On Tuesday, Buffalo became the first city in the country to take the drone issue seriously after the presentation of a drone ordinance to Common Council President Richard Fontanna. Author and co-founder of CODEPINK Medea Benjamin, Occupy Buffalo, and the Western New York Peace Center were given a date to present their case to the Common Council Legislation Committee headed by Darius Pridgen. After bringing Medea to Buffalo for an appearance on Book TV at Talking Leaves, both groups spent plenty of time in City Hall lobbying council members to sponsor the ordinance. Most had no idea about drones and it was a great opportunity to educate our elected officials before the DHS got a chance to leave out the inconvenient truth about drones. Meetings with Pridgen’s assistant and council members LoCourto, Scanlon and Smith sparked genuine concern over the implications of the use of drones in our city. These meetings were complemented by demonstrations in front of City Hall, giving out flyers, and using a 1/6th model predator drone and PA system to educate anyone who happened to have business with the city that day.

At the last demonstration just prior to our chance to speak, we were greeted with our usual warm welcome of “you guys can’t be here” from the Building Superintendent (and constitutional scholar). We were able to speak to plenty of people about the issue outside, with the model drone drawing people’s attention. In the chambers, a group of around 25 local activists filled the seats on the left side of the Council Chambers and waited patiently for item number 12 to come before the Council. Victoria Ross began the hearing, highlighting the constitutionality of 24 hour surveillance and conveying the idea that the use of drones would make warrants obsolete. Charles Bowman, Director of the WNY Peace Center, said “Drone manufacturers will push this hard on you and other elected officials. They will say that one of the reasons [for drones] is fighting crime. …We don’t need drones in the city of Buffalo. We don’t need further militarization of our police department.”

A clear statement was made to the city Of Buffalo:

Drones present an unreasonable and unacceptable threat to public safety in the air and to persons and property on the ground in the city of Buffalo due to limitations in drone “vision,” capability to avoid other aircraft and adequate control,

and

Armed drones and surveillance drones present an unreasonable and unacceptable threat to the rights of individual privacy, freedom of association and assembly, equal protection and judicial due process in the city of Buffalo

The council tabled the item until after recess and we encourage all who care about this issue to contact the Mayor and Buffalo Common Council members and urge them to keep drones out of Buffalo:

Byron Brown -  Mayor,  Room 201.   Phone: (716) 851-4841, E-mail: Mayor@city-buffalo.com

Richard A. Fontana – Council President.   Phone: 716-851-5151, E-mail: rfontana@city-buffalo.com 

David A. Franczyk.   Phone: 716-851-4138, E-mail: dfranczyk@city-buffalo.com

Darius G. Pridgen.   Phone: 716-851-4980, Email: dpridgen@city-buffalo.com

Christopher P. Scanlon.   Phone: 716-851-5169, E-mail: cscanlon@city-buffalo.com

Michael J. LoCurto.   Phone: 716-851-5155, E-mail: mlocurto@city-buffalo.com

Bonnie E. Russell.   Phone: 716-851-5165, Email: brussell@city-buffalo.com

Demone A. Smith – Majority Leader.   Phone: 716-851-5145, Email: dsmith@city-buffalo.co

Joseph Golombek, Jr.   Phone: 716-851-5116, Email: jgolombek@city-buffalo.com

David A. Rivera.   Phone: 716-851-5125, Email: darivera@city-buffalo.com