Article and photo by Autumn Evans
The Western New York Peace Center held a Vigil to Keep Space for Peace outside the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base Saturday, as part of the Global Action Day Against the Use of Drones for Surveillance and Killing, which included events hosted worldwide.
A small group representing the center held signs and handed out flyers from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. outside the base's Lockport Road entrance, in response to the 107th Wing of the base changing its mission to the operation of remotely piloted aircraft.
"(We're) raising awareness, working to find another way," said protestor Victoria Ross. "Violence begets violence, this way is not going to help. The blowback is incredible, and the biggest recruiting boon for al-Qaida and other terrorist groups is our drone program, so we need to stop it."
The group began protesting outside the base earlier this year after it first announced the mission change.
"God knows we want people to have jobs, but these are jobs that will very likely result in post-traumatic stress disorder," Ross said, adding that PTSD is more common in drone operators than foot soldiers.
She mentioned a proposal made by Congressman Brian Higgins to turn the base into a solar energy training facility as a better alternative.
Senior Master Sgt. Ray Lloyd, public affairs spokesperson for the 107th, said the base was aware of the vigil, but has not had any direct contact with the group.
"We respect the rights of all our citizens to exercise their first amendment rights," Lloyd said. "That's what we're here to do, to protect those rights."
He had no comment on the argument the group made against the use of drones.
The WNY Peace Center also holds vigils from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.