Demonstrators hold anti-drone vigil at Camp Ripley
A small group of protesters held a vigil outside the National Guard base at Camp Ripley Tuesday afternoon to speak out against the facility's use of drones.
Three demonstrators sat outside the main gate, holding painted signs that read "U.S. Drone Warfare is Terrorism" and "Camp Ripley: Cog in the War Machine."
Robin Hensel, who helped organize the vigil, said the base was "complicit in war crimes" for its use of unmanned aircraft systems, commonly known as drones.
"We want to stop all drone activity to do with militarization, because none of it's any good," she said.
The base uses two types of drones: the RQ-7 Shadow, and the RQ-11 Raven.
Hensel said the Shadow had become weaponized and that Camp Ripley was authorized to do "bombing runs" with the aircraft at the Miller ordinance range.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey, a spokesperson for Camp Ripley, said the facility does not have weaponized drones on base. The Shadow is only used for observation and is not armed, he said.
"We're happy that they're using the opportunity to come out and speak their minds," he said of the protest. "It's a free country, like we've always said."
Tuesday's vigil was timed with a larger protest in Germany against the drone program at the U.S. Air Force's base at Ramstein.
A similar protest at Camp Ripley in 2012 drew a number of counter-demonstrators that included former National Guard soldiers, other veterans and civilians. Camp Ripley's post commander watched from inside the gate as the opposing groups spoke their minds, sometimes to each other.
On Tuesday, there appeared to be one counter-demonstrator who had a large American flag next to his motorcycle. He left the area before he could be interviewed.
Hensel said another vigil was planned for later that afternoon.