Saturday, July 22, 2017

Des Moines drone protesters ordered to pay $3,200 for police, firefighter costs

Four people arrested last month while protesting outside the Iowa Air National Guard base at the Des Moines airport have been ordered to pay more than $3,000 to the city, court records show.

They were arrested June 28 after blocking McKinley Avenue near the air base entrance while protesting the base's operation of military drones overseas.

Ruby Montoya, 27, Jesse Horne, 20, and Jessica Reznicek, 35, all of Des Moines, and Spencer Kaaz, 21, of Memphis, Tenn., were charged with disorderly conduct and interference with official acts. They were released from jail the day after they were arrested.

They've pleaded guilty and were ordered last week to pay a joint restitution amount of $3,241.01 to the city of Des Moines, in addition to other court fees, records show.

The money will pay for the work of several police officers, firefighters and city street maintenance workers who were called to the protest, which blocked McKinley Avenue for more than two hours.

Court records show a breakdown of the city's costs in responding to the protest: $1,222.18 for police labor costs, $1,141.56 for firefighter labor costs, $47.32 for city-owned vehicle response and $829.95 for street maintenance.

A larger group of people participated in the protest, but only Montoya, Horne, Reznicek and Kaaz refused to leave when police asked them to stop blocking the road. All four of them sat in the road with their arms in concrete barriers that they had set up. The fire department had to cut the concrete barriers to clear the road.

Police and fire officials on scene that morning described the protest as peaceful. Several of the protesters repeatedly said that they are nonviolent and promote peace.

The group of about 20 protesters was organized by Frank Cordaro, a former Catholic priest affiliated with the Catholic Worker House, who said he wants the Air Guard base to stop flying military drones, which he believes are killing innocent people overseas.

The protesters held signs that included the phrases "End war" and "End drone warfare."

Cordaro was not arrested that day, but he had previously been arrested outside the air base for trespassing. He and others had protested there regularly since May.

The 132nd Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard started using remotely piloted aircraft in October 2013, a switch from piloting F-16 aircraft, Iowa National Guard spokesman Col. Greg Hapgood said in a statement after the protest. The unit remotely operates MQ-9 Reaper aircraft overseas from the Des Moines air base, Hapgood said, adding that "the vast majority" of flight missions are focused on gathering intelligence and imagery about enemies.

Guard members "serve proudly to uphold the free expression rights" of protesters, Hapgood said, but he added that contacting U.S. senators and representatives would be more effective than protesting locally.

"Protesting here does nothing to effect change with respect to the national defense missions," Hapgood said.

The protesting has continued on a smaller scale compared with the June 28 road-blocking and arrests. Court records show Horne was arrested again outside the air base on July 1. He was cited for trespassing.

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