About 100 activists marched in south Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon to protest the use of aerial drones by the U.S. military and to speak out in general against military involvement around the world, including the war in Afghanistan.
With signs and banners in tow, protesters gathered at 1 p.m. and later marched along Lake Street before heading to the Church of St. Albert the Great.
“The reality of the situation is that there is a lot of collateral damage, and it’s turning people against us,” protester Riley Hunter, 20, the student body president-elect of Augsburg College in Minneapolis, said about drone strikes. “Sometimes we are killing people we are not trying to.”
The U.S. military has increasingly relied on drone strikes inside Afghanistan, with the amount of weapons fired from unmanned aircraft increasing from 294 in 2011 to 506 last year, the Associated Press recently reported.
The Afghan government has complained that the strikes sometimes kill civilians.
“That’s a very blatant disregard for those lives,” said Jo Reisdorfer, a Minneapolis resident, who marched Saturday with a friend. “It just breeds hatred toward us.”
Drones may take on an expanded role domestically, as well. That could range from farmers who apply pesticides to crops to searches for missing persons.
Drone-related legislation to limit their use has been introduced in more than 30 states this year, largely out of fear of potential privacy issues. Many of the bills would stop law enforcement, which is expected to be one of the largest initial markets for civilian drones, from using them for public surveillance without just cause.
A bill introduced earlier this year in the Minnesota Legislature would prohibit the use of drones to gather evidence about a person except to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack, if there is suspicion that it is needed to prevent imminent danger or after obtaining a warrant.
“I see very little potential in a positive sense for drone use in the United States,” Hunter said, adding that he hopes there will be more discussion about how drones should be used domestically
Saturday’s demonstration, which was sponsored by the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition, is part of a month of antiwar and anti-drone demonstrations being held across the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495 Twitter: @stribnorfleet