CODEPINK began day two of our “Ground the Drones” campaign at the General Atomics HQ in San Diego bright and early. Our vigil outside the CEO’s home the day before had garnered some local media attention, so it was no surprise that news of this protest had traveled quickly. Members of the community letting us know that not only were there employees of General Atomics who would be staying home to avoid the attention, but the company’s leadership had also gone through the trouble of renting an extensive 7-foot high chain-link fence for the HQ’s entire perimeter.
When the protesters began arriving at 7:30 AM, banners and roses were added to the rent-a-fence. Messages like “Stop Drone Attacks,” and “General Atomics, Your Profits = Civilian Deaths” were placed to greet employees on their way to work.
Within an hour, there were 60+ protesters — mostly local San Diego citizens, but also activists from Nevada, Washington and cities throughout California. A picket line formed directly outside of the gate that the security guards were opening and closing for cars. Chants asking General Atomics to leave the Middle East and calling on President Obama to end the Drone strikes that have increased during his administration filled the air before everyone laid down for a die-in. After chalking the outlines to represent the civilians killed indiscriminately by drone attacks in Pakistan, we packed up and headed to a secondary GA entrance.
There was no chain-link fence the opposite side of the property, so cars came and went freely. A new picket line began, this time getting a great deal of attention from GA security and soon the police began arriving, one car after another. We carried banners, peace flags and model drone planes to make sure our presence was understood by General Atomics employees and any passers-by.
Our intent was simple: ask people to think about the company that they work for and hold the management accountable for the killing machines that they manufacture. Profits are not more important than human lives. Consider where the paychecks come from, and at what cost. This is one morning that we made it difficult to get to work, but there are mornings in Pakistan and Afghanistan when people never make it to work at all, or arrive to find buildings and roads destroyed by US attacks. General Atomics has other divisions that do not build instruments of war. Several employees gave us smiles and peace signs as they passed by. It was clear that the Predator and Reaper Drones were not supported by all of GA’s employees.
By 11 AM, there were three protesters sitting in the driveway, preventing any access to the property and creating a back-up of 7 or 8 cars along the road. Security guards turned them away, one by one and began threatening arrest. They rest of us continued chanting and marching around them, bringing them water and whatever else they needed. The police attempted to negotiate with them, but they all wanted the same thing: General Atomics to agree to stop making Drones. Since the police couldn’t deliver that, we asked that they contact the CEO, James Neal Blue, so that we could have the meeting we had requested weeks ago. The police couldn’t do that either. So the sit-in continued.
We are not asking for the impossible — just to stop building the drones that kill civilians abroad and endanger US civilians domestically. Stop building the drones that fuel the war and cause suffering and hate. Concentrate on your rapid transit technology and other peaceful programs, employing more people with that work. Concentrate on green jobs and technology that help people and communities by building a safe and sustainable future.
Profiting off of war, occupation and murder — and by extension, prolonging the violence — must not be tolerated. We are violating international laws by attacking countries like Pakistan, who did not attack or threaten the United States. We are violating US law since Congress did not authorize these attacks and in fact, the US government continues to avoid responsibility for them while the CIA oversees the Drone strikes.
After over an hour of preventing access to the GA headquarters and more than four hours of disrupting business as usual, CODEPINK, San Diego Peace Resource Center, and our coalition of activists packed up. We waved goodbye to the security guards and police, and promised to return.