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What Happens When You Talk to the Public About Drones

The purpose of the 2012 Know Drones Tour is to do sidewalk public education, working with other groups to help generate a citizens movement to stop US drone attacks and to stop further development and sale of killer drones and spy drones.

The purpose of the 2012 Know Drones Tour is to do sidewalk public education, working with other groups to help generate a citizens movement to stop US drone attacks and to stop further development and sale of killer drones and spy drones.

The first phase of the tour was conducted between April 12 and May 27, when the tour team visited the home districts of five members of Congress who are on the Congressional Unmanned Systems (Drone) Caucus.

Here are observations based on street corner conversations with hundreds of people over the last month and a half in Brooklyn, southern New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore and northern Maryland as well as at a national convention of the Islamic Circle of North America held in Hartford last weekend.

1. In spite of the increasing press coverage of drone warfare, and drones coming to US airspace, most people with whom we spoke did not know in any meaningful way what drones are or how they are being used. Most were surprised to learn that the police can now use small drones, up to 25 pounds in weight, and that drones of any size will be permitted in US airspace by September, 2015.

2. Most people were very appreciative of being provided with information.

3. Most people absolutely object to the idea of police or the military using drones to monitor them, either by visual surveillance or through monitoring cell phone and text messaging. It was through conversation about this that people came to more fully sense how people overseas are reacting to drones and drone attacks. People do not want to be watched from the sky nor do they want flying robots carrying weapons. Most people think that drones of any kind in US airspace threatens them as air passengers.

4. All African-Americans with whom we spoke are opposed to US drone warfare and police use of drones in the United States. There is opposition to the drones not only because of the killing – and killing exclusively people of color – and further expansion of police power but because of the increasing billions going into drone development instead of dealing with devastated educational and human services systems.

5. Most people are offended when they find out that their member of Congress is getting money from drone makers and readily sign post cards urging their member to redirect their drone contributions to victims of drone attacks. At the same time, many people do not know who represents them in Congress.

6. Most people have no meaningful knowledge about the places and the wars in which the US is currently involved with drones – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia – or why the US is involved. Only a few had an awareness of the role of resources – oil, minerals, agricultural products, labor – in these conflicts.

7. Peace/anti-war organizations have few active members and even fewer who are interested in drones internationally or domestically. Most people who assisted with the tour are working on multiple tasks involving local survival, such as stop and frisk, police violence, fracking, coal-fired/gas-fired electric power generation and toxic pollution of water. These are all national problems from which the federal government has fled.

In southern New Jersey we were told that several people in the peace community did not want to be associated with opposition to drones for fear of not getting or losing work.

8. We are getting requests to go to additional places with the tour in 2012, and we are getting requests to supply more people with drone replicas.

In Phase Two, the tour will visit:

June 16 – 17 – The Clearwater Festival, Croton Point Park, Croton on Hudson, NY.

July 2 – 4 – Independence Mall, Philadelphia, PA.

July 12 – 18 – The Columbus – Dayton area in Ohio.

We will also be looking at the possibility of supplying drone replicas for use at the presidential conventions in August and September. Phase three of the tour will take us to southern California in October, and there are requests for the tour to visit Virginia Beach, Virginia in October and possible western Massachusetts in November.

Drone replicas have been requested by people in Indiana, Albany, NY, Hawaii, Oregon and Wisconsin. We will be building five additional Reaper replicas in June and July, 2012 to meet these requests.

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