SPD’s public display of their Draganflyer X6 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (AKA “drone”) Thursday at Garfield Community Center was supposed to give people a chance to see the camera-toting remote-piloted helicopter in person and give residents the chance to ask questions about how it would be used.
However, a group of protestors had other ideas for the meeting, shouting down the officers with chants and disruption for much of the meeting time. Many people have concerns about increasing the police department’s surveillance tools, while others see it as the start of dystopian worlds depicted in novels like 1984.
One protestor took to Twitter, and the @SeattleDrone was tweeting sarcastically before the meeting had even ended:
SPD says the machine, which can only fly for about 15 minutes at a time, will give them new tools for gathering information during dangerous incidents. Mayor McGinn told residents at a town hall at Kawabe House recently that he sees the drones as “a low-cost alternative to having a helicopter” at the scene. He also said the drone would not be used until there is a public process to determine its use guidelines.
More details on the meeting from the Seattle Times:
It was hard to hear Thursday night what Assistant Chief Paul McDonagh was trying to say about how the Seattle Police Department hopes to use drones to save lives and increase public safety — what with the chanting of “no drones” and the loud cries of “murderer” and “shame” drowning him out.
The first community meeting seeking public opinion on the department’s plans to use unmanned aerial systems, or drones, for law enforcement was taken over by protesters who prevented McDonagh from talking for more than half of the two-hour meeting.
The meeting, held at the Garfield Community Center, was attended by about 100 people. A few sat quietly and tried to listen, a few wanted to see the drones for themselves, but the majority were there to challenge police powers.
UPDATE: Commenter Jerry Whiting posted a link to this video of the meeting in the comments of our previous post (protestors enter around the 11:00 mark):