Dressed in all black with solemn expressions on their faces, students from UC Berkeley and nearby schools stood on the steps of Sproul Hall midday Wednesday to silently protest the government use of drones both domestically and overseas.
About 40 demonstrators stood side by side in front of Sproul Hall, holding signs with phrases such as “Drones don’t make us safer; violence begets violence” to pique the interest of passers-by and inspire them to question the necessity of U.S. drone strikes in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen. Protesters also voiced concerns about the possible use of drones in Oakland.
“Drone strikes are not effective,” said Marium Navid, co-chair of the UC Berkeley Muslim Students Association’s political action committee, which organized the protest. “The more you hit these villages, the more you kill civilians. This is not just a Muslim issue; it’s a matter of social justice.”
During the hour-long protest, solemn music played in the background as several protesters silently acted out hypothetical drone strikes in scenes representing the calm before a strike, the panic during the bombing and the despair of the aftermath.
Many government officials, including former U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, however, have supported the use of drones in the military,
“They are excellent surveillance platforms to find out what’s going on in your enemies’ territory,” Blair said in an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations in January. “They can be used to attack hostile forces directly.”
But according to Navid and several other participants, drone strikes have created more destruction than good, often killing more civilians than terrorists. The killing of civilians influences people in bombed areas to become terrorists, Navid said, which directly opposes the government’s goals.
“Just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t happen every day to people all over this Earth,” said Nadya Tannous, a UC Santa Cruz alumna who spoke to the crowd on Sproul Plaza during the protest. “It is inhumane, and we are here to say that this is wrong.”
The protest also included an appearance by Danza In Xochitl In Cuicatl, an Aztec dance group on campus that also opposes the use of drones. Several members of the group drummed and danced in the middle of Sproul Plaza to bless the protest before the performances began.
“It really strikes deep and makes me determined to do something about this,” said Maddie Elias, a UC Berkeley freshman who stopped to watch the demonstration. “I knew that there was conflict about drones, but I didn’t know all this.”