Category Archives: Legislative

Meeting at Senator Schumer’s Office About Weaponized & Surveillance Drones

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Notes: Action and Meeting as part of the State-wide anti-drone actions in collaboration with Upstate Drone Action

Outside, six* of us gathered in the snow and blowing wind in front of the 3rd Ave offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand. A leaflet distributed for the action can be downloaded here. Within the first half hour, Ms Sydney Renwick, Director Community Outreach and Intern Coordination (for Senator Schumer), with whom we had an appointment later, together with a security officer from the building joined us in the cold

The message was basically: What are we doing demonstrating in front of the office of the Senator immediately before we have a scheduled meeting! It was like this had never happened before. We were also asked not to photograph the encounter (already one taken though)! Joan used the opportunity to explain why we were there and talk about the actions at Hancock airbase, one of the sites where drones are managed. As the snow and wind picked up, we were invited to proceed earlier than scheduled to the Senator’s offices and after due consultation, we unanimously agreed to this.

After warming up, Ms Renwick invited us to a Conference Room and we continued the discussion. After introductions, we began by inquiring what the Senator’s position was. Ms Renwick indicated that he has not made any public statements on the militarization of drones since 2009. He has successfully obtained federal funds for drone research for NY universities (i.e. Syracuse, Cornell, Rochester). And two testing sites for drones have been awarded to NY. It was also noted that Senator Schumer is aware of some of the recent “accidents” by drones, the most recent in DC at the White House, but also one in NYC in which a drone almost hit a NYPD helicopter!

We summarized our efforts to enhance public awareness on drone use around the world and to generate public support for a ban on the use weaponized drones everywhere and surveillance drones in NYC, NY State and USA: the 2013 campaign with KnowDrones city-wide, collection of signatures on a petition calling for a global ban and our meeting at the United Nations; development and lobbying among the public and city council members for a resolution that would ban surveillance and weaponized drone use in the city over a 3 year period; public education and informal surveys on the public’s views on drone use abroad and possibly in NYC.  (Noted to Ms Renwick that citizens surveyed at sites in Harlem, Brooklyn, City Hall said overwhelmingly that they did not want surveillance or weaponized drones used in the city)

In a more detailed review of the NYC Council amendments to the City Code on drone use, it was felt both were inadequate: Councilman Vallone’s draft bans weaponized and surveillance drones, but exempts city agencies, e.g. NYPD; Councilman Garodnick’s amendments requires a warrant for use of surveillance drones (no reference to weaponized drones). A state bill currently in draft form on surveillance drone use appeared to be the most comprehensive and protective of civil liberties, but without a reference to weaponization.

Moving to our “ask” it was noted that the use of drones overseas foreshadows possible domestic uses, especially with the militarization of NYPD (noted with concern the recent press article that NYPD will have machine guns for use against terrorists and protestors). How can the Senator use his influence, which is substantial in the State and City, to ban the use of drones for surveillance of people: individuals and groups and to ban any weaponized drones anywhere…..similar to global bans on land mines and cluster bombs.   (We noted, we are not talking about use of drone use by hobbyists, around airports….etc as these seemed to be under the FAA)

Ms Renwick did ask us….in a war (declared war situation) would we rather have US boots on the ground or use drones……but she understood that we were basically against war.

Ms Renwick was not sure how the Senator could really assist and she suggested we might contact Rep Peter King, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee.

We basically ended hoping the Senator would use his influence to ensure laws that protected our civil liberties and rights and that would ban weaponized drone use everywhere, including NYC. A wide range of drone materials were provided to her: from our website, the draft Code amendments and draft State legislation, Will I Be Next: US Drone Strikes in Pakistan (Amnesty International), You Never Die Twice: Multiple Kills in US Drone Program (Reprieve), and Living Under Drones (Stanford Law School/NYU School of Law).

And then we took photos in the hallway, near the elevators…..esp. for Joan who could show them to her judge, respecting his request that we contact our Representatives.

We thanked Ms Renwick for her time and asked her to inform us of any feedback from the Senator.

