Granny protesting US drones fights jail sentence

Granny protesting US drones fights jail sentence
An American grandmother sentenced to a year in jail after photographing an anti-drone protest outside a military base in Hancock, New York, is appealing her conviction for violating a restraining order.

Mary Anne Grady Flores, 58, is set to appear in the New York State Court of Appeals Wednesday, hoping to get her one-year jail term overturned.

“I had been arrested twice at the Hancock Air [Force] Base, where there are drone assassinations happening on a daily basis,” Flores told RT. Those arrests were in 2011 and 2012.

Protesters were previously charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing which carries a sentence of 15 days in jail. When arrested for second time in 2012, they were served with restraining orders by base commander, Colonel Earl A. Evans. Violating those would lead to charges of criminal contempt and up to a year in jail.

On February 13, 2013 protesters were at Hancock Air Force Base to demonstrate against drones. While photographing the protest, Flores stepped over the double yellow line in the middle of road, not knowing it was the base property line, she was arrested again and found in violation of her restraining order.

In July 2014, she was convicted of violation the order of protection and sentenced to serve one year in jail, and has been fighting the sentence ever since. The grandmother has already served 56 days in the Jamesville, Onondaga County Jail.

On Wednesday, the New York Court of Appeals will decide whether the orders of protection are “right and just and whether this a proper use of these court tools,” Flores said.

Her appeal contends that a protective order cannot be issued on behalf of property, only people.

Orders of protection are generally issued against an abusive spouse in domestic violence situations.

“It keeps people from the base. They are shutting down free speech,” Flores said.

Flores said the base commander Evans said during her trail that he "wasn't afraid her," the usual reason to take out an order of protection.

“I don’t know her. That’s just a piece of paper. I just wanted the protesters away from my base,” she quoted Colonel Evans as saying.

Members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars have been protesting at the base since 2010. There have been over 200 arrests and numerous trials, appeals and incarcerations, some ending in acquittals.

Activists argue they are engaged in “civil resistance” and trying to educate New Yorkers and personnel at the base about the effects of drones piloted from there.

They say the use of MQ-9 Reaper drones violates international laws and constitutes war crimes, specifically the Geneva Protocols and Convention which seek to protect civilians in a war zone. The US has ratified these treaties with 193 other nations.

Under the Nuremberg principles, they argue, it is a citizen’s responsibility to expose and impede a nation’s war crimes. Many of the activists have traveled to Iraq and Pakistan and met with victims of drone strikes.

The base was the first in the US to convert from the use of F-16 aircraft to Reaper drones, which can be equipped with 500-pound laser guided bombs and missiles.