Organizing to ground the drones
SAN DIEGO--A protest by about 50 antiwar activists shut down the corporate headquarters entrance of war contractor General Atomics on May 19.
General Atomics manufactures the Predator and Reaper drones at assembly plants in San Diego County. These "unmanned aerial vehicles," or UAVs, have become a weapon of choice for the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The UAVs have been widely condemned for causing widespread and indiscriminate civilian causalities.
The protest was a joint action of several groups, including Code Pink, the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice, the San Diego Peace Resource Center, Activist San Diego and the Nevada Desert Experience.
When protesters gathered at the General Atomics corporate headquarters in the morning, they found the main entrance cordoned off by a newly installed chain-link fence. All traffic had been blocked from entering the site by the temporary barrier.
Demonstrators went ahead with a planned "die-in" in front of the entrance, intended initially as an act of civil disobedience to block entering traffic, which had already been blocked by the company-installed gate.
Learning that traffic had been redirected to another gate, protesters moved to the secondary entrance. There, several protesters sat down in the driveway while others set up a picket line across the entranceway. This led to a several-hour standoff with police, during which little or no traffic entered the facility through this gate. Eventually, protesters withdrew. There were no arrests.
According to the San Diego Military Advisory Council, a war industry booster group, the San Diego region is now home to the largest military concentration in the world, with an estimated regional annual economic impact of $26.5 billion.
General Atomics alone has drone manufacturing and maintenance contracts estimated to be worth up to $1 billion. While federal spending gushes for war in the Middle East, California is cutting already meager outlays for heath, welfare and education.
Acts of moral courage, like those of the anti-drone protesters, can only be respected. To succeed, however, these actions need to become an element of a broadly based resistance, a new antiwar movement that links the wars to economic security, health care, immigrant rights and defense of the environment.