Brian Terrell speaks at MU about his arrest, protesting drones

Friday, November 16, 2012 | 2:40 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — In about two weeks, Brian Terrell will begin a six-month federal prison sentence. Before he leaves, he is traveling across the Midwest to speak out about his arrest, what led to it, and why he was willing to risk imprisonment.

Terrell spoke Thursday evening at MU about his arrest and his opposition to drone strikes. Terrell said he wanted to speak at MU because it is close to the base where he was arrested.

On April 15 at the Whiteman Air Force base in Johnson County, Terrell and two others were arrested for trespassing while trying to deliver what activists described as an indictment condemning drone usage to the base commander. Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles controlled by remote that Terrell believes are unethical and break international laws.

As part of the Trifecta Resista, Terrell took part in an anti-drone protest outside of the Air Force base with about 40 other people. Three members of the crowd — Brian Terrell, Ron Faust, and Mark Kenney — brought a piece of paper to the front gate listing their grievances, explaining why they believe drone usage is illegal and immoral. Shortly after that, the three men were arrested for trespassing.

"We told them that it was our right and our obligation to be there, and we were not leaving," said Terrell. "So we were handcuffed and thrown into the back of a van."

Drones are small planes equipped with high-definition video cameras, controlled by a soldier with a joystick at a U.S. Air Force base. The drone flies over countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan. The machines carry missiles.

"They are watching and looking for specific targets, perceived threats or possible patterns," Terrell said. "When they drop those missiles, they are taking part in combat but they are killing from an office."

This means if the drone were shot down, a machine — rather than a life — would be lost. Terrell said the use of drones is more about politics than protecting people, though.

The missiles carried by the drones are called Hellfire missiles, and the drones used at Whitehead are called Predators. On impact, the missile reaches about a 30 kilometer radius.

"The government has the arrogance to say where Hellfire goes," Terrell said.

Beyond that, these drone attacks are violating international and domestic laws, said Bill Wickersham, an adjunct professor of peace studies at MU.

"Treaties are supreme law but we aren't paying any attention to that," Wickersham said. "We just go and do whatever we want to do."

According to Terrell, he did not commit a crime and did not want to be arrested, but will use the situation to his advantage. 

Terrell first found out about drones in 2009 during a protest outside of nuclear testing facilities in Mercury, Nev., with part of the Nevada Desert Experience.

"About 30 miles from Creech Air Force base, which specializes in desert warfare, we saw these little planes flying around," Terrell said. "We simply asked what they were."

Later that year, Terrell took part in his first drone protest outside of that same Air Force base.

"We convened outside and prayed together," Terrell said. "Then we tried to go inside and convince them to stop."

Through websites such as No Drones Missouri and talks in Midwest cities, Terrell is spreading his story as much as possible before his jail sentence begins. 

"The targets are some times children ..." Terrell said. "U.S. citizens have been targeted, and innocent people die, too. They don't know when and if they are going to be hit. This is not making things any closer to peace."

Supervising editor is Karen Miller.

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