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Ken Leighton 2:37 p.m., Jan. 28
August 15 marked a milestone for a group of local protesters, as San Diego Veterans for Peace celebrated one year of Thursday afternoon demonstrations near the Poway facilities of General Atomics, manufacturers of the well-known Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, known by most as drones.
“It seems like every time we find out something about drones, the evidence gets worse,” says Air Force veteran and protest organizer Dave Patterson, who also spoke with the Reader six months ago. His group’s focus has since expanded to take on the issue of drone use along the southern border of the U.S.
“Drones are only responsible for locating about one percent of the people that come across the border illegally,” says Patterson. “They’re ineffective, and very expensive.”
The group still stands by its earlier complaints that drone strikes are inaccurate, leading to civilian killings that do more damage to the country’s reputation abroad than they do to improve domestic security by targeting terrorists.
While about 30 protesters held banners or waved white flags bearing the Veterans for Peace logo at all four corners of the intersection of Scripps Poway Parkway and Stowe Drive (they have previously occupied a less conspicuous location at the corner of General Atomics Way), a lone counter-protester had a message of his own.
“You keep the enemy on their heels,” says Will Harvie, a physics teacher at Torrey Pines High School who showed up in support of the use of General Atomics products.
Harvie was insistent on using the less popular but more technically accurate “unmanned aerial vehicle” term to describe the pilotless bombers, stressing the fact that they are controlled remotely via video technology and do not operate autonomously, as the term “drone” implies.
In Harvie’s view, the benefits of drones, including lower collateral damage and round-the-clock surveillance capabilities, outweighed the dangers of errant missile strikes, which he downplayed as much less significant in frequency and impact than the Veterans for Peace protesters believed them to be.