– Marty Rajandran
for the Granny Peace Brigade

*Edith, Eva-Lee, Joan, Marty, Phyllis and Mel from our neighbors list

Dear City Council Members, Don’t Accept an Expenses Paid Trip to Apartheid Israel

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City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Members Mark Treyger, Brad Lander, Antonio Reynoso, David Greenfield, Rafael Espinal, Darlene Mealy, Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, Corey Johnson, Ritchie Torres, Andrew Cohen, Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich, and James Van Bramer:

Dear City Council Members on the all expenses paid trip to Israel,

I write to express my shock and deepest sadness on learning of your proposed February trip to Israel.  I urge you to reconsider and cancel it on very legitimate grounds.  New York is not just any U.S. city – and Israel is not just any country.  A visit by you to a nation that has betrayed its role as an occupier – treating Palestine like an 18th century colony to be abused, exploited and punished – is without merit.

As headquarters for the United Nations, New York City enjoys the international prestige and financial rewards that the U.N. brings.  With its presence, however, come distinct responsibilities.  Besides the shocking pretense by Israel that it doesn’t have nuclear weapons – when THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS IT DOES – and its flaunting of repeated U.N. votes that have condemned its settlement policies, Israel has become a rogue nation.  What are you in the City Council doing in preparation for the thousands of overseas visitors coming to New York to attend the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty meetings?  Will you bring back word that Israel is coming out of its nuclear closet?

Israel practices Apartheid against Palestinians and any tour you undertake will be a tragic pretense. Will you be given an excuse for Israel’s use of white phosphorus weapons in their 2014 massacre in Gaza that killed over 2,300 people (over 500 children)?  What about the wholesale destruction of 1000s of olive trees on Palestinian lands – at a time when our planet is overheating and trees are the vital lungs for our earth?  Israel’s scorched earth policy to destroy Palestine’s people and infrastructure must cease.  Why pay court to their crimes?

As a New Yorker who has supported many of you in our struggle for justice against racism, I feel betrayed by your planned junket.  It does not bode well for the policies you will pursue in seeking racial harmony in this city.  The practice by the U.S. government of torture (rechristened “enhanced interrogation techniques”) in violation of Geneva Conventions does not authorize you to support Israel in violating the 4th Geneva Convention with settlements in occupied land.  I say SHAME   SHAME   SHAME !

On this, the day we observe the birthday of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr it is fitting to quote him for he was our nation’s Conscience : “When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Bow out of the trip – use your energies for the good citizens of this city that elected you to focus on healing.

Sincerely,
– Nydia Leaf
for the Granny Peace Brigade

P.S. To send a “Don’t Tour Apartheid Israel!”message to the 15 members of the NY City Council scheduled to take an all-expenses paid trip to Israel in February: click here.

Letter to Senator Schumer Regarding the Resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian Issue

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November 17, 2014

The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
780 Third Avenue, Suite 2301
New York, NY 10017

Dear Senator Schumer:

We, members of the Granny Peace Brigade, have been continually concerned with the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.   Thank you for your response of March 11, 2014, to the individual letter on Israel-Palestine from one of our members.  Our desire, of course, is to prepare useful activities for encouraging public interest in U.S. Government action aimed at conflict resolution.  Knowing of your concern, we have been in communication with helpful staff of your office since June requesting an appointment to meet with you for direct clarification of our point of view.  We were informed that no meeting could be considered before next Spring.

The 47 year conflict between the Government of Israel as Occupying Power of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, and  Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is truly tragic.  This is not a dispute between political equals.  Israelis and Palestinians have suffered in their homeland — Palestinians inordinately.

Having supported the 1947 United Nations partition of Palestine and recognized the State of Israel in 1948, does not the U.S. have a responsibility to promote the viability of the Palestinians as a people in their homeland?  It is of interest that they are Semites, are ‘children of Abraham,’ most are adherents of one of the three major Abrahamic religions, the whole land of ‘Palestine,’ once shared, was their home.  Of course, factors of cause and effect and action/reaction operate in perpetuation of the conflict. Continue reading Letter to Senator Schumer Regarding the Resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian Issue

New Yorkers Are Saying “NO” To Drone Use In The City

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The City Council had one of its regular meetings today (13 November) in City Hall. And the Grannies were there with the “new” Ms Gizmo questions on issues of drone use in NYC. As the below table notes, the trend seen from recent actions in Union Square and at City Hall is that a vast majority of those participating do not want drones used in NYC.

Today, there was quite a diverse group of people participating in the survey including a city housing inspector, a group of Pakistani-Americans, businessmen, students, home-makers, care-takers.

Best were the individual discussions demonstrating an interest and concern on the issues involved. Many of those participating carefully studied the eight questions before deciding their “yes” or “no.” And, we were clearly recognized by some of the Council members and their staff…..with several commenting that they have seen us and our flyer before. And they will see us again!

