Street Heat: Does Hancock Feel the BURN?

From the November/December 2016 PNL #853

by Ed Kinane

In the eighties the second wave of the US anti-apartheid movement—focused then on South Africa—was at a boil. In those days “Doonesbury” had a prescient sequence satirizing the “activists” tied to their computers.

I too mostly dwell in the computer-domesticated indoors, generating or responding to email and chasing links. On-line is now my comfort zone. Maybe too comfortable.

With Occupy and the Arab Spring and Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock, I’ve come to think that here and abroad, historically and currently, much—maybe most—grassroots change only really begins when people, taking to the “street,” join en masse in solidarity and indignation. But we’re far less likely to mass anywhere if, in the first place, we seldom venture to the street.   

So that is partly why some of us engage in what we call “street heat.” Street heat is a way to get off our duffs, to break out of our cocoons, to overcome that hesitation to go public. It gets us standing up for what we stand for.

Since late 2009 for 45 minutes beginning at 4:15 pm every first and third Tuesday of the month a handful of us—sometimes more—have been gathering across the road from the main entrance of Hancock Air Base. This is when the day shift changes at this Reaper drone hub. (On Saturday mornings and other Tuesdays we also do street heat elsewhere at busy intersections around Syracuse.*)

It happens that Tuesday has come to have a macabre significance: each Tuesday Mr. Obama and his advisors choose the drone assassination targets for the next six months in the Islamic oil lands—assassinations immoral and illegal.

While tactically clever and corporationally enriching, this tactic is strategically stupid—among other things, such terrorism is a notoriously effective recruiter for Al Qaeda, ISIS and their ilk. (Pentagon contracts boost the burgeoning drone industry. NUAIR, Syracuse’s drone industry lobbyist, seems intent on glomming on to a chunk of that bonanza.)

Hancock AFB is contiguous to the Syracuse International Airport on the north edge of the city in the town of DeWitt. There with our signs we stand facing Hancock’s main gate and the rush hour civilian traffic along East Molloy Road. We want to “out” the 174th Attack Wing of the NY National Guard based at Hancock. The 174th remotely operates those Reaper drone robots 24/7 over Afghanistan and probably elsewhere. Hancock is in our back yard—if we don’t expose such war crime, who will?

By our presence and by our signs, we seek to prick the conscience of the 174th’s personnel, cogs in the Pentagon’s war machine. Our bold hand-drawn signs declare US Out of the Middle East and Drones Fly, Children Die and Ban Weaponized Drones and Weaponized Drones=Terrorism, etc.

Without our stalwart presence year in, year out, it’s too easy, given US mainstream media, for the public to forget that the US has embarked on deliberate corporation-profiting perpetual war—an Islamophobic war on numerous fronts, a war not on terrorism, but of terrorism. And it’s too easy for Hancock drone operators, leading their sequestered, classified, indoctrinated, computerized lives to forget they help perpetuate the maiming and killing—all the while risking PTSD.

It’s hard to measure, but ongoing street heat is part of that relentless persistence needed to dent the Pentagon’s hegemonic designs. Without such presence and persistence—also occurring at various other US drone bases—drone warfare would surely become even more normalized than it already is.

The local mainstream corporate media has pretty much ignored us over the years—after all, hey, why alienate future drone industry advertisers or discourage drone industry entrepreneurs? The beauty of street heat, operating under the radar, is that it reaches at least a segment of the public despite the media blackout. While many drivers-by avert their eyes, some—whether with obscene shouts…or honks and gestures of encouragement—take notice.

You are invited to join us at street heat—please give it a try, either outside Hancock AFB or at one of our other locations once the weather gets warmer. If you’ve never done this before, try it out—with a group of friendly, like-minded people—and help break the silence.

*From early November through the end of March - the cold and dark season - we scale back, going out only on first Tuesdays.  See page 4.


The October 5 Street Heat focused on Keep Space for Peace Week. Pictured are Ed, Barbara, Dave, John, Leslie and Ann standing across the street from Hancock Air Base's main entrance.  Photo:  Carol Baum.



Ed's first PNL article about Hancock, "Drones and Dishonor in Central New York," was published in October 2009.  To join the campaign, reach him at