On Wednesday 13th September, I took a bunch of Dehumanising Destruction pray & posts to deliver to the door of Number 10 Downing Street. Having ensured an appointment to deliver these pray and posts, I made my way through security to be greeted by a ‘special’ guest, whose presence I wasn't exactly banking on sharing. But a little bit of context first...
The Dehumanising Destruction campaign is in response to the worryingly rapid rise in use of unmanned, armed airships (otherwise known as drones). What is most worrying is the lack of transparency regarding their use and the damage they are causing, especially to civilian life. The pray & post directly calls on David Cameron, current incumbent of Number 10, to make public the number of deaths cause by British drone attacks.
The pray & post also raises the growing ethical, moral and legal concerns surrounding the use of drones; particularly the detachment from the real cost of warfare drones are causing. In other words, when vehicles of war are being controlled from thousands of miles away, governments are much need not take any consideration into the potential damage for their own troops, let alone ‘the enemy’. The attitude created has been dubbed the ‘playstation mentality’. The campaign asks for greater parliamentary and international scrutiny of drones.
The great thing about these pray & posts is that supporters were able to send their petitions straight to Downing Street. We did, however, have lots of people signing postcards at our summer festival stalls so we had a big bunch to deliver to the door itself! So, as I said, I arrived at the security gate, expecting the police to take the petition and to be led no further. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when the police ushered me through the security gate and allowed me to waltz to the front gates.
I was met by a friendly, yet giant policeman (although his size was probably exacerbated by his huge helmet on his head and the giant gun on his person) who informed me that I was to wait for a couple of minutes while the remaining members of a meeting made their way through the front door. We then proceeded to have a friendly chat about SPEAK and the drones campaign, until a 4x4 (closely tailed by two other cars) sped up and broke sharply in front of the door. Immediately, I knew it could only be one man.
At that moment, what seemed like an army of security guards and well dressed cronies jumped out, closely proceeded by the (supposedly) right honourable David Cameron (the Prime Minister don’t you know). His journey to the door probably lasted all of ten seconds and he was clearly in a hurry to begin this meeting I was told about. To his credit, he did look me in the eye as he was rushing by, smiled beamingly and said a polite ‘hello’.
Without wanting to go too far into my political philosophy, there are a million things I could, and probably should have said to the Prime Minister; a mixture of surprise, the speed in which it all happened, at the giant firearm that the policeman possessed, caused me to think otherwise and I simply blurted out a tame ‘hello’ in return. In all the shock I didn’t even think to hand him our petition. As Cameron disappeared through the door, I was left to hand the petition to another security guard. Let’s just pray that it does make its way to the attention of Mr C.
So I arrived with a handful of raised voices against drones and left with a handful of regrets; if I just had a couple of minutes with our Prime Minister, I could have said so much. Which leads me to ask, if you were in my shoes and had a bit longer than ten seconds, what would you have said?
p.s. The Drones Campaign Network (of which SPEAK is a member) has just launched a new petition to challenge Parliamentary Secrecy here: http://tinyurl.com/ct8767k