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Chicagoans guilty in drone protest

Three Chicago area residents were among fourteen convicted last week of trespassing for a peace action at a Nevada  air force base aimed at stopping drone attacks in Afghanistan.

Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, an Uptown resident, veteran pacifist Brad Lyttle of Hyde Park, and Libby Pappalardo of Crystal Lake were among those sentenced Wednesday to time served and released by Judge William Jensen.

The judge rejected the protestors’ “necessity” defense – that their crime was necessary to prevent a greater harm.  Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and retired Air Force Colonel Ann Wright testified on their behalf in a trial last September.

The protestors entered Creech Air Force Base, about an hour north of Las Vegas, on April 9, 2009, asking to speak to the base commander.  In a gesture of good will, they brought pizza to share with base personnel.

Creech is “the little-known nerve center of drone operations,” according to the Las Vegas City Blog, where air force personnel at computer terminals operate drones which track and target alleged terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“A July 2009 report from the Brookings Institution found that for every supposed terrorist killed by a drone strike, more than ten Afghan or Pakistani civilians have been killed,” City Blog reports.  The drones are believed to have killed upwards of 1,000 civilians.

In statements prior to sentencing, Kelly spoke of her recent trip to Afghanistan, where she met with victims of drone attacks.  One man showed her photos of the carnage from an attack that killed his wife and five children.  She also met a nine-year-old girl who lost her arm in the same attack.

“It’s criminal for the U.S. to spend $2 billion per week for war in Afghanistan that maims, kills and displaces innocent civilians who’ve meant us no harm,” Kelly told the court, according to a post on the VFCN website.

“The use of drones has increased hatred and violence in our world,” said Pappalardo. “Our country is worse off because of the violence of war and militarism….I will continue to struggle for human rights and nonviolence, so that all the world’s children can feel safe and embraced by peace and hope.”

Noting that “we are shooting missiles and killing [people] in an arbitrary manner” and “generating great hatred” which could lead to retaliation, Lyttle said:  “We need to establish peaceful, just ways to resolve disputes…. We have to develop non-military means for achieving justice and therefore peace.”

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