By Beverly Fitzpatrick
On April 4–7, peace activists from California and Arizona joined San Diego peace groups and Code Pink for the National Anti-Drone Days of Action demonstrations in the San Diego area. San Diego was chosen because it is the drone manufacturing capitol of the world.
Peace Fresno activist Michael Bridges, Peace Madera President Teresa Castillo and Peace Fresno President Beverly Fitzpatrick joined events at the drone manufacturers, the home of General Atomics CEO Neal Blue and in front of the aircraft carrier Midway near SeaPort Village. Bridges, Castillo and Fitzpatrick also were representing the Fresno Light Brigade and teamed up with the San Diego Overpass Light Brigade to display messages on three of the four nights.
On the first day, there was a large march and demonstration around General Atomics, a Predator drones production site, in Poway. This is where Veterans for Peace holds weekly demonstrations. We joined the Veterans for Peace marching past several guarded entrance gates, then assembling on four street corners at 5 p.m. as commuters headed home.
There was positive media coverage from local and international media in print, as well as on TV and the Internet. Demonstrators held signs with messages such as “Drones: Unbridled Technology,” “A Threat to All or Drones Kill Lists?” “Jail All War Profiteers!” and “NO More Obama’s Killer Drones!”
As darkness approached, many participated in the first of three Overpass Light Brigades. Gathering in a parking lot in Mission Bay, the San Diego Light Brigade organized light boards with the message “DRONES FLY KIDS DIE.” It took 16 holders to stand on a bridge over I-5 for more than an hour with a constant flow of traffic heading south. Many drivers showed support for the message by honking—always a good thing for those holding the lighted letters.
On the second day, protestors led by Code Pink members demonstrated in front of General Atomics CEO Neal Blue’s beachfront home. In true Code Pink style, costumes and all, the members portrayed Billionaire Blue and his rich friends. The street theater was contrasted by the solemn statement of many single shoes tied and hung from clotheslines representing children who have been killed by U.S. drone strikes. Hanging from each shoe was a tag with the name and age of the child.
Later that day, protestors held a rally at the General Atomics headquarters in La Jolla. During the rally, in addition to displaying banners with specific messages, a die-in was staged while names of those killed by drones were read. As a name was read, a demonstrator fell to the ground and was covered with a blood-stained (red paint) sheet. This action created a vivid image of the results of drone warfare.
The next protest site was at Northrup Grumman, where the Global Hawk drone is manufactured. Informational fliers were ready to be handed out to employees as they left for the day, explaining the reason behind the protest. However, not many employees remained that day so only a few received the information. The organizers recognize the importance of people’s jobs but wanted to give them information that Northrup might not provide.
Fresno Light Brigade shined with their “Code Pink” lighted letters over I-5.
The third day’s actions moved to a public area in front of the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum. This event was coordinated by Women Occupy, joined by Code Pink and other peace groups. Occupellas (Women Occupy SD’s a capella chorus) and Vibe, a socially conscious youth hip-hop/rap band, performed. There were speakers with anti-drones messages, and the names of 178 children/youth documented to have been killed by U.S. drone strikes were highlighted.
About 75 protestors held signs and distributed informational fliers to the public as they strolled along in the warm San Diego sunshine. We again attempted to inform the general public about the death and destruction of the U.S. drone strikes and President Obama’s kill list.
At the same time this action was taking place in San Diego, peace activists in Fresno joined with Peace Fresno, the Fresno Center for Nonviolence and WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) in hosting Cindy Sheehan and her Tour de Peace for a demonstration in Fresno Roeding Park. The event included a bike ride with Tour de Peace in the park, a march for those without bikes, informational fliers and speeches.
Sheehan spoke about the Tour de Peace plans for building and sustaining a peace culture in the United States and the world. Gerry Bill, a Peace Fresno member, spoke to the group focusing on Peace Fresno’s opposition to killer and surveillance drones.
Back in San Diego, following the demonstration at the Midway, activists were invited to the San Diego Peace Resource Center to a video showing of the Alternate Focus drone videos, followed by dinner and a forum at the Church of the Brethren. A delicious dinner was provided by Haritna Restaurant (La Mesa) of Palestinian cuisine. Then a forum with Medea Benjamin (Code Pink) and Pedro Rios (American Friends Service Committee–San Diego) was held followed by a Q&A and comments. Fitzpatrick shared the Community Alliance, highlighting the Light Brigade’s “NO DRONES” picture and articles in the March issue, as well as the article on Fresno State’s resolution against drones in the April issue. The Community Alliance was made available to attendees, and no copies were left at the end of the evening.
During the dinner and forum, the San Diego and Fresno Light Brigades posted another lighted message, “NO DRONES,” on a hillside near the church and the Peace Resource Center overlooking the freeway.
The final day of the four-day event began at 10 a.m. at the Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park with a general assembly followed by workshops, lunch, another set of workshops and, finally, a whole group debrief and next steps. The comments were mostly positive, and many discussed a need for more actions for peace and ending the culture of war that has been cultivated in the United States and around the world. Many felt that the time has come for the people to get in the streets again.
Beverly Fitzpatrick is a retired school teacher, a homeless advocate and current president of Peace Fresno. Contact her at email@example.com.