In October 2013 myself and five other activists were put on trial for making a gateway for peace through the fence at RAF Waddington where drones are remotely piloted causing devastation to civilian communities and potentially causing gruesome injuries. Although the judge found them guilty he called them “dutiful” people with a “legitimate target” and limited the compensation and costs to £100 as a sign of his support.
Today four activists, including Penny Walker of Leicester and Chris Cole Director of Drone Wars UK from the original six but also Katharina Karcher from Coventry and Eagle Spits a Methodist preacher from Nottingham joined them at a second attempt to find the drones and nonviolently disarm the pilots from their illegitimate and illegal war crimes.
Penny and Cathar have particular experience of working with sanctuary seekers form Afghanistan who have seen, first hand, the trauma caused by armed drones patrolling and striking in civilian areas and bring this message with them as they enter the high security military area today.
In a prepared statement the four have said:
“We come to RAF Waddington today to say a clear ‘no’ to the growing normalisation and acceptability of drone warfare. Thanks to the marketing of drone war as ‘risk free’, ‘precise’ and above all ‘humanitarian’, war has been rehabilitated and accepted as virtually normal by those who see little or nothing of the impact on the ground thousands of miles away. Remote wars mean most no longer hear, see or smell the impact of bombs and missiles. With just a little effort we can almost believe that war is not happening at all.
But behind the rebranding, war is as brutal and deadly as it has always been with civilians killed, communities destroyed, and the next generation traumatized. And so we have come to RAF Waddington, the home of drone warfare here in the UK to say clearly and simply ‘End the Drone War’.“
At the end of our trial in October we put out the invitation to others to do similar actions to the one we undertook and I’m so happy that today’s action has taken place. Vigils have been faithfully taking place each month through 2014 outside RAF Waddington and increasing numbers of people from the Queen’s Foundation in Birmingham have been vigiling peacefully at the Elbit Drones factory in Shenstone for several years.
The Elbit site was also the scene of a significant direct action on 5th August 2014. This means there has been a direct action every year for three years and it’s only the first week of 2015 – we need to keep the pressure on and making it increasingly difficult for the MOD to wage these illegal, immoral, and ineffective wars.
While banks and Arms Companies run our government we will always have these showcase conflicts aimed at selling weapons and export death, debt, and democracy to peoples around the world who have done nothing to us but experience so much harm at our hands. All it requires is our complicity.
Lets make 2015 the year we disarm the drones; disarm the arms fair, disarm the bankers and rebuild peace.
Keith Hebden is a parish priest and Seeking Justice deanery adviser in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire where he chairs the Diocesan Greener Churches Group. He teaches and writes on practical theology and spirituality. His latest book, Seeking Justice: The radical compassion of Jesus plots experiments in faith based community organising and direct action. Some of his workshop material and other resources can be found at Compassionistas. He’s married to Sophie Hebden, a freelance science writer and they have two daughters.