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Syracuse's Anti-Drone Movement Appears to be Gaining Attention and Momentum

Scott Willis

A Syracuse-area peace activist feels there’s growing momentum against U.S. military drone policy following three different national media accounts within two weeks.  Central New York drone operations,  persistent local protesters, and former drone operators are all in the news.


Brandon Bryant is one of those former drone operators, heard here in clip from the film “Drone” describing what he felt after firing a missile at what he was led to believe were armed terrorists.

"I didn't know what to feel, I just knew that I had ended something that I had no right to end.  But I did what I was supposed to do.  It was like my image of myself was cracking and breaking apart. "

Long-time Syracuse peace activist Ed Kinane: 

"They are men who are taking very severe risk in coming forward the way they have.  There's not an aspect of self interest here,  but rather real concern about what's going on with U.S. foreign policy, U.S. drone policy." 

Kinane and a small group of others have been holding twice-monthly demonstrations at the 174th Attack Wing on Molloy road for five years now in hopes of reaching the consciousness of drone operators there.  He says they’re part of a cycle of terrorism that just creates more violence when civilians are killed by drones.

Ed Kinane, far left, joins other anti-drone protesters at a demonstration earlier this year in Syracuse.

"When you lose a family member, when you lose a limb, when you lose a community, you get pretty angry.  And, unfortunately, some of that anger results in striking out against people who are basically innocent."

Like those in Paris just over two weeks ago. 

"We need to be very careful about stoking the mentality of revenge.   And I see this happening again.  There are reasons why 9/11 happened, there area reasons why Paris happened, and those have to do with U.S. foreign policy, in which hundreds of thousands of human beings have either been  killed or maimed or driven from their homes and their communities."

  Most of them civilians.  Former operator Stephen Lewis told the program “Democracy Now” his tipping point came after being told to fire a missile at an unarmed, already wounded victim in Afghanistan. 

"Shortly after that, I ended up writing a very convincing letter to my leadership.  I told them that I didn't belong there, I didn't want to do it anymore, and  I wanted out.  Six months later, I was out of the air force."

Lewis, Brandon Bryant, and two other former drone operators recently wrote to President Obama about the immorality and futility of the pentagon’s drone policy, and was featured on common  Ed Kinane’sop-ed was published by, and The Atlantic ran an article about both sides of the drone debate in Central New York.  Kinane sees the growing attention as promising…and indicative.

"Five years ago, the standard question would be, 'What's a drone?'  And then, after a couple of years, we got, 'Well, drones save lives!'  So, there's an evolution in the public's consciousness on the issue."

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at