Organisations protest the navigation from RAF Waddington of unmanned Reaper aircraft in Afghanistan
Police have closed sections of the A15 and other roads in Lincolnshire as anti-war protestors gathered on Saturday outside an RAF base today to protest the UK’s use of armed drones in Afghanistan.
Members of the Stop The War Coalition, CND, the Drone Campaign Network and War on Want began marching from Lincoln to nearby RAF Waddington at around 12.30pm.
The Guardian revealed on Thursday that the RAF had begun remotely operating its Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles deployed to Afghanistan, from the Lincolnshire airbase.
The drones were previously operated from a United States Air Force base in Nevada.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the RAF said it had commenced supporting the International Security Assistance Force and Afghan ground troops with “armed intelligence and surveillance missions” remotely piloted from RAF Waddington.
The organisers of the protest march and rally are calling on the government to abandon the use of drones, claiming they make it easier for politicians to launch military interventions, and have increased civilian casualties.
Commenting ahead of the protest, War on Want senior campaigns officer for militarism and security, Rafeef Ziadah said: “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. Now is the time to ban killer drones – before it is too late.”
Chris Nineham, vice-chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, claimed drones were being used to continue the “deeply unpopular ‘war on terror'” with no public scrutiny.
Calling for armed drones to be banned, Mr Nineham said: “They’re using them to fight wars behind our backs.”
The Ministry of Defence has defended its use of drones in Afghanistan, stating that they have saved the lives of countless military personnel and civilians.
An MoD spokesman said: “UK Reaper aircraft are piloted by highly trained professional military pilots who adhere strictly to the same laws of armed conflict and are bound by the same clearly defined rules of engagement which apply to traditionally manned RAF aircraft.”
Lincolnshire Police have held talks with the organisers of the protest to minimise disruption to the local community.
The route of the march from South Common along the A15 to the peace campsite opposite RAF Waddington will see the road closed in three phases to 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.”