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Florida students’ anti-drone week of action

By Conor Munro

Students organize anti-drone week of action in Florida.

Gainesville, FL – On April 12 student activists at the University of Florida (UF) held the final event of their anti-drone week of action. 20 students gathered in front of Tigert Hall to demand transparency about UF’s involvement in military-sponsored drone research. The delegation made speeches condemning the use of drones to kill civilians abroad and spy on citizens at home. Students hung a huge banner from the Administration Building reading, “Fund education, not occupation.” Students questioned the need for military funding. Filipino student Chrisley Carpio, an organizer with Students for a Democratic Society, said, “I consider those funds blood money. In my home country, the U.S. military uses drones to terrorize civilians and suppress liberation movements.”

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and UF Libertarians organized the week of action in response to the growing drone research, production and testing on campus, in the community and around the state. In Gainesville alone there are five companies that produce drone technology. This is part of a larger push by state and local government to turn Florida into a hub for drone manufacturing and operations. Students at UF began the fightback with a week of action.

On Monday, April 8, activists painted a huge mural on the 34th Street Wall reading, “4700 murders and counting,” referring to the extrajudicial killings carried out by the U.S. government in countries like Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. On Tuesday, in Turlington Plaza, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) joined SDS and UF Libertarians to hold a moment of silence and read the names of over 400 children killed by drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan. On Wednesday and Thursday the students tabled in the Plaza of the Americas with a “Pin the drone” kit. A big pin-board with a map of the Middle East was set up and passers-by were challenged to find a country that the U.S. bombed, invaded or occupied with military bases in the last ten years. Then students were asked to pick one country that the U.S. did not bomb, invade or occupy in the last ten years. Quickly, students realized just how many countries the U.S. is intervening in and how hard it is to find countries where it is not.

After the rally on Friday, April 12, a delegation of students met with administrators to demand that information concerning UF’s relationship with the military and drone companies be made public. After the meeting, SDS organizer Michela Martinazzi said, “We’re not against technology, but we are against U.S. wars and murder. We think that there is some important drone research being done for wildlife monitoring, but UF research needs to be transparent and accountable.”

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