With drones seemingly more in the public’s conscience than ever, anti-drone activists have just launched their most ambitious campaign to date. Called the “April Days of Action,” the newly-formed Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare is coordinating protests in dozens of cities around the country — including Washington D.C., Atlanta, Philadelphia, Honolulu, San Francisco, Sacramento, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Des Moines — over the course of the month. (The full list of actions can be found here and new ones can be added to the list here.)
While protests of all sorts are now planned for nearly every day of April, organizers originally attempted to give some structure to the month’s actions by designating specific dates for different targets: April 4-7 for those against drone manufacturers, like General Atomics, the San Diego-based maker of the Predator and Reaper drones; April 16-18 for sites where drone research and training is being conducted, especially colleges and universities that are plugged into the military industrial complex; and April 27-28 for drone bases around the country. At the end of the month there will be workshops and panel discussions on drone warfare in Syracuse, N.Y., followed by a rally at Hancock Air Base, which has been targeted by activists many times before over its drone operations.
Under the enormous American flags hanging outside Rockefeller Center on 5th Avenue in New York City, dozens of activists turned out for one of the first actions of the campaign last week. By and large the crowd was made up of the usual antiwar suspects. Despite a noticeable dearth of young people, the Granny Peace Brigade kept things festive by singing their original anti-drone tunes. Several speakers addressed the crowd, including former U.S. Army colonel and diplomat Ann Wright, who resigned from the State Department to protest the invasion of Iraq. The lack of amplification, however, made it difficult to follow what was being said.
“It’s targeted assassination,” explained Richard Greve, a member of Veterans for Peace who attended the rally. “The people that send them are judge, jury and executioner all at once. They wind up killing a lot of people nearby who are totally innocent, like women and children. To me, it’s state terrorism. It makes people have feelings of revenge against us and it’s only creating more enemies.”
In their effort to sway public opinion and build a movement, however, anti-drone activists have their work cut out for them. While the public is strongly opposed to the use of drones domestically, a new Gallup poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans approve of their use to “launch airstrikes in other countries against suspected terrorists.”
Despite these grim results, Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin and Noor Mir argued in a recent article for Alternet that there are many hopeful signs that the tide is beginning to turn against drones. In addition to the unprecedented series of actions this month, they detail a flurry of new activity at the city, county and state level to regulate or ban domestic drones. They also point to new initiatives by Congress and the courts as evidence that even these lumbering institutions may be waking up to their responsibility on the issue.
The faith-based community is beginning to speak out as well. For example, in a surprising development, the National Black Church Initiative, a coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15.7 million African Americans from 15 denominations, recently “issued a scathing statement about Obama’s drone policy, calling it ‘evil’, ‘monstrous’ and ‘immoral.’”
The challenge before anti-drone activists will be to tap into this growing anger and translate it into collective action that involves a much more diverse group than is currently mobilized on the issue.
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Thanks for this report, Eric. While it’s in one sense nice to see so many people I recognize in that picture, in another sense it’s not.
I agree. I have to remind myself though that the movement is still young. At this stage, when the public is still generally supportive of the policy being challenged, the protests are generally small and involve primarily the long-time hardcore activists. That said, if it is to have an impact and build enough pressure to sway policymakers, it really does need to find a way to bring new people into the fold.
To me, a big question is whether this movement can cross the normal political lines. That was something Occupy had the potential to do, but didn’t. Same potential is here, too, especially after Rand Paul’s stand in the Senate. Did you detect any sign that something like that would happen? That there was openness to reaching beyond the left?
I think this movement definitely has the potential to cross political lines. I didn’t see any signs of that at this protest in particular, but I think there is an openness to it. In the article that I linked to by Medea Benjamin she offers several examples of new “left/right alliances” on the issue that are promising, however, they still seem to only be happening around the use of drones domestically. Given libertarians aversion to war more generally though, I could see collaborating with folks from that perspective to challenge drones abroad as well.
We led a Good Friday anti-drone liturgy at the Seattle federal building. Here’s a link to some of the photos: https://plus.google.com/photos/103056327907045748691/albums/5861003474617043809 .
Good thing the people don’t know about projects like DARPA’s Physical Intelligence. How are we supposed to achieve superhuman intelligence on this planet with the people getting in the way?
One of the reasons this has not become a national “issue” with hundreds of thousands in the streets protesting is the apparent lack of knowledge of what the hellish machines actually do. The population does not seem to either know or care about the fact that thousands of innocent people have been maimed and killed by Hellfire missiles launched from drones. Far more people know who “won” on some idiotic reality show than have any idea what a burnt body of as child looks like.