Naled Protesters Debate Flying Drones to Disrupt Anti-Zika Pesticide Planes

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Miami Beach residents' protest of the controversial Zika-fighting pesticide naled is quickly morphing from a spirited public debate into an all-out ground war. In threads on social media, some protest organizers yesterday suggested that flying drones could intercept the county's pesticide-spraying airplanes. 

Michael DeFilippi, the anti-naled organizer who raised the possibility of using drones, says he doesn't encourage anyone to use the tiny aircraft to break the law or interfere with pesticide-spraying planes. But if something were to peacefully disrupt the county's spray missions, he wouldn't necessarily be opposed to it.

"If there's a way that something delays or interferes with what the county is doing, that could be a net positive," he says via phone.

But he stresses he's not encouraging anyone to do anything rash, illegal, or dangerous using a drone. The discussion started yesterday with this post from DeFilippi:
"I just kinda threw it out there to see if there was any interest," he says. "Maybe people could cover the event and get footage of what the county is doing... If we could monitor what’s going on or serve as a reference to what’s happening, that’s great."

He does, however, suggest that if the skies were filled with drones before the pesticide planes took off, there might be a chance the county would cancel its spraying missions.

"There's potential that if a group of people show up with drones, and they're already up in the air, I don’t know what would happen," he says. DeFilippi says he does not own a drone himself and would not be flying anything near the county's planes.

Nor does he know anyone who plans to, he says.

But even to other anti-naled organizers, the idea of messing with real airplanes appears to go a step too far.

"That sounds neither safe nor legal," said Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco, who opposes spraying naled in his city. "I wouldn’t recommend that. With that kind of chatter online, I’m sure law enforcement is watching."

Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control spokespeople tell New Times the county is indeed aware of the social media posts.

In the past 48 hours, Miami-Dade's pesticide use has blossomed from a local debate into a national controversy. Naled, one of two pesticides the county is spraying aerially over Zika-affected zones, is banned in the European Union and caused mass protests in the streets of Puerto Rico when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shipped the pesticide there.

The county had originally ordered planes to spray naled over South Beach yesterday morning, but after hours of public protest, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez delayed the spray mission by a day. The county instead waftednaled over the city at 5 a.m. today.

New Times on August 10 first reported that naled might pose environmental and health concerns. Yesterday, Grieco spoke on HLN, a CNN affiliate, about his opposition to the pesticide:

As real concerns over naled have grown, so too has the unfounded idea that the Zika virus is a government hoax and that the virus does not cause microcephaly.

But for all Grieco has said about naled, neither he nor anyone else in the city or county governments advocates using drones — or anything else — to attack airplanes.

Instead, if you're upset about the county's naled-spraying regimen, here's a much safer outlet for your anger: Residents are circulating a Change.org petition to persaude the county to stop spraying the chemical altogether.

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