'Don't Look Away' protest in Northampton calls for reparations for Afghan family – GazetteNET

Claudia Lefko and Nick Mottern, dressed as the Grim Reaper, walk a replica of a U.S MQ-9 Reaper drone across Main Street in Northampton, Saturday, in a protest against the U.S. military’s use of drones and the deaths of an Afghan family during an Aug. 29 attack in Kabul. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS
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NORTHAMPTON — A replica of an unmanned aerial vehicle used by the U.S. Air Force was pushed down and across sidewalks by the mythical figure most synonymous with death, the Grim Reaper.
City resident Nick Mottern sported the dark hooded cloak and wheeled the replica of the MQ-9 Reaper through downtown Northampton near the front of the former Hampshire County courthouse. The action was part of a “Don’t look away” protest in support of justice for the Ahmadi family, who were killed in a Reaper drone attack in Afghanistan on Aug. 29. Mottern was joined by 10 others who were calling for immediate payment of reparations to the Ahmadi family as well as the release of all videos and documents related to the Aug. 29 attack to determine who was responsible for the deaths of the Ahmadis, possibly including President Biden.
“What we’re trying to do is let people know that drone warfare is still going on,” Mottern said.
Initially, the U.S. military had claimed that the Kabul drone strike destroyed a car allegedly containing explosives and driven by an Islamic State sympathizer, and described the strike as “self defense.” But independent investigations conducted by The Washington Post and The New York Times questioned the claims as both newspapers were unable to find evidence of explosives in the car that was driven by Zemari Ahmadi, an engineer working for U.S. nonprofit aid organization Nutrition and Education International, which aims to eliminate malnutrition in Afghanistan, according to a report by National Public Radio.
In September, the U.S. military revised its account, saying that it had made a “tragic mistake.” The drone strike killed 10 members of the Ahmadi family, including seven children.
The protest was supported by a collaborative effort between Traprock Center for Peace & Justice; Continuing the Political Revolution Peace Task Force; The Resistance Center and its Demilitarize Western Mass Campaign: Vigil to Stop the Wars; and Bankillerdrones.org, which Mottern helped co-coordinate.
The MQ-9 Reaper is the primary offensive strike unmanned aerial vehicle for the U.S. Air Force, according to military.com. The Department of Defense describes the MQ-9 as 36 feet long, 12.5 feet high, and as having a wingspan of 66 feet, and carries up to four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
Several of the morning’s participants were longtime protesters who have been protesting war for more than three decades, like Charlie Peck of Springfield. Roughly once a week, Peck said he protests war in front of the old courthouse.
Similarly, Andy Larkin of Northampton has been joining others like Peck since he retired in 2005.
“I’ve been coming regularly to lend my voice to what I regard as an important issue — how we are wasting money and spending money on war and we could be spending this money on social services,” said Larkin. “It’s just a gentle reminder here that we think this is wrong.”
Paige Bridgens of Northampton, who toted a sign that said “Drone Killing Takes No Holidays!”said she felt Saturday was a particularly important issue to stand up for. Bridgens also felt that drones in mainstream culture was becoming normalized, but believes that it shouldn’t be.
“I feel very strongly that we should not be funding this and it should not happen,” she said. “I hope people walk away with a heightened awareness and people will be rising up to say no.”
The Northampton protest was one of 11 protests throughout the U.S. from Nov. 27-29. Other protest sites were in New York, Iowa, Virginia, California, Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee and Hawaii.
In addition to seeking justice for the Ahmadi family, the group stood in protest of military defense contractor L3Harris, which has a factory in Northampton that makes optical targeting systems. In its other locations, the company makes surveillance cameras and missile release systems for the MQ-9 Reaper, such as the one that killed the Ahmadis, according to Mottern.
“I hope that people will be aware that drone warfare is still continuing and that drone killing is war and we are at war,” said Mottern.
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