Well, this didn’t turn out the way The Seattle Police Department had hoped. Speaking at the Garfield Community Center Thursday night about a new unmanned aerial vehicle program, Assistant Chief Paul McDonagh was continuously interrupted by angry protesters who called the department “murderers,” “fascists” and questioned whether it should have the authority to operate drones in emergency situations over the skies of Seattle.

You can get a look at the action in the video above, with the protest starting in minute 11.

“I’m sorry, I just want to say this is frickin’ ridiculous,” yelled the lead protestor. “Seattle police do not have the authority to surveil on people. This is the same police department that shot a 70-year-old black man in his home.”

Another one says the UAV program is “bullshit.” Chants included: “No Drones. We say no to drones” and “Shame.”

Comparisons were also made to George Orwell’s “1984,” the landmark book which described a government-controlled state. One protestor called it the militarization of the “air above us,” while plenty of boos, F-bombs and birds are yelled and flipped.

The police department said in an operations manual that the UAVs “can be utilized in circumstances which would save life and property, as well as being able to detect possible dangers that could not otherwise be seen.” (Previously on GeekWireDrones over Seattle? Police to discuss unmanned aerial vehicle plan with residents)

The Seattle Times has more details on the protest, noting that Assistant Chief McDonagh was drowned out by the protestors for about half of the 2-hour meeting.

Here’s some additional reading on the matter:

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • Guest

    This is most unfortunate. The issue of drones was successfully drowned out by a fringe element who are vehemently opposed to police in any form. These are unarmed drones and the ill-informed protesters continued to insist that they would be used to fire upon senior citizens. S.P.D. already uses robots to do highly dangerous work like bomb detection and disposal, but apparently the loudmouthed buffoons who claim to represent me are willfully ignorant of the role of technology in law enforcement.

    Very, very unfortunate. Stories like this one make me question Seattle’s role in the technological world.

  • http://www.christopherbudd.com Christopher Budd

    I’ll agree with Guest about this being unfortunate but for the opposite reasons.

    The civil libertarian in me is opposed to this for a variety of reasons. And yes, I have issue with our increasing CCTV-ified society as well.

    There are good arguments to be made. But opposition protestors like this ultimately only serve the benefits of those in favor of this by making it easy to paint all opposition as (to use the word of Guest) “loudmouthed buffoons”.

  • lan

    The wording on when/how to use it is far too broad. And the decision to use them whenever they want goes through a single person, the Special Operations Bureau Chief.

    So they give us:

    1) A broad mission statement enabling drone use whenever

    2) In their section on specific plans they have a loop hole

    3) That loop hole is guarded by a single SPD officer

    4) The oversight committee is made up of SPD drone officers, SPD patrol officers and ‘professional standards section’

    So there is no outside veto, little to no outside oversight for a department that
    was just sued by the Department of Justice for it’s poor decision making
    and lack of oversight.

    This sounds like a bad idea as currently proposed.

  • http://wac6.com/ William Carleton

    I was late for the meeting and missed the protest, but the atmosphere was pretty uncivil for the forty minutes or so I was there. The police officers gamely persevered. The folks I felt bad for were the families in attendance – parents and teenagers who might have been able to engage more, had not some of the citizenry standing in the back been so rude.

    That said, I did hear perceptive and well-put questions from the floor. Where the questions involved the wisdom of policy, the police officers (politely) declined to answer. It seemed odd to me that no persons from the City Council or Mayor’s office were there (maybe they were and I missed them) to have the benefit of hearing the policy objections aired. (Here’s one example:one fellow wondered why, if some of the “mutual aid” use cases were to help in fire and rescue situations, the drones couldn’t be operated by the Fire Department; I think his point was that the potential for surveillance abuse could be lessened that way.)

  • Seattle Tech

    I say yes to drones. I am tired of the rising violence in this city. If SPD wants to fly a drone around my neighborhood I am happy to see the extra level of force. The only people who are worried about drones are the people who have something to worry about.

  • Garglet

    Isn’t it bad enough that we have our intelligence agencies contracting the TAVISTOCK INSTITUTE OF HUMAN RELATIONS in order to coordinate Communitarian propaganda across all news media? Isn’t it bad enough that the BANK OF INTERNATIONAL SETTLEMENTS coordinates the activities of 162 private central banks worldwide, in order to run all associated governments from behind the scenes? Isn’t it bad enough that the US has the highest incarceration rate of any country? You call this freedom? What are you fighting for, police officer? Tell me what you stand for? You work for a corporation that you will never be smart enough to even understand exists, you intellectual derelict. Quit your job since you don’t even know who you work for, and what you stand for. Drones? Come on, man.

Job Listings on GeekWork