On Saturday, a friend on twitter tipped me off to a drone event at RMIT, scheduled for just three days’ time. Very quickly we put a crew together to respond. Having discovered the wonders of mic checking for interrupting and taking back a room, it seemed the perfect tactic for disruption and promoting alternatives.
So we turned up to the public forum and took our seats. The room was packed, with all the seats taken plus a crowd left standing at the back. We planned to mic check the first speaker, and then leave. What happened was way better.
After the intro, the first speaker was introduced. The mic check began just as he began to speak. Here’s what we said:
We are here today
To say that drones have no place
In our civilised society.
Our technological innovation
Has outstripped our moral capability.
We kill without compunction
And from a distance.
Drone operators have greater rates of post traumatic stress disorder
Than regular soldiers
Drone bombings are the cause
Of mass civilian casualties
And much anger and bitterness around the world.
In particular Afghanistan
And the tribal areas of Pakistan
See regular drone bombings.
Some of us know innocent, ordinary Afghans
Who are terrified by your silent weapons from the sky.
Will give you stacks of information
On the latest in drone technology
But it will not give you information
On how to be more compassionate or more human.
As Martin Luther King said
We must rapidly begin the shift
from a thing-oriented society
to a person-oriented society.
When machines and computers,
profit motives and property rights,
are considered more important than people,
the giant triplets of racism,
are incapable of being conquered.
In the words of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers
Why not love?
Why not put your considerable expertise
Towards technology which benefits humanity?
This is the voice of the people.
We are your conscience.
While we were doing the mic check, some of our crew were flying paper planes (fliers, get it? ;)) with info on the military application of drones to audience members, for a little extra education. After the mic check finished, as I walked towards the back of the room to leave, a bunch of discussions broke out between the mic checkers and the audience members. There was some great back and forth for a while, until the RMIT security person told us to leave. At that moment it dawned on all of us: the disruption wasn’t over. By staying here, we could extend it indefinitely.
When it became obvious we weren’t about to leave, security ordered everyone who wasn’t part of the mic check to leave (she called them “the legitimate people” – as opposed to we illegitimate ones?). In fact, she specifically said, “Don’t talk to them.” That’s a good educational institution for you; don’t engage with detractors, they’ll only tell you things you don’t want to hear. Anyway, we were left in the room, alone with the sandwiches and wine, and a few security people. They called the police.
As usual the police took their time, and there were only two of them, so with twenty or more of us there it was going to be difficult to move us on, and it was obvious they were reluctant to arrest (they were well known to the Occupy Melbourne people anyway). Finally we realised the participants who were gathering around the door (waiting to come back in to restart the forum) had gone, meaning hanging around was a bit pointless. Moving into the corridor we realised they’d found another room and were locked in there. A door briefly ajar revealed only a fraction of the original participants remained.
So we ran the mic check again – and again – loudly, just to make sure. By this time we’d disrupted the forum for an hour, so when a bunch more police came and herded us out it had proven far more successful than we had ever anticipated.
Once again we underestimated ourselves, but managed to scramble for a very successful disruption. Thanks to all who participated.
Coincidentally, there was a great piece on drones today in the Fairfax papers. Well worth a read.