Virginia city first in U.S. with anti-drone resolution

The largely symbolic legislation aims to inspire further safeguarding of privacy as domestic drones proliferate

Published February 5, 2013 7:12PM (EST)

Charlottesville, Va., has become the first city to formally pass an anti-drone resolution. Activist David Swanson brought the resolution, drafted largely by civil liberties organization the Rutherford Institute, before the city council, who approved the measure 3-2 this week. The legislation asserts the following:

[T]he 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.

Charlottesville, home to 43,000 residents and the University of Virginia, is known for taking progressive stances. In early 2012 the city council passed a symbolic resolution, calling on Congress and the president to end all ground and drone wars. Civil libertarians have expressed hope that the new domestic drone resolution may have a knock on effect in other cities and states. Although the city's resolution has no bearing on the use of surveillance drones by state and federal government bodies, activists hope the symbolism of the citywide gesture will resonate.

"With a lot of these resolutions, although they don't have a lot of teeth to them, they can inspire other governments to pass similar measures," said Charlottesville council member Dede Smith. "You can get a critical mass and then it does have influence. One doesn't do much, but a thousand of them might. We want this on [federal and state lawmakers'] radars." An email from the activist behind the resolution echoed her sentiment: "In the past, Charlottesville has passed resolutions that have inspired other localities and impacted federal and state policies.  Let us hope this one is no exception," wrote Swanson.

In Oregon, two state lawmakers are currently pushing legislation on behalf of the state-level ACLU that would advise law enforcement on how to protect privacy when using drones in another early attempt to safeguard civil liberties as domestic drones proliferate fast with scant legislation in place.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Charlottesville Civil Liberties Domestic Drones Drones Privacy Surveillance Virginia