Donning drone costumes and simulating a die-in on the steps of the Washington D.C. Convention Center, anti-drone activists staged a dramatic protest at the annual gathering of the powerful pro-drone lobby AUVSI (Aerial Unmanned Vehicles Systems Integrated) Tuesday.
Inside the conference, representatives from the top drone manufacturers—General Atomics, Boeing and Lockheed Martin—took in a speech by G-8 Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. James Barclay on the future of fully autonomous drones. Interrupting his talk, Alli McCracken, National Coordinator for protest organizer CODEPINK, walked to the front of the room and unfurled a large "Stop Killer Drones" banner.
“Are you going to talk about the innocent people who have been killed by the drones?” McCracken demanded to the crowd. “I have met with drone survivors in Pakistan and know that the use of killer drones terrorizes people in places like Pakistan and Yemen. Shame on you, AUVSI. You have the blood of innocent children on your hands. Time to ground the killer drones!”
After security escorted McCracken out of the convention center, CODEPINK founder Medea Benjamin noted that it is “important to shed light on the role of the pro-drone lobby in expanding the killer drones program." She added that all those companies represented at the gathering "are complicit in the crime of killing innocent civilians.”
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The conference, according to the Washington Times, includes an "impressive showroom" of products, ranging from airplane-size drones used by the U.S. military to small unmanned aircraft "that literally can fit in the palm of one’s hand." It also features speeches from industry leaders and high-ranking U.S. officials including Rear Adm. Mathias W. Winter, executive officer of the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons program, and Deputy Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari.