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Activists walk to protest plans for drones at Des Moines military base

Peace activists are walking from the Quad Cities to Des Moines in protest of the Iowa Air National Guard’s plan to fly drones from its base in Des Moines. The 190-mile hike will take several days for members of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Maya Evans says they hope to inform the public about the American military’s use of the unmanned aircraft and the places in Iowa that manufacture parts for them.

“The people of those countries, they look at these horrible weapons and we’re not stupid,” Evans says. “We know that these weapons are inhumane. We know that on the whole they kill civilians in the countries that we’re at war with and we don’t want that.” Evans says she believes this is only the beginning for anti-drone demonstrations.

Evans says, “We may be few in number today but we represent hundreds of thousands of people.” About ten people are taking the pedestrian protest to Iowa’s capitol, a journey that began at the Rock Island Arsenal — the military installation on an island in the Mississippi River between Davenport and Rock Island, Illinois.

Brian Terrell, from the southwest Iowa town of Maloy, is one of the group’s coordinators. Terrell says he recently served six months in prison after being arrested at a drone protest in Missouri.

“These drones are gonna’ be flown from Iowa very soon and this doesn’t mean what the government is telling us it means, it means a whole lot more,” Terrell says. “It’s a very perilous and dangerous route to be going.”

At night, the walkers stop and camp or stay with members of other peace groups. When they reach Iowa City this afternoon (Friday), the group has plans to hold a vigil downtown and speak at a public forum at the library. It’s one of many speaking engagements they have planned along the route.

The Iowa Air National Guard plans to phase out its F-16 fighter jets this fall and shift to the M-Q-9 Reaper, an unmanned drone. The Guard says the drones will be based elsewhere and remotely piloted from Des Moines on missions primarily overseas.