New Yorkers Speak Out On DRONE Use By NYPD

“Should it be legal for the NYPD to use weaponized drones against individuals or groups?”

This was one of several questions posed to New Yorkers last Friday (October 10, 2014) as they walked by Nick Motern’s model Reaper drone and a gaggle of the Granny Peace Brigade, who set up a display and survey table in front of the State Office Building in Harlem. It was a perfect fall afternoon.

The survey attracted a lot of interest as well as questions by the passers-by. One young woman asked “What is a drone?” For Eva-Lee, the perfect question for a discussion on not only what is a drone, but how they are used world wide by the US military and the concerns about their use in the USA, leading up to asking the young woman to express her opinion in the survey. And she did: reading each of the 8 questions and choosing a colored pompom, red for No, white for Yes, to cast her vote. She was one of almost 70 survey participants that day, with all but one responding “NO” to the question of use of weaponized drones in NYC.

All the Grannies had a chance to chat with the survey takers, and to pass out copies of the two excellent handouts: Are Drones coming to your neighborhood/NYC Council Resolution on Drones and the NY Daily News re-print on the discussion of drone procurement and use. We encouraged them to contact their city council representative and express their views on the proposals to use drones in NYC.

Alice had a long session with Sarah, a high school student who was on a break and enjoying the afternoon. She took the survey, asking questions about drones and their use, as well as about the activities of the Granny Peace Brigade and KnowDrones. She sat with Alice for quite a long time, successfully attracting more young people to take the survey. And, before Sarah left, she mentioned that she has to do a project for one of her classes on “changing the world” and she would think about doing this on drone attacks.

Phyllis noted that one young man, yelled with both arms extended in the air, “There should be drones in every bad neighborhood ” three times. When he walked by me I asked him what he considered a “bad neighborhood?” An interesting discussion ensued: who and what determines “a bad neighborhood”, who determines who is a bad person, who would determine when to use drones for surveillance, who would make the decision to use weaponized drones and for what justification would these decisions be made. Much to ponder. The young man stated that he then thought that privacy would be invaded by drones and he certainly didn’t want them to hurt people as he moved to participate in the survey.

A man from New Jersey had his is own encounter with a drone. A local real estate agent was using one to survey a neighborhood. He found the humming sounds and the hovering frightening. In describing how the Reaper drones work to an elderly man, I described the constant humming sound, which can go on all day and night. For the villagers in Pakistan or Yemen, they never know when a missile will be launched. They all, especially the children, live in daily terror.”Do we want drones hovering above us in NYC?” A question most people responded “NO.”

I may have had the pleasure of chatting with the one who person who voted yes on the use of weaponized drones in the city! This was a pleasant middle age man. He felt that it is only a matter of time before drone technology will be used in the city. He felt that drones would help to curb crime, especially drug sales on the streets and crimes against persons. However, he did think that it was essential that controls be established on when, where, how drones could be used by the NYPD and that any use of drones be announced in advance so the public is aware of their use and reasons why. He did accept that NYPD may take liberties with any guidelines on drone use, as has happened in the controversial “Stop and Frisk” approach to law enforcement. During the discussion, it did come out that he had family that were in NYPD.

This was the first use of these questions and approach with the “Ms Gizmo” technique. It worked well! It generated interest and good discussions. And for those taking the survey, a thoughtful process. What we learned: some questions were confusing. Maybe there were too many questions, especially for street use on a working day. We look forward to feedback as we make adjustments for the next action. Date and Time to be announced!

We, the Granny Peace Brigade, stand by our position: No Weaponized or Surveillance Drones in NYC. Do speak to your City Council representative and share your views with them. We urge the NY City Council to set in motion an expansive process of public hearings prior to any actions to procure drones by the NYPD. Any decision on drone use will have far reaching implications on all of us!

Thanks to Alice, Eva-Lee, Nydia, and Phyllis for sharing their experience.

– Marty Rajandran
Photos: Marty Rajandran and Eva-Lee Baird
for the Granny Peace Brigade

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