After Wednesday night's Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee hearing in Seattle, where residents raised concern over the Seattle Police Departments attempt to use surveillance drones, the program was successfully killed.
After President Obama signed a bill last February that will allow as many as 30,000 drones to be flown by anyone from police to the Department of Homeland Security within the United States, Seattle became 1 of 50 organizations in the country to be granted permission from the federal government to start using drones.
“Today I spoke with Seattle Police Chief John Diaz and we agreed that it was time to end the unmanned aerial vehicle program so that SPD can focus its resources on public safety and the community building work that is the department’s priority. The vehicles will be returned to the vendor,” Mayor McGinn wrote.
The city was in the process of developing an ordinance to set up guidelines and regulations for drone use, but Seattle residents weren't having it. During an October public meeting where the department's drone was being showcased, police were overwhelmed by protesters also.
“The testimony opposing drones has been overwhelmingly clear that the 11 people who testified this afternoon, all of whom testified against the use of drones, was symbolic of the general reaction we are getting,” said Chairman Bruce Harrell.
Despite the privacy issues, many point to the fact that the department has been under federal investigation for "multiple cases of excessive force and biased policing" according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
One attendee at the City Council meeting, Alex Zimerman, President of StandUP-America, who has firsthand experience with corrupt governments after growing up in Russia, says he found this as no surprise that the unchecked Seattle Council had attempted to overreach their power.
"With 50% considered poor in America and another 30% just holding on, we need these 80% ordinary citizens to ‘StandUP’ to the corruption of the government.We need to StandUP against this dirty mafia family in the government," said Zimerman.
StandUP-America says they are proud that citizens showed up to voice their distrust in the drone program and encourage citizens to attend more meetings to stop any and all corruption.
Mia Jacobson, the group’s secretary said "If 11 voices can protect the people from flying government robots watching their every move - what can 20 voices do? What can your voice accomplish? The time has come to StandUP and bring back America which is of the People, by the People and for the People."
Sam Bellomio, Vice president of StandUP-America, says he is proud that this moment has come when citizens finally stood up to the abuse of power. StandUP-America has been going to council meetings for years now with the room completely empty and say it is encouraging to see citizen participation.
"The City Council would have crafted rules and used the invasive drones if it wasn't for those who showed up. I would like to say, also, that I have filed with the State and City on Tuesday to run for City Council so that one day citizens may be back in control of their Council and not a politician," said Bellomio.
Charlottesville, Va., also made news after it ordered a two-year moratorium on the use of drones, becoming the first city in the U.S. to do so.