Today, This Grandmother Is Going to Jail for Peacefully Protesting the US Drone War

-01752450776508b9By Carey Wedler

On Tuesday, a New York grandmother returned to jail on previous charges filed against her for protesting U.S. drone warfare in 2013. Mary Anne Grady Flores, 58, was photographing other activists as they peacefully protested armed drones at the Syracuse Hancock Air Base in February 2013.

Judges in the town of DeWitt, where the base is located, had issued “orders of protection” to activists in order to keep them away from the base. Under these orders, often issued by courts to protect victims of domestic violence, Col. Earl A. Evans, a commander at the base, was construed as a “victim” of the protests.

In spite of these orders, Grady Flores and her fellow anti-war protesters continued to assemble to voice opposition to the drone program. Grady Flores is a member of The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, a group that has protested drone warfare since 2011.

Though orders of protection were issued to multiple demonstrators prior to the February protest, Grady Flores was the first to be prosecuted for violating one. The other eight activists arrested that day for protesting were acquitted of their charges. Grady Flores, however, was prosecuted for unknowingly moving “beyond what she believed was the base’s boundary” while photographing her fellow activists. “She was later told the base’s property extended into the road,” Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! reported at the time. Grady Flores was charged with second-degree criminal contempt for violating the order of protection.

“This has got to stop,” Judge David Gideon said of the activists’ ongoing protests before sentencing Grady Flores in July of 2014.

Grady Flores had also refused to pay previous fees and fines imposed by the court. “I find this to be serious because of the continued violations of the orders of this court,” Judge Gideon said.

The courtroom was filled with about 100 protesters who came to support Grady Flores. They “walked six miles from the drone base to the courtroom carrying a coffin bearing the words, ‘First Amendment,’” Democracy Now! reported.

Though prosecutors in the case did not seek jail time due to Grady Flores’ responsibilities caring for her elderly mother, Judge Gideon forced the punishment, perhaps to make an example of her. He sentenced her to one year in jail — the maximum sentence. She was also fined $1,000.

“Mary Anne’s sentence is big news,” said Brian Terrell, an anti-drone organizer with Voices for Creative Nonviolence, following her conviction. “The drone program is so blatantly illegal that the authorities have to go to absurd lengths to justify and protect it. They need to redefine words like ‘imminent threat’ and ‘due process’ to cover up the criminality. Here, they have to redefine the meaning of an Order of Protection.”

After she was sentenced, Grady Flores asked the judge:

… who is the real victim here: the commander of a military base whose drones kill innocent people halfway around the world, or those innocent people themselves who are the real ones in need of protection from the terror of US drone attacks?

She vowed to appeal, and was released from jail shortly after on a “stay of sentence” after her supporters raised $5,000 to bail her out. That same month, between seven and eight protesters — one of whom was Grady Flores’ younger sister, Clare — were arrested for again protesting at the Hancock base. They demanded the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard, located there, “stay away from the Children of the World and their families, including their homes, schools, places of play and work.” The demonstrators delivered a “People’s War Crimes Indictment,” posting it to a fence after employees on the base refused to take it. In September of 2015, five more protesters — all over the age of 55 — were arrested for trespassing while protesting drones at the Hancock base.

Last Tuesday, Grady Flores learned by mail that she was ordered back to jail for her 2013 violation. It happened to be the National Day of Action to Stop Killer Drones.

Onondaga County Court Judge Miller had ruled to uphold Judge Gideon’s conviction, and Grady Flores was ordered to return to jail on Tuesday, January 19.

She was scheduled to appear for a court hearing on January 22, but her supporters suspect she was re-sentenced by mail to avoid a scene reminiscent of her earlier conviction. As Alternet reported, “Her supporters speculate that this may have been an attempt to prevent a courtroom and media frenzy such as that which happened when she was originally sentenced.”

Grady Flores is ordered to spend six months at the Jamesville Correctional Facility in East Syracuse NY.

The United States’ drone program has faced ongoing criticism for its often imprecise bombings, launched by drone operators far removed from the areas being attacked. A recent investigative report by The Intercept found 90% of casualties from drone strikes were not the intended targets. The Obama administration has previously been accused of and investigated for war crimes for civilian casualties caused by drone attacks. Though the civilian casualty rate is high, a majority of Americans continue to support drone warfare.

In the meantime, nonviolent activists are consistently arrested for demonstrating against drones at air force bases across the country.

As Grady Flores said after her 2014 conviction:

As I, a nonviolent grandmother of three and caregiver for my mother, prepare for jail — itself a perversion — I stand before you remorseful, less for what I have done than for what I have not yet done to keep my own country from perpetrating its ongoing acts of violence and injustice.

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  • ambrose

    When a multi-trillion dollar country with the biggest nuclear arms, Government attacks and imprisons an ordinary grandmother for peaceful protesting, You really do live in a sick society.
    It is the duty of all of us to protect each other from these rogue governments.

