The demonstration was outside a hotel where representatives from academia, industry and government were meeting for a technical conference on unmanned aircraft systems. Protesters stood along the busy street in front of the hotel holding signs protesting drone use as commuters drove by.
“In the right hands, drones can be used for some very constructive purposes. They can be used to monitor environmental spills or count bird populations or locate missing children,” said protest organizer Bob Goodman of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition. “But in the wrong hands — for instance in the hands of the White House or the military or the CIA — drones can be used in lawless and destructive ways.”
The conference and protest come amid growing criticism of America’s use of Predator and Reaper drones to gather intelligence and carry out lethal missile attacks against terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Speakers at the protest cited civilian casualties caused by drone strikes in those countries as an argument against what one called “death by remote control.”
President Barack Obama last week made public newly established drone guidelines. Among the rules is a preference for capturing suspects instead of killing them, which gives the U.S. an opportunity to gather intelligence and disrupt terrorist plots. The guidelines also state that a target must pose a continuing and imminent threat to the U.S.