May 29, 2020 - Technology

Border Patrol recalls drone from Minneapolis protests

A line of cops stand next to a concrete barrier

Police and State Patrol officers in Minnesota, Minneapolis on May 29. Photo: Steel Brooks/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Customs and Border Protection sent a drone into Minneapolis on Friday to take live footage of protestors at the request of federal law enforcement, a CBP spokesperson told Axios.

What's happening: Demonstrations have surged in the city for three days as people protest and mourn the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after at least one police officer knelt on his neck on Monday. Protestors set fire to a Minneapolis police station on Thursday night.

Details: The aircraft, as first reported by Vice, was identified as an unmanned predator drone by an investigative reporter with The Project on Government Oversight.

  • It was launched from the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota and later returned there, after law enforcement deemed it no longer necessary, the spokesperson said.
  • CBP did not clarify why officers found the drone unnecessary or which agency requested it.

What they're saying: CBP said its Air and Marine Operations division "routinely conducts operations with other federal, state, and local law enforcement entities to assist law enforcement and humanitarian relief efforts.

  • “No government agency should be facilitating the over-policing of the Black community, period. And CBP has no role in what’s happening in Minneapolis at all," Neema Singh Guliani, a senior legislative counsel for the ACLU, said in a statement on Friday. "This rogue agency’s use of military technology to surveil protesters inside U.S. borders is deeply disturbing, especially given CBP’s lack of clear and strong policies to protect privacy and constitutional rights."
  • "We need greater restraints on government use of sophisticated technologies to spy on the public. This is not the moment to expand such spying," Adam Schwartz, an EFF senior staff attorney, told Axios.

Go deeper... In photos: Protests over George Floyd's death grip Minneapolis

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