BANGOR, Maine — With every walk and every leaflet handed out, Bruce Gagnon of Bath says people are becoming more aware of the possible use of surveillance drones in the state.
Gagnon was one of about 30 people to walk from Harlow St. in Bangor to the Sports Arena in Hermon on Sunday as part of the 10-day Maine Drone Peace Walk. The walk continued in Skowhegan later in the day.
“As you build consciousness, you have a larger base of people who are concerned. This helps you build that action,” said Gagnon, one of the walk’s organizers and a member of Veteran’s for Peace.
President Barack Obama signed the FAA Reauthorization Act into law in 2012. A part of that bill calls for the development for testing and licensing of commercial drones by 2015. The FAA projects that as many as 30,000 drones could be in use in the country by 2020.
That doesn’t sit well with Gagnon or others during the walk.
“We don’t want to see surveillance drones in the state,” he said. “The Obama administration … talks about border security and everything, but 30,000 drones? That’s bigger than border security. What I believe and what many believe is that it’s being directed against [U.S. citizens].”
Ilze Petersons, coordinator for the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine, said money can be better spent on things other than drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles.
“Our priorities should be serving our communities, not war,” said Petersons. “Drones endanger our privacy and security, but they also kill innocent civilians abroad. So they alienate people around the world from us and make the world more dangerous than peaceful. This walk is part of saying we don’t need militarized drones.”
The 10-day walk started in Limestone on Thursday and will conclude in Bath on Oct. 19.
In June, the Maine House and Senate passed bill LD 236, that would require police to obtain a warrant before using unmanned aerial vehicles or drones to collect evidence in a criminal investigation. The bill would have allowed police to use the vehicles for emergency law enforcement activities and for search and rescue operations.
The bill was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage in July.
Gagnon said he hopes a similar bill will be introduced in the state legislature next year.
Several Buddhist monks from the Nipponzan Myohoji community also participated in the walk.
“[Drones] take the privacy of the people. I think it’s nothing useful for people’s lives or world peace,” said Senji Kanaeda, a monk, adding that drones are responsible for the deaths of innocent people around the world. “Because I’m Buddist, the most important teaching is very simple — do not take the lives of others.”
The walk resumes at 9 a.m. Monday, when participants start at the Skowhegan Community Center and walk 12 miles to Mercer.