New York: Report on "No Drones Weekend"

from World Can't Wait, NYC chapter  

Fordham University’s commencement events on the weekend of May 18th-20th attracted advocates of justice as the university awarded an honorary doctorate to commencement speaker, John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security.  See more on Brennan here.

Brennan, an alumnus of Fordham and former senior CIA official, defended the US program of “targeted killing” by drone as consistent with international law, despite repeated evidence that such strikes kill civilians and would-be rescuers.  Brennan "is widely know for his advocacy of kidnapping-for-torture (aka 'extraordinary rendition') and killing 'militants' (including US citizens) with 'Hellfire' missiles fired by 'Predator' and 'Reaper' drone aircraft," wrote former CIA agent Ray McGovern, also a Fordham graduate.

Nick Mottern, director of Know Drones and an organizer of the Fordham protests, said: "We are challenging the white-washing and willful disregard of US war atrocities at the highest levels of government, religion and academia."  

On campus, opposition to the selection of the commencement speaker resulted in a petition calling for a repudiation of Brennan as antithetical to Jesuit values.  Students called on their fellow graduates to wear orange ribbons on their graduation gowns to symbolize opposition to the use of torture and to stand up and turn their backs when Mr. Brennan begins to speak to silently show their disagreement with his policies and what he stands for.

Student Report:

"Dialogue on campus about Brennan's commencement address) grew from two different petitions created by Fordham students and multiple articles written in the school newspaper, The Ram. Eventually, Fordham senior and organizer, Scott McDonald, requested a meeting with university president, Joseph M. McShane, S.J. to discuss the administration’s rationale behind choosing Mr. Brennan. During the meeting President Joseph M. McShane, Vice President Jeffery Gray, and the university secretary attempted to rationalize Brennan’s selection. In the meeting multiple comments were made by the administrative officials that were said to be off the record and were not allowed to leave the room, presumably to avoid giving scandal.
   
It was clear that there were many members of the Fordham community who disagreed with Mr. Brennan’s selection. Faculty even drafted a letter to the administration of Fordham asking for a meeting with Mr. Brennan to discuss his policies before graduation. Eventually administration agreed to the faculty’s request, but they only allowed one student representative from the Fordham Lincoln Center Campus and the Fordham Rose Hill Campus into the meeting....

The actions against Brennan gained so much recognition on campus that Mr. Brennan addressed the organizers during his commencement speech. 'Much has been attributed to me over the course of my career,' he said. 'And after recently reading some of the things that I reportedly have done, said, or have been responsible for while I was at the CIA and the White House, I must admit that I was deeply torn between giving the commencement address or joining the protesters and petitioners who have so energetically opposed my appearance.'

While Mr. Brennan, did offer to come back for a larger discussion with the Fordham student population next year, it is yet to be seen how “open” the dialogue will be. Based on events that occurred and the way the situation was painted, it is clear that the Fordham administration tried to look as accommodating as possible in the public eye, while still restricting speech and dialogue greatly behind closed doors."  For a complete report, go here.

 

See here for video of students handing out orange ribbons and leaflets about the protest.

In addition to the commencement protests, there were other protests about drones last weekend:

Friday, 5/18
Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, presided at the Fordham Baccalaureate Mass for the Fordham University Commencement for the Class of 2012. 
Eight protesters, with banners, and signs, stood outside the main Fordham gate on Southern Blvd. in the Bronx urging the Cardinal to speak out against the drones controlled out of Hancock Air Base in Syracuse, NY, which is part of his ecclesiastical province.

Saturday Report 5/19
On the morning of the main graduation event, held at the Bronx campus, protesters stood again outside the main gate with a drone model, two of banners and assorted posters.  Cars were lined up trying to find parking space so everyone who came by there saw us.  Close to 500 leaflets explaining the objections to Brennan were distributed.

Sunday Report 5/20
The Fordham Graduate School of School Service awarded an honorary degree to Congressman Edolphus Towns, a member of the Congressional Unmanned Systems (Drone) Caucus, a lobbying arm of the drone industry within the Congress.  A small group of protesters, with our model drone, posters and leaflets protested outside Radio City where this event took place.