The protest was staged by the Lush cosmetic store. A loudspeaker was used to stimulate a drone attack, and Lush employees, one by one, fell to the ground and acted dead. White chalk was then used to draw around each of these individuals.
The campaign was designed to raise awareness of the American military’s use of drone warfare in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Staff members were enthusiastic about Lush’s campaign. Tilly Hearn said: “Drones are being used to kill people and when one explodes it doesn’t just kill the people targeted but also those in the vicinity, including children.”
“There is scant and sketchy evidence that these people they are targeting are terrorists.”
Rachel Ross, another employee, said: “This is a secret war on civilians. People can be targeted for ridiculous reasons.”
Onlookers were keen to watch the drama unfold, though many seemed unsure of what was happening. One Lincoln fresher asked: “Are drones, like, the aeroplane things that you control like an X-Box?”
A second year at New College commented: “I assumed it was some sort of drama thing.”
“Protests of this kind are only effective if people know what is going on,” he added.
Ross, however, claimed that the protest was succeeding in its aim: “More people than we thought have stopped to find out about the campaign.”
The campaign did notch up an unintended success, managing to unify two groups who often disagree. Volunteers at both the Christian Evangelical and Oxford Humanist stalls, which were set up either side of Lush, were united in their opposition to drone warfare.
One member of the Christian stand said: “I’m rather shocked. Drones cause indiscriminate slaughter.”
“You’re using an efficient tool as an efficient weapon,” added a fellow evangelical.
“I thought it was a great protest,” added one of the Humanist volunteers.
There was little support for drones in Lush’s store itself. “I’m against drone warfare, because it’s just unethical and illegal,” commented one customer, who described herself as a “long-term customer of Lush.”
However, Kristen Lampe, an American student studying Law, was unhappy: “As an American, I feel really threatened by the protest against drone warfare.”
Lush’s protest is part of a wider campaign entitled “Welcome to the Drone Age”, in which they are working with a humanitarian charity that campaigns against the death penalty. Reprieve UK has recently started actively campaigning against drones, which it sees as an abuse of human rights.
Lush is selling a bath balm called ‘Bug Splat’ in aid of Reprieve. ‘Bug Splat’ is allegedly the name that drone operatives give for their targets.
Lush has been involved in numerous campaigns in the past, including dumping manure outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg in order to protest against legislation permitting animal testing.