Photographing Drone War Protest Lands Peace Activist, Grandmother 6 Months in Prison

January 19, 2016
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Mary Anne Grady Flores

drone resister and member of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars. She is also a grandmother of three. Today, Grady Flores is returning to jail for up to six months.

Jonathan Wallace

attorney who has worked extensively with the drone resistance movement.

An upstate New York peace activist and grandmother is heading to jail today to begin a six-month sentence for photographing a protest at a base where U.S. drones are piloted remotely. Mary Anne Grady Flores had been issued an order of protection aimed at keeping her away from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base after she participated in an act of civil disobedience there in 2012. In 2013, Grady Flores says she attended another peace action but did not participate, instead photographing it from the roadway, beyond what she believed was the base’s boundary. She was later told the base’s property extended into the road. Grady Flores was later sentenced to a year in prison for violating the protection order. Earlier this month, she was told her conviction had been upheld but her sentence reduced to six months, and was ordered to report to prison today. Mary Anne Grady Flores joins us just before is remanded, along with Jonathan Wallace, an attorney who has worked extensively with the drone resistance movement.

Watch Part 2 of the interview with Mary Anne Grady Flores


TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: An upstate New York peace activist, a grandmother, is heading to jail today to begin a six-month sentence for photographing a protest at a base where U.S. drones are piloted remotely. Mary Anne Grady Flores has been issued an order of protection aimed at keeping her away from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base after she participated in an act of civil disobedience there in 2012. In 2013, Grady Flores says she attended another peace action, didn’t participate, instead photographed it from the roadway beyond what she believed was the base’s boundary. She was later told the base’s property extended into the road. Grady Flores was later sentenced to a year in prison for violating the protection order. Earlier this month, she was told her conviction had been upheld but her sentence reduced to six months, and was ordered to report to prison today.

Well, just before she’s remanded, Mary Anne Grady Flores joins us now, a member of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, a group that staged a series of protests against the drone war over the past six years. Oh, and we’re joined by Jonathan Wallace, an attorney who has worked extensively with the drone resistance movement.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Mary Anne, your thoughts today before you head to jail?

MARY ANNE GRADY FLORES: Thank you, Amy, for having me on. And all of the people that are doing the resistance of extrajudicial killings is very grateful to have this moment to shed the light on the issues. I am grateful to have the incredible support, and there has been an amazing—people coming forward and trying to do what they can to support me. But what I want to say is, let’s bring the focus back on the real victims. I am not "bugsplat," which is the name of the program that the drone pilots use to do the violation of international law right from Hancock air base, which is right basically in my backyard. I fly in and out of Syracuse airport. And so, on one side of the airport is the international airport, but then you have the National Guard base, where there is killing going on. Drone pilots are sitting there firing and violating the sovereignty laws, they’re violating due process, and then continuing the assassination program that is begun by the Obama administration and everybody, from the top down.

So, we go—we, as a community, go to the base, and we’ve been—we are very grateful for the drone pilots that have come out to say—the four drone pilots. That’s Cian Westmoreland, Michael Haas, Brandon Bryant and then Stephen Lewis. We’re very grateful for them. And I would invite people, academicians and everybody, to bring those young men to their campuses and to different places to speak out and tell us, tell us what they know from the inside, because the word is out that drone strikes are affecting and feeding into the terror that has been growing. After the Paris attacks, these young men were saying this is alarming, what’s going on, but our strikes—because they know from the inside out—our strikes are killing civilians. And so—

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask Jonathan Wallace, Jonathan Wallace, six months, actually sentenced to a year, we’re talking about Mary Anne [Grady Flores] photographing this protest. Why the sentence?

JONATHAN WALLACE: Photography itself. Well, I think there has been a big glitch here, a big malfunction of the legal system, that hopefully we’ll be able to correct on appeal. There is a huge First Amendment issue. Taking photographs, of course, is a First Amendment-protected activity. Demonstrating is a First Amendment-protected activity. These orders of protection are a preprinted form with blanks that police and prosecutors fill out every day to protect battered spouses and witnesses who are assaulted.

AMY GOODMAN: Mary Anne Grady Flores, would you do again, Mary Anne [Grady Flores], what you did that has now led to the six-month sentence?

MARY ANNE GRADY FLORES: The day of, well, I was basically a part of the support group that went there with eight Catholics. Because it was Ash Wednesday, it’s a day of atonement in our tradition, and as Catholic workers, we went, and we were—

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.

MARY ANNE GRADY FLORES: I should say, the group, the eight people, were standing in the roadway, beyond that white line where you pull up to the stop sign.

AMY GOODMAN: But, Mary Anne Grady Flores, we’re going to continue the discussion after the show, and we’ll post it online. Mary Anne Grady Flores and Jonathan Wallace, thank you.

Watch Part 2 || Web Exclusive: Drone War Protester Mary Anne Grady Flores Speaks Out Ahead of Six-Month Jail Term


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