CHICAGO: Vigil urges Boeing to divest from Predator Drones

31 July 2009
CHICAGO: Vigil urges Boeing to divest from Predator Drones

On Wednesday, 22 July 2009, members and supporters of Christian Peacemaker Teams participated in a silent funeral procession that drew attention to Boeing’s role in the production of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles—UAVs) that have killed over 700 civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  

To a slow, steady drumbeat, the procession of about forty mourners, dressed in black and bearing a coffin, moved through the streets of downtown Chicago from the Federal Building to Boeing during the noon lunch hour.  A large model Predator drone hovering above the procession caught the interest of passersby.  Participants carried signs urging Boeing to divest from drones and death and distributed leaflets detailing some of the startling facts about drone warfare.  

The procession culminated at Boeing’s world headquarters beside the Chicago River where the mock drone fired a fake missile at the mourners.  At that point, four CPTers, who had entered Boeing through a side door, spread blood-stained sheets on the lobby floor and lay down to simulate those killed in the attack.  In an effort to intimidate and frighten, Boeing security quickly brought out two dogs on leashes that barked and snarled inches away from the faces of the CPTers lying motionless on the floor.  Security whisked the dogs away when another CPTer began videotaping the scene.  

About five minutes later, after a large crowd of Boeing employees had gathered to see what was going on, Chicago Police arrived and arrested David Hovde, Zach Selekman, Melanie Southworth, and Derek Zika.  Southworth explained, “It is our responsibility to bring to light the role Boeing has in the killing of innocent civilians and its war profiteering.”  

The mock funeral procession reenacted actual funerals in Afghanistan that have been bombed by drones since 2007.  Boeing designs the intelligence systems for the Predator Drone, armed with hellfire missiles, used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and the CIA in Pakistan.  The vast majority of those killed by drones have been civilians.  Young soldiers in Nevada control these drones remotely through video-game-like consoles thousands of miles away from the people they kill.  The psychological impact on operators who engage in such robotic warfare and then go home to eat dinner with their families at the end of each shift is not yet known.

Participants ended their witness by lowering the drone puppet and dismantling it while singing, “Gonna lay down that Predator Drone, down by the riverside, and study war no more.”

CPT trainees who organized Wednesday’s vigil include Hannah Breckbill (Northfield, MN), Nina Chiba (Calgary, AB), Drew Herbert (Claremont, CA), David Hovde (Evanston, IL), Caldwell Manners (Omaha, NE), Julie Myers (Cleveland, OH), Zach Selekman (Pittsburgh, PA), Ryan Shiffer (Chicago, IL), Melanie Southworth (Toronto, ON), and Derek Zika (Statesville, NC).