Members of the Shawn Greenwood Working Group and Voices for Creative Nonviolence presented a panel discussion on the relationship between the war on crime and drone warfare. While the two topics seem different, the panel discussed the similarities that people don’t often see.
About 50 community members gathered Oct. 8 at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center for the panel discussion. The audience comprised mostly members from local activist groups, including the Ithaca Catholic Workers Group, the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars and the Community Police Board.
In their discussion, the presenters focused on the motivations behind drone warfare and police harassment. Clare Grady, a member of the Shawn Greenwood Working Group, said the use of unmanned drones as weapons and police discrimination of minorities are fueled by the same underlying intentions.
“What we’re doing here is seeing the link between a war on terror and the war on crime,” Grady said. “Sharing our experience creates a hope of resisting racism, militarism and materialism, and builds a movement that keeps those triplets in focus.”
Another focus of the discussion was the Hancock Airfield in the Town of DeWitt, N.Y., which is home to a maintenance and training center for MQ9 Reaper Drones. Grady and 13 other Ithaca activists are currently awaiting trial for staging demonstrations at the base.
Another panelist, James Ricks, a member of the Shawn Greenwood Working Group, was among the demonstrators who were arrested at the Hancock Airfield. Ricks said he became passionate about the use of drones when he read about the international laws surrounding them.
“I was given constitutional law and the U.N. charter, where [drone use] is illegal,” Ricks said. “We signed the U.N. charter, which says we cannot commit an aggressive military act in any country before going to the United Nations Security Council, and we violate that with such impunity.”
In her portion of the discussion, Kathy Kelly, founder of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, talked about her time working in Afghanistan. Kelly said in both Afghanistan and America, people want peace.
“We want to live without war,” Kelly said. “We’re exhausted by war, we’re tired of war, we’re disgusted by war.”
While the panelists discussed the progress made in solving the issues of racism and militarism, some audience members wanted more. Beth Harris, professor of politics at Ithaca College, said people need to commit themselves to creating positive change.
“Both of these issues … won’t be solved with just a few positive stories,” Harris said. “We need to find our level of commitment where we are not afraid to look at the depth of the problems that we face.”
Despite the obstacles that the panelists discussed, the presentation had a positive note. Ricks said the perseverance of local activist groups gives him hope that peace will be achieved both nationally and abroad.
“In light of all the facts, I still have some hope,” Ricks said. “It would be nice if the war were over, but I know that we will stand together as long as it takes.”