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Anti-drone protester begins jail sentence for violating order of protection

Tom Magnarelli
The MQ-9 aircraft at Hancock Field.

A drone protester was taken into custody in the town of DeWitt to begin serving a six-month jail sentence for violating an order of protection for a colonel at Hancock Air National Guard Base. Protesters argue that the colonel who took out the orders did so to get them off the base, not because they posed a threat.

Fifty-nine-year-old anti-drone activist Mary Anne Grady Flores, who was convicted of violating the protection order for being at a protest at Hancock Field in February 2013, said the order has no legal merit. 

“In my understanding, that was not the intent, to give out orders of protection on behalf of the military base,” Grady Flores said.

Her attorney Lance Salisbury says that orders of protection are typically used to protect victims and witnesses of crimes including domestic violence. 

“That’s kind of the concern, that they’re developing a new application of the use of orders of protection in the protected categories in ways that weren’t intended by the legislature when this was created,” Salisbury said. "You could see this applied across the gamut towards political protests, fracking protests, anti-abortion protests, seeking to use the tool in a similar way that is not really intended or designed to quell dissent." 

Maj. Sandra Stoquert of Hancock Field said while they respect the right to protest, they are using the legal means available to them to ensure that the airman, soldiers and visitors to the base are allowed to come in safely and uninterrupted.

“That’s the main point here is keeping the community safe and keeping our members safe,” Stoquert said.

Grady Flores’ attorney said he will file an appeal in the next couple of weeks to try to overturn the conviction.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.