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Veterans and community rally against drones at Jacksonville Naval Air Station

By staff

Jacksonville, FL – More than 20 war veterans and community allies from the North Florida area gathered outside of Jacksonville's Naval Air Station (NAS) to protest a new drone operations base run by the Pentagon. The protest, organized by Occupy Jacksonville and Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), drew supporters from as far away as Gainesville and Pensacola.

Protesters showed up outside the Naval Air Station commercial gate in the late morning on Oct. 26, carrying bullhorns and banners. Some protesters carried signs that read, “Down all drones” and “You can't make peace with bombs.” Others brought signs from last month's protests to stop the war in Syria, noting the proposed use of drones to carry out a strike on the war-torn Middle Eastern country.

The announcement that Jacksonville would host a major command center for surveillance drones came in February 2013 amid growing opposition by the community. According to the Pentagon, the center will cost an estimated $22 million to build.

“7.4% of workers in Jacksonville are unemployed right now because of an economic crisis brought on by a decade of war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Dave Schneider, a protester at the event. “The only class in this country that benefits from this policy is a small collection of banks and corporations at the top, while working people like us pay the price. We stand against drones because they terrorize our sisters and brothers overseas and destroy our future right here at home.”

Event organizers played anti-war protest songs through a megaphone, including the bluesy jams of Watermelon Slim, a strong VVAW supporter and Vietnam veteran. Soon after, the crowd heard from a few speakers who talked about the use of drones in the U.S. imperialist wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other oppressed nations. They called for an end to drone use by the U.S. military and for immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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