Big Brother is watching

Despite an unexpectedly chilly day (cold rain and then snow, coming after a whole week of sun and spring temperatures) and a couple of First Amendment-chilling calls from the Intelligence Division of the New York City Police Department (the first such calls the group has ever received), the Surveillance Camera Players performed as scheduled at 1 PM, on Friday (St. Patrick's Day), 17 March 2000, in front of surveillance cameras at City Hall, Manhattan. Five SCPers (Bill, Susan, Kate, David, and first-timer Marissa) performed You are being watched for your own safety twice along the highly surveilled eastern side of City Hall, which will soon be totally surveilled (cameras have yet to be installed in sections of City Hall Park).

The SCP chose to perform You are being watched for your own safety -- the only play the SCP brought with them to Holland and was the play that the group performed upon their return to New York City -- because of its strong denunciations of racial profiling and shootings by police officers. (The day before the SCP performed at City Hall, yet another innocent and unarmed black man was shot and killed by the NYPD, the third such shooting in the last 13 months.) The performance was attended by a reporter from radio station WNYC-FM, which ran a short bit later that day; CNN; the documentary-makers Jed and Daniel; and James Bone of The Times of London, who ended up a dead end. Expressing interest in the performance, but not braving the cold, rain and snow to actually cover it, were NY1, the cable news channel, and Good Day, New York, a program on the local Fox affiliate.

The SCP believe that the strong interest in their St. Patrick's Day performance among both the spectacular media and the "Red Squad" of the NYPD (supposedly disbanded in the 1970s) derived from the event's timing and location, and not from the issue of surveillance cameras, per se. The two candidates for the New York Senate, NYC Mayor Giuliani and Hillary Rodman Clinton, as well as numerous other gruesome politicians, marched that day in the St. Patrick's Parade, which is controversial for its exclusion of openly gay and lesbian Irish marchers, and so is heavily policed. Though the SCP's performance didn't take place along the parade route, it did take place in a location closely associated with the Mayor, and it was announced on the Associated Press's Day-Book, to which the SCP routinely sends press releases. This information certainly explains why the media would take interest in this particular performance by the SCP, as opposed to any other. But none of this information explains why the "Red Squad" would ever be interested in the SCP.

The police are supposed to investigate criminal activity, and nothing else. This basic restriction on police investigations is what (supposedly) makes America a "free society," and not a police state. But the SCP do not and have never engaged in criminal activity of any sort. The plays performed and other actions taken by the SCP are perfectly legal, and violate no rules, regulations or laws of any kind; the SCP have never advocated that anyone else engage in criminal behavior of any kind. And so, why did the Red Squad -- Detectives Wallace and Hussey -- call the SCP's contact person on two occasions to ask what the group had planned? What business is it of theirs? Outraged and intimidated by the very fact of the calls themselves, the SCP did not return either one. As far as the SCP are concerned, Big Brother will have to rely on his own resources to get information about the SCP and its "mysterious future plans." The SCP will never voluntarily give information to any one whose job is to collect information and maintain secret files on law-abiding citizens. And yet, despite being intimidated by the police's gently harassing calls, the SCP performed anyway, in the fucking snow, knowing well that other local activists who have come to the attention of New York City's Big Brother have been illegally arrested the day or even a few minutes before a protest perceived to be embarrassing to the Mayor, simply to prevent the protest from taking place. It seemed like the Red Squad didn't attend the SCP's performance, could who can tell? Very likely its agents decided to stay inside and watch the performance on closed-circuit television. For that's what the cameras at City Hall are designed to do: not protect the Mayor and the City's "command structure" from terrorist attack (because, as this past New Year's Eve showed, NYC is not a target for terrorist attacks), but help the Mayor and the NYPD collect information on anyone who dares to protest, even non-violently, against this fascist administration of New York.

Contact the Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail

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

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