2014_11_totals_dronesurveyNote from Barbara H: I find question 8 most revealing.  Whatever participants think of the use of drones, they basically believe they are here to stay.  A significant proportion of responders are cautious of weaponized drones, as it appears to them to be a possibility in NYC. Although this is a very loose survey, it does add to our understanding of what the general public currently knows and doesn’t know about drones and their potential use.

(Click on the chart for a larger image.)

 

– Marty Rajandran, text and photos
– Edith Cresmer, chart
for the Granny Peace Brigade

HEY SENATORS: TALK TO YOUR CONSTITUENTS ABOUT PALESTINIANS AND ISRAEL!

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A short note to share this day of action organized by JEWS SAY NO and JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE outside the offices of our Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, condemning their support for the Israeli government’s systematic violations of the Palestinian people’s basic human rights AND their refusal to meet with constituents who do not support Israel’s policies.

The action started in the morning, with the Granny Peace Brigade joining in the afternoon, with the representations of the Palestinian children who were killed just a few months ago in Gaza. The Grannies,together with others, read out the name and age of the child and then placed his/her representation in a mock burial plot. The mood was somber. It was sad. What happened is a crime against humanity and our own laws: the federal “Leahy Law” which requires US funding to be cut off to units of a country’s armed forces that have committed a “gross violation of human rights.”

It’s about time we respect and implement our own laws…….but the reality, the US  implements most vigorously those laws which suit the corporate-government-military complex, EG PROFITS. We stand as a silent reminder that there are things more important that profits.

a representation of a Palestinian child

Our bottom line is peace, justice, and a respect for the humanity of all children, including Palestinian children and their families.

– Marty Rajandran
for the Granny Peace Brigade

NY City Council Hearing on the Climate March

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The Public Hearing on the Climate March was chaired by Donovan J. Richards, with several other members of the Environment Subcommittee joining. The objective was the Resolution 356 to support the Climate March in NYC, 21 Sept 2014 and its objectives, mainly to influence a positive outcome of the upcoming Climate Meetings at the UN in Sept towards a stronger national and global commitment in addressing climate change.

The Hearing opened with an overview of global warming by the Archbishop of Mexico! The Hearing concluded 3+ hours later with a strong statement by our Barbara Harris focusing on the importance of closing Indian Point, moving to renewable energy, especially solar energy, highlighting the efforts of CUNY  throughout the metro area to introduce solar  energy on rooftops, training programs on green energy, among other innovative activities that the city and Council can draw upon. The Chairman indicated that he expected that Council Members will be joining the March.He also emphasized the March was a “new” beginning to mobilize  actions at all levels in the city, state and country towards a carbon neutral future.  ACTION: Call our local council members ensuring they vote yes on Resolution 356 asap!

Continue reading NY City Council Hearing on the Climate March

Reading the Constitution on the 4th of July

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Dear Friends,

Just to share the almost perfect day in Central Park for the reading of the Constitution.

It was really cool in more ways than one……towards the end, light rain…..and then heavier. But spirits were high, even though this year, due to our location on the grass near Colombus Circle, we didn’t have much of an audience. Suggestions for better locations in the Park for next year are welcomed.

(Click on photos for larger images.)

2014_07_04_3_a

 

As usual, the presentations and commentary were led by Norman Siegel. Gale Brewer and Ben Kallos, City Council Member also joined the group of Raging Grannies, Peace Brigade and others….

 

 

The Raging started with a few songs and ended, in the rain singing a few more! The discussion focused on recent Supreme Court decisions…..with the recent unanimous decision on protection of information on cell phones. However it was noted with concern the conservative direction of the current Council.

2014_07_04_1

And then a bit of a boon for us, maybe. Ben Kallos, Council Member, Upper East Side, asked for suggestions for Council resolutions……and so he was reminded of the materials already sent to his office on the Ban Drone resolution. He expressed “serious” and asked us to call him and meet with his staff. Joan will follow this up.

– Marty Rajandran
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Keep New York Free of Weaponized and Surveillance Drones — Resolution to City Council

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CALLING ALL NEW YORKERS

You’ve heard of U.S. military drones spying on and killing people overseas. That could happen here in our hometown, so let’s stop it before it starts. There is precedent. On March 18, 2013, in Seattle, Washington, Mayor Mike McGinn ordered the city police department to scrap plans it had to roll out drones, and instead to focus its resources on public safety and the community building work that is the city’s priority. In Charlottesville, Virginia a version of the resolution presented below, calling for a moratorium on drones in Charlottesville, was passed on February 4, 2013.

