Michael Bremer, of Chicago, Ill., leads a group of about 20 protesters June 10 across the Mississippi River from Rock Island, Ill. into Davenport, Iowa, via the Centennial Bridge during their march to Des Moines, Iowa. The group hopes to call attention to the U.S. government's use of drones to kill alleged terrorists. (Todd Mizener / The Dispatch via AP)
IOWA CITY, IOWA — Peace activists are marching across eastern Iowa to protest a plan to fly unmanned aircraft from an air base in Des Moines.
More than a dozen demonstrators are walking 195 miles from Rock Island, Ill., to Des Moines to raise awareness about drone strikes. The activists are trying to send a message and raise awareness about the drones, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.
“I do think if there are 100,000 people outside the entrance to the base for seven days in a row, I think it might have an influence on folks. But really you don’t know what it takes,” said Ed Flaherty, an Iowa City activist with Veterans for Peace.
That turnout appears unlikely, but the demonstrators say they’re getting a positive reception from observers.
The Iowa Air National Guard in Des Moines is ending its F-16 operation in the next few months. The unit is planning to replace those manned fighter jets with unmanned drones that will be controlled in Iowa but flown overseas.
Military leaders and some Iowa officials have praised the transition, saying it will preserve military jobs in Iowa.
“They are exciting new missions across the board,” Iowa National Guard Col. Drew DeHaes told The Des Moines Register this month.
But Buddy Bell, an activist with Illinois-based Voices for Creative Non-Violence who’s leading the anti-drone march, is more pessimistic about the change.
“Someone will sit in a trailer in Des Moines and control a plane flying over Afghanistan, for example, that drops bombs on targets,” Bell said.
Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs, who lives in Des Moines, said that’s not a project he wants in his backyard.
“I feel that the United States drone war is a form of terrorism, plain and simple. I don’t want my community taking part in that,” Jorgensen-Briggs said.
Walkers arrived in Iowa City on Friday afternoon, hosting a presentation about their effort for a crowd of about 75 at the Iowa City Public Library. On Saturday, they walked to Kent Park, where they planned to camp out before continuing east to Des Moines this week.