Anti-drone campaigners to protest at RAF Waddington

Campaigners from four anti-war organisations will band together to protest against the use of drones, some of which are controlled from RAF Waddington.

From 12.30pm on April 27, the campaigners plan a walking march from Lincoln South Park to the gates at RAF Waddington.

The protestors come from organisations such as CND, the Drone Campaign Network, Stop the War, and War on Want, and hundreds are expected to attend.

Their reasoning for the protest centres around the use of armed drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) being used within wars, and stopping the government controlling them from a domestic base.

Presently, armed Reaper drones are operated by RAF personnel from a US base in Nevada. However, last year some of the drones were moved to RAF Waddington.

A pilot from 39 Squadron remotely controls a Reaper during a training sortie over the west coast of America from Creech Air Force Base.

The 13 Reaper Squadron has been officially ‘stood up’ last October with three control terminals at the base near Lincoln.

The squadron has some 100 personnel, including pilots, mission commanders, engineers, systems operators, admin and logistics staff.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has long-term plans for the 39 Squadron to relocate to Lincolnshire as well.

According to the groups, the move of the weapon to the UK marks an expansion in its drones programme, and would see the amount of UK drones rise from five to 10.

Chris Nineham, vice-chair of the Stop the War Coalition, said: “Drones are being used to continue the deeply unpopular War on Terror, with no public scrutiny.

“They’re using them to fight wars behind our backs. These remote-controlled killing machines should be banned.”

Rafeef Ziadah, Senior Campaigns Officer at War on Want, added: “Drones, controlled far away from conflict zones, ease politicians’ decisions to launch military strikes and order extrajudicial assassinations, without democratic oversight or accountability to the public.”

MoD figures show that since 2006 they have provided over 100,000 hours of persistent intelligence, but also fired around 300 missiles and bombs.

The MoD said the same strict rules on the use of weapons on manned aircraft are followed for unmanned drones.

Ahead of the local demonstration, there will be a special public meeting on April 24 from 7pm to discuss the use of drones.

The meeting will be held at Revival Lincoln on Norman Street, and feature talks from Jim Brann of Stop the War Coalition and Rafif Zadieh from War on Want.

Since the announcement that unmanned drones will be controlled from RAF Waddington, two peaceful protests have been staged outside the base last year.

Protest police presence

Lincolnshire Police have been in discussion with the organisers of the protest and with the local community so that the participants can exercise their right to peaceful protest with minimal disruption to residents and businesses.

The march will begin after 12.30pm that afternoon and the route will take the protestors from the assembly point at South Common up Cross O’ Cliff hill and along the A15 to the peace camp site opposite RAF Waddington, where the rally is expected to start at approx 2.30pm.

Sections of the A15 from the High Street/St Catherines roundabout up to the peace camp area will be subject to a three-phase road closure. This will ensure the safety of the marchers but limit inconvenience to motorists.

Community Policing Inspector for Lincoln, Mark Garthwaite, said: “Our aim is to ensure that visitors to the area can participate in peaceful protest but that disruption to motorists and local residents is kept to a minimum.

“Different sections of the road will be closed at varying times as the marchers move along the route and we will be keeping the public up to date throughout the afternoon via direct and media channels. Every preparation has been made to make sure that all those involved can enjoy a safe and peaceful afternoon.”