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‘Fly Kites, Not Drones’ takes wing at Whiteman AFB

The rally “Fly Kites, Not Drones” touched down at the Spirit Gate to Whiteman Air Force Base April 30. Eight kites kissed the sky as 30 people, with peace dog Lily, condemned drone warfare. Why rally at Whiteman? Because, at Whiteman and about 40 other US bases, personnel guide killer drones to their targets and rain down bombs.

Mike Shilling’s kite meets the flags at the Spirit Gate, Whiteman AFB. —Photo by Vicke Kepling

“The Bureau of Investigative Journalism says as many as 4,000 people, including more than 200 children, have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan alone,” said Joy First of Mount Horeb, WI, keynote speaker for the rally. “I have six grandchildren. As a grandmother, I feel like it’s important not only to love and embrace my own grandchildren, but to spread my arms wide to embrace all the children of the world.”

First convenes the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance and co-coordinates the Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones. The human rights group Reprieve has found that drones kill 28 innocent people for every known “target,” and Living Under Drones says only 2 percent of those killed by drones are high-level targets, First reported. She added, “Obama has ordered 372 drone strikes since he took office, an average of one every eight days.” Drone killings fly in the face of international laws against attacking civilians and are extrajudicial, occurring with no prior judicial procedure, First explained.

She was invited to the rally, near Knob Noster, MO, by PeaceWorks-KC, and the event was cosponsored by Peace Network of the Ozarks and Mid-MO Fellowship of Reconciliation.

What did it mean to rally participants to fly kites at the Spirit Gate to Whiteman AFB? “Actually, I had too much fun. Lives are at stake, and I was having too much fun flying the kite,” said Lu Mountenay, vice chairperson of the PeaceWorks Board. She brought two kites emblazoned with peace symbols. “Looking up and seeing the kites, I thought, ‘What a wonderful sight!’ But then I imagined people looking up and seeing drones. I tried to transition from the joy of the kites. How privileged we are to live in this country, but how guilty we are that we make people in other countries live in fear.”

Two days earlier, in Kansas City, First spoke at a PeaceWorks gathering cosponsored by One Struggle KC, a coalition seeking to connect the struggles of oppressed communities of color locally and globally. Making the militarism/racism connection, First said, “It’s people of color that we’re killing overseas. It’s people of color that we’re killing at home.”

First also clarified the drone use policy of “anticipatory defense.” She explained, “Our government believes they might do something bad; therefore, it’s OK to kill them.”

Fly Kites, Not Drones 2016

See more pictures on Flickr and on Facebook at PeaceWorksKC and at Vicke Kepling.

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Man hanging origame peace cranes.