Coming off our experience this past weekend once again protesting against drone killing, drone surveillance, and related acts of militarism at the Chicago Air and Water Show, I am more confirmed than ever in my view that air shows are a very effective place to get our message out to the public.
I should start by saying that the Chicago event is a free public event that takes place on public space along the Chicago lakefront, so it is especially suitable for public speech. Understanding that other venues may not afford the all of the same characteristics of the Chicago event, I offer several observations:
|Chicago Air and Water Show|
(1) The perfect nexus
When the war planes are roaring overhead, it is very easy for people to understand why you are there talking about war and weapons of war.
This is very different than the situation we so often encounter trying to speak to people on a street corner, where people rush on by, eager to get on with their busy lives.
There's nothing like an F-22 coming in low over the reviewing stand to focus people's attention on the problem of war.
|2012: Rev. Loren McGrail leads a discussion|
(2) The opportunity to talk to people
People come out to air shows to spend the day, often bringing their whole family. They're curious, and they've got the time to talk.
At our protests at the Chicago Air and Water Show, we've displayed a 1/5-size replica of a Reaper drone. That's a conversation starter, if there ever was one!
And there's no shortage of people to talk to: over a million at the 2-day Chicago Air and Water Show, for instance.
To paraphrase Willy Sutton: protest at air shows . . . 'cause that's where the people are!
|Guide to the protest at the 2012 Chicago Air and Water Show|
(3) Every air show needs a handout
We realized that the Chicago Air and Water Show doesn't provide a program book for attendees. So we print one and distribute it.
This year, we printed a 2-sided 17x11 sheet that folded to become a program book about the problem of drone assassinations, rendition flights, and other aspects of U.S. militarism, and distributed them to attendees.
(You can read the text of our 2014 Chicago Air and Water program book on the website of the Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantanamo.)
|2014: "Anti-war activists slam Boeing’s sale of arms to Israel"|
(4) The press shows up
We've found that the press comes to these events, and covers our activities -- especially if we do good press work in advance.
In many locations, the annual air show is a recurring story for the press, and they want to know what's new this year.
|More at #GazainChicago|
(5) We make our own press
We rely on a broad spectrum of media to get our message out.
It's extremely valuable to integrate our message into the social media relating to the air show.
|2014: "During a demonstration against Boeing, protestors held a die-in at North Ave. beach, where|
spectators came to watch the Air & Water Show." | Nader Ihmoud, PalestineinAmerica.com
(6) Room to practice creative nonviolence
One of the great things about the Chicago Air and Water Show is that there is space and time for us to practice an array of creative nonviolence.
This year our presence featured a die-in as well as food distribution by Food Not Bombs.
Two years ago, we featured a group of Buddhists doing meditation.
And there's room for multiple peace and justice groups to come do their thing side-by-side.
|2012: Members of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship invited onlookers|
to join them in silent meditation.
(7) A chance to learn and improve
For better or worse, air shows come back to our cities year after year. They're like clockwork.
That gives us an opportunity to look closely at our experience each year, think about what worked well and what needs improvement, and come back and do an even better job the next year.
Major air shows - Fall 2014
Mt. Clemens, MI
Virginia Beach, VA
Daytona Beach, FL
San Diego, CA
San Francisco, CA
Pearl Harbor - Hickham, HI
More fall 2014 air shows
(See August 16-17: Protest U.S. Kidnapping, Torture, and Drone Assassinations at the 2014 Chicago Air and Water Show Protest )
July 2014 - Many organizations from across the city joined the call by Anti-War Committee – Chicago, Jews for Justice in Palestine, U.S. Palestinian Community Network and 8th Day Center for Justice: Protest Boeing Death Machines in Gaza: Demand Chicago Drop Boeing from Air and Water Show!
(See No Drones Illinois Endorses Call to Drop Boeing from Chicago Air and Water Show)
(See Taking the NO DRONES! Message to the Masses at Chicago's Air & Water Show for full details.)
"Overall, a great success," said David Soumis. "We had a lot of people riding by in cars, buses, trucks, and golf carts. A lot of thumbs up, a few one finger salutes, a lot of questioning glares, and tons of people that could only see the hood of their car."
(See Welcome to Oshkosh! (got drones?) )
My jaw dropped when they opened the trailer and I saw the four KnowDrones model drone fuselages resting on foam cushions, with their wings neatly strapped to the front wall of the trailer. "These are some very, very serious people," I said to myself.
(See Nationwide: Getting SERIOUS About STOPPING the Drones Menace )