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14 arrested exposing CIA torture flights

Published Nov 26, 2005 10:21 PM

Two other Raleigh FIST members and I drove with an independent documentarian to Johnston County, N.C., at 6 a.m. on Nov. 18 to join a group of 50 to 60 people for a direct action against Aero Contrac tors Ltd, a CIA torture air-taxi service.

Aero uses the Johnston County Airport to store their planes that are often summoned by the CIA to transport captives for “extraordinary rendition,” a code word for transport to countries other than the U.S. for torture, or as some call it, “outsourced torture.”

We all met in 29-degree weather at St. Anne’s Catholic Church at 7 a.m. in John ston County and drove together to the airport. Upon arrival a group of fourteen of us walked around the fence surrounding the airport and onto Aero Contractor’s land. There we gathered in a circle and read political statements and an indictment, detailing how Aero’s torture program with the CIA violates international law.

As we openly lamented for the victims of CIA torture, security approached us and asked us to leave.We read our statements into a microphone as we were being handcuffed. One participant, Josh McIntyre, a member of Raleigh’s Amnesty Inter national, approached the door of Aero and knocked. The person opening the door pointed an electric-shock Taser gun at McIntyre, who backed away and left a copy of our indictment at the door. McIntyre was soon arrested.

Of the 14 arrested, several were members of Catholic Worker Houses either here in North Carolina or in St. Louis, Missouri. Others arrested included Kathy Kelly, the founder of Voices in the Wilder ness from Chicago; a North Carolina State University professor and member of the North Carolina Green Party; a worker for the American Friends Service Com mittee, a member of the International Solidarity Movement and a Code Pink member. I was there from the Raleigh chapter of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST), a youth activist group.

Some of those arrested had come to North Carolina on their way to Georgia to protest against the School of Americas (SOA), a U.S. torture and assassin-training institute that sends graduates to Latin America to terrorize the population.

Immediately following our arrests, other anti-war activists delivered an indic tment to officers and directors of Aero Con tractors charging these officers with violations of federal criminal law and international law. Deputies then escorted the activists to deliver copies to the director of the Johnston County Airport, members of the Johnston County Airport Authority and the Johnston County Board of Commissioners.

The letters asked the airport and the county to investigate the charges raised in the indictment and to take appropriate measures to cease Aero Contractors’ operations in furtherance of “extraordinary rendition.”

Other members of the group held signs and performed street theater along Route 70 during rush-hour traffic to alert commuters to Aero’s torture-related activities.

We prisoners were the talk of the jailhouse, with others incarcerated walking past our holding cell to congratulate us. Co-arrestee Patrick O’Neill entertained us all day with his stories of civil disobedience arrests, specifically with his experience in this same jail with Philip Berrigan, one of the Plowshares Eight.

The magistrate did all she could to give us a hard time, sitting on our paperwork for the bulk of the day.Our attorney, working pro bono through the ACLU, finally got our bond lowered. We left the jail at 5 p.m. feeling empowered and were welcomed with great media coverage. Stop Torture Now!