Let us join other cities and persuade our City Council to pass a resolution banning the use of weaponized and surveillance drones in New York City. The Granny Peace has spoken with a representative in every New York City Council Member’s office about the resolution. Most often we spoke with the legislative director. Next we sent this resolution to all New York City Council Representatives and also to a staff member.

Below is an Anti-Weaponized and Surveillance Drone Resolution written by David Swanson and modified for use in New York City by the Granny Peace Brigade. The original resolution was presented to the Charlottesville City Council in December 2012. It is clear that drones are here to stay. Only by constant vigilance and outcry will we be able to stop the use of drones in NYC for all but humanitarian reasons. A resolution such as this would be a good first step.

 

Keep New York City Free of Weaponized and Surveillance Drones

A Resolution by David Swanson
Modified for New York City by the Granny Peace Brigade

 

DRONES, OR UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES (UAV) are aircrafts without pilots. Some are operated by computers on board, others by a human being in another location. The human operator can be thousands of miles away.

 

WHEREAS, United States airspace is the busiest in the world, “air traffic controllers handle 50,000 flights a day;”

 

WHEREAS, unmanned aircraft (drones) have an accident rate seven times higher than general aviation and 353 times higher than commercial aviation; On March 4, 2013 an unidentified drone came within 200 feet of an Alitalia passenger plane preparing for landing at Kennedy airport.

 

WHEREAS, the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 directs the FAA to create regulations that will enable drones to fly throughout U.S. airspace by September, 2015;

 

WHEREAS, small drones, 25 pounds or under, are now permitted to fly in general airspace below 400 feet for the use of police and first responders, with FAA permission;

 

WHEREAS, drones do not have the same capability to avoid other aircraft as aircraft piloted by humans on board;

 

WHEREAS, drones have at times gotten out of human control, in at least one instance having to be shot down, and drones are susceptible to electronic interference and having control seized electronically by unauthorized operators;

 

WHEREAS, drones can be used to film individuals or groups around the clock, in public spaces and through the windows of private homes, and to continuously monitor cell-phone and text messaging;

 

WHEREAS, drones are being developed that will use computerized facial images to target individuals and, once launched, to operate, autonomously, without further human involvement, to locate and kill those individuals;

 

WHEREAS, the rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of New York City;

 

WHEREAS, the federal and New York State governments have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States;

 

WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;

 

WHEREAS, the federal use of drones provides a poor precedent for their domestic use, drone wars having turned public opinion in Yemen and Pakistan dramatically against the U.S. government, drone strikes having killed far more non-targeted people than those targeted, targeted victims having included men, women, and children known by name and unknown, no targeted individual having been charged with any crime, no legislative or judicial or public oversight having been permitted, “double-tap” strikes having been used to target rescuers of victims of previous strikes, children and adults having been traumatized by the presence of drones, over a million people having fled their homes in heavily droned areas, drones having killed Americans in accidental “friendly fire,” drone operators having been targeted and killed on a base in Afghanistan, and drone pilots having suffered post-traumatic stress disorder at a higher rate than other pilots as a result of watching families for long periods of time before killing them.

 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the New York City Council calls on the United States Congress and the New York State Legislature, to adopt legislation prohibiting the use of drones for surveillance, and prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being.

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the New York City Council calls on the U.S. government to immediately end its practice of extrajudicial killing, whether by drone or any other means.

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the New York City Council declares New York City a No Weaponized and Surveillance Drone Zone, and performs the necessary legal tasks to transform this declaration into Code wherein weaponized and surveillance drones are hereby banned from airspace over New York City, including drones in transit, to the extent compatible with federal law.

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that exemptions will be made for hobbyists to fly remote controlled model aircraft and other unmanned aerial vehicles in specified areas, away from dwellings and the urban cityscape of people and buildings as long as those devices are not equipped to monitor any person, private residence or group of persons or equipped with any weapon.

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that drones will not be purchased, leased, borrowed, tested, contracted or otherwise used by any agency of the City of New York.

