Ellen Grady, a Catholic Worker from Ithaca, N.Y., doesn’t like the idea that war has come home to her backyard.
The war is the country’s war on terror. The place where it is being waged is the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, a little more than an hour north of where she lives.
Hancock is one of several U.S. bases where drone operators pilot unmanned aircraft in their search for suspected Muslim militants halfway around the world.
And for the third time in two years, Grady, 50, was arrested for protesting the drones during a nonviolent witness on Ash Wednesday to begin the season of Lent.
She was one of nine people arrested after refusing to leave base property. The group held signs calling for the end of drone warfare in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Grady’s sister, Mary Ann Grady Flores, was among those arrested.
The Air National Guard had no immediate comment about the arrests.
At the end of January, Grady told Catholic News Service she felt it was important to speak out against the drones, especially because she knows her husband had also been involved in peaceful protests against war throughout his life before he died in an accident on their farm.
“Intellectually I know that the building of these weapons is the modern-day crucifixion of Christ,” she said.
“I just feel that it’s amazing we have technology and we have no standard on how we are to use them,” Grady added.
Her first arrest occurred on Good Friday in 2011, two years after her husband, Peter DeMott, died in an accident. She was one of 37 people taken into custody and released. After both of her arrests, she was sentenced to 15 days in jail. She was released after eight days both times.
She could not be reached Thursday afternoon.
A statement released by the nine said they came to Hancock “to remember the victims of our drone strikes and to ask God’s forgiveness for the killing of other human beings, most especially children.”
Grady, a member of the Cornell Catholic Community at Cornell University, told CNS she discerned long and hard about risking arrest the first time because she still had a young daughter at home. She said her daughter, Saoirse, now 10, encouraged her to follow her conscience.
“My daughter said ‘I don’t really want you to do this, Mom. But you know what? We know what it’s like to have someone die in our family from an accident. These other people (survivors of innocent drone victims) know what it’s like to have someone die when we (the U.S.) do it on purpose,’” Grady explained.
So Grady again showed up at Hancock on Ash Wednesday, prepared to be arrested in the ongoing effort to call attention to drone warfare by the Upstate New York Coalition to Ground the Drones.
“We call it Gandhian ways action,” she said upon returning home yesterday. “That the idea of continuing to go back. It’s not just a one-time thing. We’re coming back and we’re coming back and we’re coming back.”
Others arrested were Jim Clune of Binghampton, N.Y.; Bill Frankel-Streit of Trevilians, Va.; Nancy Gowen of Richmond, Va.; Linda LeTendre of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; Father Bill Pickard of Scranton, Pa.; Matt Ryan of Ithaca; and Carmen Trotta of New York.
A closer look at U.S. drone policy is explored in this week’s Washington Letter.