Anti-drone protesters, including Dorothy Day granddaughter, jailed on bonds up to $10,000

by Patrick O'Neill

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Five people, including the granddaughter of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day, are being held on bonds ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 after a protest at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, N.Y., home of part of the U.S. drone program. 

Seven people, among them Martha Hennessy, Day's granddaughter, and Elizabeth McAlister, a longtime peace activist and widow of Philip Berrigan, were arrested after crossing onto base property Wednesday. 

During a court appearance before DeWitt, N.Y., Judge Robert Jokl, McAlister, 74, and William Ofenloch, 64, were released without bail, but the other five are being held pending Aug. 5 and 6 court dates. All seven were charged with trespassing.

Hennessy, 58, and Clare Grady, 55, are both being held on $10,000 bail. They face up to one year in jail because they were under a court order to stay off base property, where both have been arrested in prior anti-drone demonstrations. In addition to trespassing charges, Hennessy and Grady were charged with violating an order of protection that bars protesters from going near Col. Earl Evans, a base commander.

More than 50 activists have been barred from the base under the order of protection, but until Wednesday's demonstration, no protesters have faced such high bonds, said Ellen Grady, one of the protest organizers and Clare Grady's sister. A third sister, Mary Anne Grady Flores, was sentenced to one year in jail July 10 after she was found guilty of violating the order of protection. Grady Flores, 57, was released from jail July 18 on $5,000 bond pending an appeal.

Onondaga County, N.Y., acting Supreme Court Judge John Brunetti has ruled that the order of protection is invalid because it's vague. The prosecution is appealing that decision.

In a telephone interview with NCR, Ofenloch said he did not know why the judge released him without bail while two others who drove with him from New York City to the demonstration, Felton Davis, 61, and Erica Brock, 31, are being held on $2,500 bail. None of the trio had been previously arrested at Hancock. Joan Pleune, 75, was also arrested and is being held on $2,500 bail.

McAlister and Brock were also charged with disorderly conduct for blocking the roadway in front of Hancock. The five defendants are being detained at the Onondaga County Justice Center.

"They're not intending on paying the bail," Ellen Grady told NCR. "If we bailed everybody out, we'd have to come up with $27,500."

Those arrested delivered a "People's War Crimes Indictment" to the Hancock chain of command, which they affixed to a fence after base personnel did not accept it. According to a news release, the protesters also delivered a citizens' "Order of Protection on behalf of the children of the world who are subject to U.S. drone surveillance and attack."

The group also issued a statement listing names of civilians they said have been killed by drone strikes.

Ofenloch said the protest was a success because Hancock officials closed the base entrance. "So we did shut down the entrance for an hour," he said.

The Hancock base is a training center for drone pilots, technicians and maintenance workers, as well as other drone activities.

[Patrick O'Neill, a freelance writer from Garner, N.C., is a longtime contributor to NCR.]

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