As weaponized drones become an increasingly common method of warfare, activists are speaking out against them.
Members of the Western New York Peace Center embarked Wednesday on a 165-mile "Undrone Upstate" walk to heighten awareness about drone strikes.
The pro-peace walk will span from the Hancock Air National Guard Base in Syracuse to the Niagara Falls National Guard Base. Both bases are sites of drone operations, including training and remote piloting of drones over Afghanistan.
The peace walk will include stops at colleges and community centers along the way, where activists will speak out against weaponized drones.
Victoria Ross, the Western New York Peace Center's interim executive director, says casualties overseas aren't the only way drone strikes are harming people.
“The people who are operating them, our own service people, get PTSD at a higher rate than boots on the ground because they see the people they follow and then they see the body parts fly. And they’re not in a warzone. They’re going home to their families, having lunch with their kids. So the cognitive dissonance is intense,” said Ross.
She maintained that U.S. drones used overseas end up killing more civilians than targets. But she said the focus of Undrone Upstate is not only on the military’s use of drones overseas, but the integration of drones into our own airspace.
“The FAA has been asked to integrate drones in our domestic airspaces and some of those are for police departments. They’re not weaponized yet, but when there’s this claim that there’s a war on police, which actually the rate of killing police has gone down, that feeds into the idea that we’re going to start using them there. And then we’ll just see how terrible they are for people,” said Ross.
The walk follows the recent bombing by U.S. forces of a Doctors without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, which activists have branded a war crime. WBFO reached out to several contacts in the local military arena, none of whom would comment on the issue of drones.
Last month, members of the New York Air National Guard's 107th Airlift Wing in Niagara Falls completed a three-day mission that involved remotely piloting combat air patrols, the unit's first MQ-9 operational mission overseas without assistance from other units. The three-mission conducted at a classified location involved 23 members of the wing.