col. Earl A. Evans, the base's mission support group commander, was granted the order by local judges to squelch protests against drone operations at the base.
Hancock is a training center for drone pilots, technicians and maintenance workers, as well as a hub of drone activities. From the base these unmanned airships are steered over Afghanistan, where they kill people, including numerous civilians.
"Who actually needs an order of protection — the base commander behind a barbed wire fence and surrounded by military might, or families in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other places terrorized by drone strikes?" asked Grady Flores during her trial.
On February 13th, 2013, Ash Wednesday, while standing in the public intersection on E. Malloy Rd, Grady Flores photographed eight Catholics as they engaged in what they call "peaceful witness" at the base. She chose to remain in a supporting role in the roadway, beyond what she understood at the time to be the base premises, and because she understood that the order of protection required her to not participate.
Only after their arrests were she and the activists informed that the government-owned base's property line extended all the way out to the double yellow line in the middle of the public thoroughfare.
"Ironically," said Carol Baum of the Syracuse Peace Council, "those who actually participated in the action were acquitted of their charges, but Mary Anne was charged with violating the protection order."
To date, DeWitt Town Court justices have issued orders of protection on behalf of the base colonel against 50 peaceful drone protesters. Such orders had been established to prevent domestic violence and victim abuse, but are now being used to quell dissent.
"We will continue challenging such orders for their blatant abuse of the First Amendment, for shutting down free speech and citizens' right to protest government misdeeds, and for their inappropriate application of New York State law," said Ellen Grady of the Ithaca Catholic Worker.
In a recent ruling, Onondaga County Acting Supreme Court Judge John Brunetti ruled that the order of protection was invalid because it's vague. An assistant district attorney is currently appealing that decision.
"In spite of Mary Anne's conviction and upcoming sentence," said Ed Kinane of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones, "protest will continue. After hearing the heartbreaking stories of drone attack victims, we cannot remain silent."
The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars www.upstatedroneaction.org is made up of antiwar organizations and formed around resistance to the MQ-9 Reaper Drone program at Hancock Field Air Force Base.