For more information and to get involved, contact the Granny Peace Brigade grannypeace@gmail.com

Download the resolution
Keep New York City Free of Weaponized And Surveillance Drones

New York City Council’s Lucky 13

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On October 13th word went out that the NYPD would move to evict Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park.

2011_10_14(6:00 AM – friend Laurie with Ann, Jenny & Joan P of the GPB )

Immediately the 99% swung into action, including three stalwart members of the Granny Peace Brigade, mobilizing a round-the-clock vigil to protect the occupiers. Thirteen members of New York’s 51-member City Council added their support, sending a letter to Mayor Bloomberg that clearly and elegantly stated their position:

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

We are writing to appeal to you not to enforce new rules at Liberty Plaza that would effectively evict the Occupy Wall Street protest. Please respect the deep traditions of free speech and right of assembly that make this a great, free, diverse, and opinionated city and nation. While we do not all necessarily agree with their point-of-view, we support their right to be there, and we feel strongly that it would be a mistake for the City of New York to evict them.

We agree that it makes sense to clean Zucotti Park, and to develop concrete practices to address the serious concerns of the lower Manhattan neighborhood. We were pleased to learn that discussions have taken place between local elected officials, representatives of Manhattan Community Board 1 and Occupy Wall Street toward a good neighbor agreement. We support such an agreement to improve conditions for residents, area schools, and local businesses and we ask that you support and enforce it.

When you announced yesterday that the park would be cleaned, you indicated that protestors would be allowed to return, suggesting to the public and the protestors that the Occupy Wall Street protest would be allowed to continue. The new rules you are enforcing, however – in particular the prohibition on sleeping bags and gear – is an eviction notice and potentially an unconstitutional closing of a forum to silence free speech.

The willingness of the protestors to sleep out overnight, and many of the temporary elements they have established – for example, the communications center and library – are fundamental expressive elements of the Occupy Wall Street protest. By enforcing new rules that eliminate these, you are abridging their rights of assembly and free speech.

These traditions of free speech, public assembly, and public protest are a deep part of our American tradition, honored best of all in the civic spaces of New York City. Whether you agree or disagree with what they are saying – and we are mixed in our opinions – we believe that it would be a harmful disservice to these democratic traditions to evict them.

Please reconsider the enforcement of these new rules, and work with the community board, local elected officials, and the protestors on regulations that address community concerns, but allow the protestors to remain.

Sincerely,
Gale Brewer, Daniel Dromm, Mathieu Eugene, Daniel Garodnick, Letitia James, Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Rosie Mendez, Annabel Palma, James Sanders Jr., Jimmy Van Bramer, and Jumaane Williams.

At a time when politics has turned into a cash-fueled partisan side show, we think it’s time to thank those public servants who stood with us and to urge our other City Council members who have remained silent, to step up and take a stand. What better way to support our brothers and sisters at OWS and other ‘occupiers’ around the U.S. than to call on our elected representatives to support the 99%.

If you are in New York City please join us  at our
Lucky 13 Phone-A-Thon
November 4th, 12:00PM-1:30PM
City Hall Park – Broadway & Park Place

– Fran Sears and Eva-Lee Baird
for the Granny Peace Brigade

VOICES AND VOTES AT UNION SQUARE

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(Click on the photos for larger images.)

2011_08_18unionsquare_3You see those plastic bags people are carrying today in Union Square?  They’re approaching the table where they will concentrate on voting with the 20 pennies in each bag.  It’s all about how they believe tax dollars should best be spent.

2011_08_18unionsquare_4People are getting on board with their votes and those empty tubes will tell the tale in time.  Everyone knows the results will be posted on our blog.

2011_08_18unionsquare_6Bud Korotzer, peace and justice activist on the scene photographically documenting grassroots activity, people “voting” where their taxes should be spent and…

…viewing War Resisters League literature.SONY DSC

“Take our twenty pennies and with them, vote where you want your tax dollars to go.”

2011_08_18unionsquare_5There were many votes for Education but today most votes were cast for

2011_08_18unionsquare_1JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!  There were stories shared by folks who were out of work and looking for employment.  Note  Ms. Gizmo’s JOBS tube.  We actually had to remove some pennies to make room for more before the event ended.

2011_08_18gizmo_unionsquare– Caroline Chinlund (photos 1&2)
– Phyllis Cunningham (photos 3,5&7)
– Bud Korotzer (photos 4&6)
– Edith Cresmer (chart)
– Eva-Lee Baird (technical support)
for the Granny Peace Brigade