KNOW Drones Tour

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The Brandywine Peace protests Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones.

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Antiwar group protests use of unmanned aerial drones

By KEITH PHUCAS
kphucas@timesherald.com

Wednesday, April 25,2012

 

 

UPPER MERION — A local antiwar group staged protests Wednesday to condemn military and civilian use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), known as “drones,” to kill America’s enemies on the battlefield or spy on citizens at home.

The UAVs armed with missiles are flown routinely in Afghanistan and Pakistan to target enemy combatants and terrorists, and drone strikes have risen dramatically during President Barack Obama’s administration.

The remote-controlled aircraft, which are typically equipped with cameras, infrared and other remote sensors, were first used for aerial surveillance.

Beginning at noon, Brandywine Peace Group and its associates gathered at the group’s familiar spot at the entrance to Lockheed Martin, at Mall and Goddard boulevards, where the group holds protests several times a year.

During this gathering, protesters set up an 8-foot-long scale model of a drone. The UAV replicas were built by Nick Mottern, National KnowDrones Tour director (knowdrones.com).

“It’s a weapon of mass destruction, these drones, they’re not as precise a weapons as the government makes them out to be,” said George Guerci, a Tarrytown, New York resident.

Guerci said UAVs sometimes kill innocent people on the ground and should be banned.

“It’s an insidious form of warfare, and we think it’s a very cowardly way to fight a war,” he said.

The group is taking part in the KnowDrones tour in the Philadelphia area this week. The tour aims to raise public awareness about the “expanding role and impact of these remote-controlled killing and spying machines on U.S. war policy and domestic civil liberties,” according to a Brandywine Peace Group press release.

After leaving the Upper Merion defense contractor site, the protesters planned to head to the Philadelphia office of U.S. House Rep. Robert A. Brady, a democrat who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and who Brandywine claims is a member of a “pro-drone Congressional caucus.”

The group was also slated to pay visits to the Philadelphia offices of Republican U.S. Sen. Patrick Toomey and Democrat Sen. Robert Casey.

Brandywine said there have been more than 200 reported drone strikes since Obama took office, five times more than under President George W. Bush.

“(Obama) has used them much more so than the former president,” Guerci said. “As far as leadership goes, he’s fallen down. We believe that he’s been severely compromised by the military and the Pentagon.”

The antiwar group is equally concerned about the wider use of UAVs proposed for surveillance by police departments in the U.S.

Brandywine Peace Group founder Robert Smith, a Philadelphia resident, is calling for an international ban on weaponized drones and any use of UAVs for domestic surveillance.

“The drone technology and surveillance is really having a significant, significant impact on the area of domestic civil liberties,” Smith said.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for licensing drones for domestic use, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research center in Washington focused on civil liberties issues and privacy protection.

In 2005, the FAA issued guidelines on the domestic use of drones, and 2012 reports show the agency has issued more than 300 drone licenses, according to EPIC; however, little information has been released on how those unmanned aircraft are being used.

On Thursday, the anti-drone tour stops at the University of Pennsylvania from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., which the protesters claim was chosen because of the school’s “drone technology and application research,” according to Brandywine Peace Group.

Friday, from noon till 5 p.m., the drone mock-ups will be on display at Independence Mall Visitors Center, 6th and Market streets, in Philadelphia.

Also at Wednesdays’ protests were Melissa Elliott, of Philadelphia; Marge Van Cleef, of Wyncote; Geoff Smith, White Plains, N.Y.; and Kwame Madden, Peekskill, N.Y.

For more information about Brandywine Peace Group call the organization at 610-544-1818.

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