DES MOINES – Anti-war protesters likened their efforts against the U.S. military's use of drone warfare to St. Patrick, the missionary to Ireland, who legend has it purged that country of snakes in the fifth century.
“St. Patrick once said, ‘In Christ, there is no killing,’ and we will continue the work to drive the drones and warmakers out of Iowa just like St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland,” said Julie Brown, part of the Des Moines Catholic Worker movement who was arrested Monday, in a statement before the morning protest on St. Patrick’s Day.
Brown and six others were arrested outside the Iowa Air National Guard Base in Des Moines for their activism. A group of 30 other protesters gathered near the road away from the base clutching signs and touting their message with a megaphone.
"We recognize that the slaughter of war always requires warmakers to dehumanize the victims," said Jim Haber, a Catholic Worker from San Francisco, Calif. "Reliance on drones exacerbates the dehumanization."
The military’s increased use of drones for surveillance and aerial attacks continue to receive criticism from global activists. Iowa Air Guard's 132nd Fighter Wing is shifting focus from F-16 fighter jets, which have not been used out of the Des Moines base since 2013, to a program for remotely operated aircraft.
Officials at the Iowa Air National Guard Base did not respond to requests for comment.
As those who risked arrest marched to the gates of the base clutching signs, the chants of the protesters mixed with announcements from inside the base calling for the protesters to move. Three Des Moines residents, three Minnesotans and one New Yorker were among the volunteers who chose to be at risk for arrest.
When they refused to move they were arrested by the Des Moines Police, charged with trespass and later released.
“Unmanned drones in Des Moines, Iowa, is madness,” said Frank Cordaro, Des Moines Catholic Worker, during the protest. “It’s bringing the front lines of our war on terrorism to the southside of Des Moines and making us a legitimate war target because of these illegal, immoral and unjust unmanned drones.”
Cordaro said he believes a drone program in Iowa is dangerous, and the protests send a statement that people want the military to “keep drones out of Iowa.”
The Monday morning protest, organized by the Des Moines Catholic Workers and Veterans for Peace Des Moines chapter, followed a larger weekend rally on March 15 in which around 100 marched against drones at the same location.Other drone protests have taken place across the country including Creech Air Force Base in Nevada and Hancock Air Base in New York.