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Anti-war group blocks Syracuse air base gate to protest post-9/11 drone strikes

Framed in brick, a sign reads "New York Air National Guard, Hancock Field, main gate."
Gabe Carr-Johnson
A signed framed in brick denotes the entrance to New York Air National Guard Hancock Field, Sept. 12, 2022.

Members of an anti-war group blocked the main entrance to Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in a demonstration timed around the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The air base is home to the 174th Attack Wing, which provides, according to the air base, weapons for global air and cyberspace missions that aid homeland defense. The 174th attack wing operates the MQ9 Reaper drone.

Remembering the lives lost during 9/11 and its aftermath in foreign countries where U.S. drone air strikes have been carried out, Upstate Drone Action protested at the base Monday. About 10 demonstrators created the brief blockade at base's entry around 11 a.m.

The Upstate Drone Action carried signs and protested against the use of the unmanned aerial systems, calling for an end to "the drone assassination program" and for the base to take responsibility for alleged war crimes. The organization says they're standing up for the innocent bystanders and children in other countries killed during U.S. drone strikes. The protest happened days before the airport's runway 5K, where a reaper drone will be displayed.

The group dispersed in compliance with a noon deadline set by the guard, a change in recent years since the pandemic.

Prior to that, the annual demonstrations were tense. The group estimates since 2009 there were roughly 150 demonstrators arrested at different times for blocking the main entrance to the air base. Rae Kramer said the permitted hour-long protest is a substantial shift over the years and shows the relationship has improved between the Upstate Drone Action and the 174th Attack Wing.

“It’s notable to me how different the feeling is with the soldiers. It was always instantly antagonistic 10, 8 years ago. And now it’s clear that we are able to come to an agreement in the space of 30 seconds. It allows us to talk to them as people and that’s a point that we try to make that you’re not just a uniform to us," Kramer said.

In 2019, 8 protesters of the Upstate Drone Action got arrested for a similar protest while blockading the base entrance. However, participants at the Monday protest said they felt they were given a chance to express how they feel about ending all U.S. military force and call for the use of peace and diplomacy. They've requested to meet with the 174th's commander.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.
Tarryn Mento is an award-winning digital, audio and video journalist with experience reporting from Arizona, Southern California, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Tarryn produces in-depth and investigative content for WAER while overseeing the station's student reporter experience. She is also an adjunct professor at Syracuse University.