Chicago, IL - Nahla Yafai, a Yemeni student in Chicago, was emphatic. “Drones have hit our country again and again. Many civilians and children have died, but no one knows here, except for our community. And now you know, and you must speak out.” In the past year, Yemen became the main destination for U.S. drone strikes in the world. Yafai stood with three other Yemeni women, all wearing shirts painted with their national flag at an April 6 rally to oppose drone warfare.
The month of April has been chosen by anti-war activists nationally as a coordinated month of protests against drones and the threat of new wars. In Chicago, the marchers went to the headquarters of the Boeing Company. Boeing CEO James McNerney is competing with the other top arms manufacturers for the growing budget for unmanned aircraft for the military. This year, the Navy is asking for designs for a new combat drone. Boeing is expected to propose its “Phantom Ray.”
Over 150 people joined the protest. Kait McIntyre of the Anti-War Committee of Chicago told the crowd, “We don’t want Chicago to be remembered as the birthplace of the next killer drone.”
Debbie Pope of the Chicago Teachers Union added her voice to the demand for cutting the military budget. Looking at the current crisis of school closings in Chicago, McIntyre added, “We need to cut the Pentagon and the war budget in order to have money for schools, jobs and healthcare.” She added, “Boeing is our poster child for military spending.”
Vince Emanuelle of the Iraq Veterans Against the War told people, “In the next ten years, the Pentagon plans that 50% of the armed forces will be robotic weapons.” The IVAW speaker declared they would oppose a U.S. war waged with robots and drones just as they have opposed the wars deploying U.S. troops.
The protest included a theatrical performance as well. Activists portraying Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Princess Leia from Star Wars stood outside the Lyric Opera House, located near the Boeing office building. As the audience streamed in, Leia pleaded for their help in saving her planet from drone strikes. Boeing’s McNerney is an opera buff and Boeing contributes to the Lyric Opera House.