  • oldwoman

    THAT is courage–for an older woman to allow herself to be jailed rather than keep quiet. It stands in stark contrast to the psychopathy that we in this ass-backwards U.S. usually celebrate as courageous–e.g., soldiers and cops blowing away unarmed civilians or people trying to defend their country against a foreign occupation.

    • 1in7billion

      Yes, and thank you for saying so! I’m sick of hearing about our “brave” troops and police officers “protecting” us, when it is people like Ms. Flores who demonstrate true courage in the face of tyranny.

  • yEshUA ImmAnUEl * ben-‘Adam

    Malachi 2:10
    Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?
    “All men are brothers by all the laws of Nature and by the very being of God.”

    • yEshUA ImmAnUEl * ben-‘Adam

      “There are no favorites in the Divine Conception. Justice regards each individual of all the myriads constituting Humanity with equal favor. Justice of God toward all implies Justice toward each other among men. This principle of Justice is Law Universal.”

  • yEshUA ImmAnUEl * ben-‘Adam

    “They are not agents of Revolution, but of Evolution. By enlightenment and persuasion they may strive to reform a nation. The true Republic is the out growth of Brotherhood, and a jealous monarch or State will naturally oppose the diffusion of doctrines that tend to the liberation and enlightenment of the people.”

    • yEshUA ImmAnUEl * ben-‘Adam

      “The thinnest veil over the Sublime Mystery of the Ineffable Name is Brotherhood and Love!”

    • GIVVO6_B

      So you prefer to follow the scribblings of slave owners, Indian killers and traitors who have remained full of bullshit for 225 years, God save the world from bloody American governments

      • Glenn Festog

        Please give us your extensive list of countries formed by Saints; anyone? Bueller?

        • GIVVO6_B

          I think mentioning the most arrogant bunch of clowns with “exceptional” arrogance and “exceptional” ignorance is enough for the present. The “exceptional” idiots who have murdered more people in the last 70 years than any other entity on earth. They were not content with the mass murder of a whole continent of Indians and spread their criminal activities over the whole earth.

          • Glenn Festog

            “So you prefer to follow the scribblings of slave owners,”

            If those “scribblings” had been maintained and FOLLOWED we wouldn’t be in half the mess we’re in now, nor would we be engaging in perpetual war.

            How typical of people with a “Pollyanna” view of the world, particularly in their judgement of historical figures behaving in a common manner for their times. Pretty easy to do from a privileged existence that wouldn’t exist without said founding fathers, by someone who has NO CLUE about their times because YOU DIDN’T LIVE IN THEM! Your myopic view of the past would require, for example, by an extension of your “logic”, that we all believe the citizens of Pompei WANTED to die, or they wouldn’t have built so close to a volcanoe. Yep, Pompei was just a mass suicide, not a national disaster. Its no different from implying that people who uphold the Constitution want slavery back, don’t support the right to vote, and hate anyone who isn’t a “WASP”.

            All you have, outside of their actual writings, is the opinions of other people, and we all know that historians are 100% neutral and unbiased in their opinions.

            American Empire succeeded the British Empire; hum, I guess there was NO “exceptional” arrogance or ignorance there. Spanish Empire, French Empire, Catholic Empire, Roman Empire, Persian Empire; wow, maybe its the Empire part that’s causing the problem? Or how about the FACT that, in each of the aforementioned, it was the decisions and actions of a relatively few people in each one that caused the problems. An obvious result of a mental health problem. The problem being that positions of authority draw sociopaths like flies to garbage, and there’s your sign.

            Peace, out.

  • thumbsdownJudge

    KUDOS nanny Flores.
    Need more folks to speak out – the judge sounds corrupt – not doubt flying a yellow fringed flag.

  • berrybestfarm

    Peaceful assembly, speech and redress are rights not privileges. When our rights are met with the use of arms and imprisonment it is waring against the People’s constitutional government. This is treason–a capital offense. We need to start taking this seriously. One of the locals needs to contact the militia to spring this woman and let the traitors know in no uncertain terms their reign of terror and deceit ends now.

    • jif6360

      There is one option: spread the word to vote out all incumbents in Congress and keep putting them out until they restore the Bill of Rights. No stronger message could be sent for our dissatisfaction with our government.

  • PJ London

    “To stand up for truth is nothing. For truth, you must sit in jail.”

    ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    Bless you Grady Flores.

    “Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.”

    ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

    “In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”

    ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

    “You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”

    ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    Thank you Grady for your example of how to live with integrity.

  • By the corrupt and illegitimate judiciary with their gold fringed flags and black robes denying Americans their Constitutional and God given right to protest and seek redress peacefully, they are virtually guaranteeing the revolution will be violent and bloody when it comes.

  • olan

    A true American hero.

  • John

    QUOTE ““This has got to stop,” Judge David Gideon said of the activists’ ongoing protests before sentencing Grady Flores in July of 2014.”

    Did this guy swear to uphold the Constitution!?!? Did he ever read the Bill Of Rights? The 1st Amendment?

    Way to go…”Onondaga County Court Judge Miller had ruled to uphold Judge Gideon’s conviction”…your a traitor too!!

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