Yesterday we brought you news on the efforts of the House of Delegates and the Senate in Virginia to bring about a two year moratorium on the use of surveillance drones by government and law enforcement agencies. Today we learn that Charlottesville, Va has passed legislation to outlaw the use of drones, making it the first US city to do so.
In a 3-2 vote, city councilors passed the anti-drone resolution Monday, echoing the State level effort to halt the use of drones for the next two years. There will, in effect now be a ban on the craft entering Charlottesville city limits, prohibiting any city agency from using the technology.
The council will urge the Virginia General Assembly and Congress to keep drones out of local air space.
The resolution adopted by the council reads:
“WHEREAS, the rapid implementation of drone technology throughout the United States poses a serious threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of the American people, including the residents of Charlottesville; and
“WHEREAS, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia have thus far failed to provide reasonable legal restrictions on the use of drones within the United States; and
“WHEREAS, police departments throughout the country have begun implementing drone technology absent any guidance or guidelines from law makers;
“NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, endorses the proposal for a two year moratorium on drones in the state of Virginia; and calls on the United States Congress and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia to adopt legislation prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a Federal or State court, and precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being; and pledges to abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.”
Anti-drone activist David Swanson, who led protests in the days and hours before the council vote, notes on his website that “citizens speaking in favor of the anti-drone resolution dominated the public speaking period at the beginning of the meeting, shortly after 7 p.m. Many were quite eloquent, and the video will be available soon on the city’s site.”
Swanson had submitted his own draft version of the eventual resolution, amended largely from a Rutherford institute document.
Swanson noted that “some people are opposed to drones in the United States but eager to see them used however the President may see fit abroad. Charlottesville’s City Council ended up not including the section in my draft that instructed the federal government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing.”
“But there was no discussion on that point, and several other sections, including one creating a local ordinance, were left out as well. The problem there, according to (Councillor) Smith, was that ‘we don’t own the air.’ Swanson added.
As we have previously noted, efforts to push back against drone use by government and law enforcement agencies are ongoing in many other cities and states across the nation. The Charlottesville case shows how such significant issues can be affected at the local level.