Mic check the drone forum

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:

Mic check!
Mic check!
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.
This forum
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,
extreme materialism,
and militarism
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.

10 thoughts on “Mic check the drone forum

  1. Shame on RMIT. While I defend academic freedom, at the same time, it is our human right that all education “shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further … the maintenance of peace.” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 26(2) and echoed in subsequent treaties)

    And congrats, you guys. I love the statement you made. Thank you for your witness.

    (Locked in with a door ajar?)

  2. “… don’t engage with detractors, they’ll only tell you things you don’t want to hear.” Shouldn’t that be don’t engage with detractors, they’ll only tell you things WE don’t want you to hear.

    And I hate the RMIT spent 30 minutes looking for you guys, bloody rabbit warren.

  3. Pingback: Disrupting the Drones: Melbourne Activists Speak Out At The University « Drone Wars UK

  4. It lifts my spirits to know that folks like you are there and speaking Truth about the lies that make it possible to use weapons like these and the value of all human lives.

  5. Thought I’d come and check out your blog. 🙂 So my question here is… does disruption actually change minds (and hearts?). If I was part of the forum, I’d initially be listening and in respect, but then progressively get supremely annoyed at you as the disruption continued… and that’d harden my heart to listening to what you had to say.

    • Not every action has to be about changing minds and hearts I reckon Tim. With just a few days’ notice we didn’t have anything like the preparation or longevity of contact necessary for that kind of thing. What we had was the opportunity to disrupt a forum promoting technology which kills our brothers and sisters on a regular basis – to make it less likely that they could successfully promote these machines to students and others – and an opportunity to put a different point of view out there. It was a highly successful disruption. Letting the forum continue felt wrong.

  6. Some of the AYPVs watched the video – this was their response.

    Faiz,”That was excellent!”

    Ali,” Thank you!”

    Abdulai,”When I heard you say ‘Why not love?’, I felt as high as the sky.”

    Raz Mohammad,” Drones fall outside the realm of humanity.”


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