Des Moines, Iowa — Four anti-war activists were arrested here Dec. 28 after protesting war crimes committed by U.S. armed drones flown out of the Iowa Air Guard Drone Command Center.
The drone strikes, launched under the administrations of U.S. presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, are responsible for thousands of deaths. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 737 and 1,551 civilians have been killed in drone strikes since its data compilation began, with hundreds of the victims being children.
Braving snow and cold weather, anti-war demonstrators gathered for a “direct action” rally in the early afternoon at the Iowa center. They carried signs reading: “Herod killed the infants. Matt 2:16. Today the Des Moines Armed Drone Command Center kills them too! Celebrate Christmas. Shut down DM’s Drone Command!”
Participants included Catholic Workers members and local members of Veterans for Peace in this final event of a “Feast of Holy Innocents Retreat.” As they walked onto the base, deemed a “war zone” by some, they were confronted by Air Guard security and local cops, who warned the demonstrators they faced arrest if they did not leave.
As most of the crowd left, four Catholic Workers members stayed and were arrested: Ed Bloomer and Al Burney of Des Moines, Greg Boertje-Obed of Duluth, Minn., and Brian Hynes of Brooklyn, N.Y. The four were handcuffed before being loaded into a police van.
Charged with misdemeanor trespassing, they spent the night in Polk County Jail, and the following day had a hearing before a judge. Burney entered a guilty plea and was released with a fine. Bloomer, Boertje-Obed and Hynes pleaded “not guilty” in order to argue their case before a jury. The Berrigan Catholic Worker House paid their bonds, set at $300 each, according to a news release obtained by Workers World. Their court date is set for Feb. 1.
This is just one of many such demonstrations by Des Moines Catholic Workers, VFP members and their allies in recent years. They have shown solidarity with “those murdered and injured by U.S. drones,” according to a 2017 leaflet publicizing a similar rally. They have carried signs reading “End drone warfare” and “End war,” along with other slogans denouncing the killing of civilians in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
Des Moines Catholic Worker and anti-war organizer Frank Cordaro have previously called the actions of the Drone Center “a scandal of high proportion that the community has not addressed.” (kcci.com, June 28)
Members of this coalition in the fight against imperialist warfare and the perpetuation of crimes against humanity have vowed to resume their struggle in the days, months and years to come.