WASHINGTON: Defense conferences rarely attract much notice from the American public but we saw a spark today as a demonstrator leapt onto the stage while Rep. Buck McKeon spoke in favor of a strong defense and robust funding for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
“These drones are playing God,” the slight, middle-aged woman shouted, trying to unfurl a homemade banner as two plainclothes security guards jumped onto the stage to remove her. “Every time we kill with drones we create enemies,” she yelled as the security guards carried her out of the conference. “Stop the killer drones!” (We wonder how many COIN experts would agree with her.)
McKeon, who stood by watching quietly during the short-lived demonstration, continued his speech without commenting on the incident.
The female demonstrator was not alone. A baker’s dozen of demonstrators outside the Omni Shoreham Hotel here chanted “No Killer Drones.” They identified themselves as affiliates of the Occupy Wall Street movement. (Note what appears to be a pretty nicely done Reaper mockup in the photo. General Atomics can be proud of the branding they’ve done.)
The demonstrators, much to the good-natured annoyance of the Omni Shoreham Hotel’s security guards, tried to blockade McKeon’s car as he left the hotel. They were politely shown off and the congressman made it back to work unscathed.
McKeon broke no news really, showing up largely to show the flag in support of the UAV operators and makers. He mentioned a meeting he had last week with Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter at which Carter reiterated that the Pentagon is not planning for sequestration.
For those who want some more insight on what that might mean, see this new report by Todd Harrison at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Richard Whittle contributed to this story.