Play star joins killer drones protest

13 September 2013 - 1:54pm
Press release

Hit actor opposes ‘remote control slaughter’

Campaigners, including actor Lucy Ellison, from the London theatre hit Grounded, today used toy planes, video game controllers, Games of Thrones (“Game of Drones”) memorabilia and banners to demand the government stops “remote control slaughter” in a major protest over its growing use of drones.

The rally stepped up opposition to high-tech warfare, in front of the exhibition centre Excel in London’s docklands, which is hosting a landmark conference on UAVs, before the opening of the world’s largest arms fair, Defence and Security Equipment International.

Ellison stars as a fighter pilot turned drone controller in a one-woman drama, now on at Notting Hill’s Gate theatre, that won a fringe first award during a soldout run at the Edinburgh festival.

The demonstration  was organised by War on Want, Drones War UK, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Stop the War Coalition, CND and the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

These groups claim drone war on civilians living in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been devastating, with many civilian casualties and the constant threat of attacks as UAVs circle the skies for up to 17 hours at a time.

And despite Britain and the US citing drones as precision weapons, at least 2,505 people have been killed by drones in Pakistan alone.

Drones will have a special showcase at the Defence and Security Equipment International show

Duncan Reid, the DSEI exhibition director, said the showcase “ensures that unmanned systems developers have access to the latest ideas and equipment that this rapidly advancing industry sector can offer”.

War on Want senior campaigner Rafeef Ziadah said: “Drones are indiscriminate weapons of war that have been responsible for the remote control slaughter of many civilians. Drones, controlled far away from conflict zones, ease politicians’ decisions to launch military strikes and order extrajudicial assassinations. Rather than expanding Britain’s arsenal, drones should be banned, just as landmines and cluster munitions were banned. The time to act is now.”

Britain first deployed unarmed aerial vehicles in Afghanistan, but soon equipped drones with 500lb laser-guide bombs and Hellfire missiles.

The UK has launched at least 350 drone strikes in Afghanistan. And in April the defence ministry announced that armed drones had flown missions controlled for the first time from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

The move coincided with UK plans to increase the number of remote operated Reaper aircraft from five to ten.

The government is developing some drones at BAE Systems and using Reaper drones bought from the US.

It is also leasing Israeli drones for use in Afghanistan, while awaiting completion of a new British surveillance drone called Watchkeeper.

The Watchkeeper contract was awarded to Israeli company Elbit and its partner company Thales UK.

NOTE TO EDITORS: More details on the conference, Unmanned Aerial Systems 2013, at http://www.dsei.co.uk/page.cfm/link=127

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CONTACT: War on Want media officer Paul Collins (+44) (0)20 7324 5054 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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