St. Patrick's Cathedral

A few minutes past 1 pm on Sunday 11 March 2001, the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) performed God's Eyes Here on Earth underneath one of the surveillance cameras installed by the New York Police Department on a street-lamp in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. The first SCP performance of 2001, this was also the group's sixth performance of God's Eyes Here on Earth in front of the world-famous cathedral since 16 July 2000. Since the last time, the SCP have learned a great deal about this high-powered, globe-shaped surveillance camera. Significantly, all of what the SCP now knows about it derives from simple observation, and not expertise of any kind. As anyone who looks carefully can see, the camera sends its signal to a box that has the letters ISDN and a telephone number written upon it. What this means is that the police officers who are monitoring this surveillance camera are probably not stationed in the church or even nearby. Most likely, they are dialing in from a computer located several miles away. Indeed, as long as they know the telephone number and can dial into it using a modem, the police can be anywhere in the world and still "see" what's going on in front of the cathedral. These facts should make it plain that the surveillance camera wasn't installed to prevent crime, but to keep an eye on all the people who protest in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral because of its adherence to and implementation of the anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality policies of the Catholic Church. The fact that the system supposedly used to secure the safety of the sidewalk in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral is itself highly insecure makes plain the NYPD's stupidity and cavalier attitude.

Unlike its predecessors, the most recent SCP performance at St. Patrick's Cathedral drew a direct response from, among others, Officer Regel. (Sorry, don't know his first name.) The policeman who is permanently assigned to the cathedral, Officer Regel -- whose last name means rule or regulation in German -- has seen the SCP perform several times and knows what to expect. Usually, Herr Rule just watches the performance from a distance. But on 11 March 2001, he confronted the SCP almost as soon as the group started performing. Just like the agitated security guard at the group's Election Night 2000 performance in nearby Rockefeller Center, Herr Rule targeted the shortest performer in the SCP, a woman named Susan. What courage! Always go after the person you perceive to be the weakest and most likely to succumb to intimidating remarks and physical contact -- perhaps this is a part of the sensitivity training that these officers of the peace must undergo before they can protect and serve the general public. In any event, Susan wasn't to be fucked with, and Herr Rule was forced to change both his tone and his mind. Quite suddenly, the SCP were no longer acting in a "disorderly" fashion, and could continue to exercise its First Amendment rights if the group moved down the sidewalk a few feet, that is, didn't stand directly across from the doors to the cathedral and disturb the sight-lines of the people going to and from Sunday Mass. (It so happens that the surveillance camera in question is also located directly across from the cathedral's doors, but Herr Rule made no mention of its disruptive effects.) The SCP acquiesed: both locations were close enough to the surveillance camera, which of course is the most important thing. After that, the performance went on as scheduled without a hitch.

Though he wouldn't answer the question when it was posed to him, Herr Rule had obviously been given new marching orders by his superiors, no doubt in response to a recent and highly publicized incident in which a confused but well-intentioned man tried to handcuff and place under citizen's arrest Archbishop Egan (since then promoted to Cardinal), but was himself handcuffed and arrested before he could accomplish his mission by (wait for it) Herr Rule himself. Instead of letting little groups like the SCP do what they want, Herr Rule is now supposed to "manage" them and move them around. In another change of the rules, the professional spies employed by the Catholic Church are no longer to stay in their offices when the SCP perform in front of "their" Cathedral. On 11 March, after the performance was over, a pair of sour-looking, gray-haired, middle-aged men in blue suits came up to the SCP and took photographs of everyone. When an SCPer followed these "intelligence" agents back to the church's doors and tried to give them a copy of the SCP's flyer, one snapped, "I don't want that!" In response, the SCPer said, carefully enunciating every syllable, "This will help you to i-den-ti-fy who we are." The flyer was then humbly accepted and, in plain view, read thoroughly and placed in a confidential pocket.

For this occasion, the SCP consisted of Susan, Kristin, Miranda and Bill. In attendance were Erin, a Columbia University student who is doing a paper on the SCP; Josh Cohen, who is making a piece on surveillance cameras for the Arts & Entertainment Channel; and Barry Mitchell, a reporter for ABC-TV's World News Now.

Contact the Surveillance Camera Players

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By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998

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