Between 1 and 2 pm on Halloween (31 October 2001), and for the second time in three weeks, the New York Surveillance Camera Players (NY SCP) performed It's OK, Officer in front of surveillance cameras installed between the Astor Place Cube and Washington Square Park. Home to New York University (NYU), this area of Manhattan is a perfect stage for such performances: not only does it contain a lot of surveillance cameras (many of them put up by NYU), but it is also full of college students, who are (we are told) there to learn and so aren't completely closed off to new ideas. It is certain that a lot of them smile when they see the NY SCP perform.
Though the play was written well before the 11 September 2001 disaster at the World Trade Center, It's OK, Officer says a great deal about what New York City has become since then: i.e., an armed camp in which everyone is presumed guilty until proven innocent and the staring eyes of innumerable security guards and law enforcement officers demand to know what you are doing out in public. The play's answers mock what we are supposed to be doing: don't worry, everything's OK, just going to work, getting something to eat, going shopping, seeing the sights, going home now.
On the day the NY SCP wandered from camera to camera in the NYU student ghetto, tensions were high because the FBI had announced just a few days previously (and for the second time in the month of October) that "credible information" had been received about a potential terrorist attack against the United States. In part because of the vagueness of the FBI's alert, and in part because of the holiday's associations with horror and death, it was easy to speculate that Halloween would make "a great day for an attack."
And so, for the first time in months, even years, the NY SCP's performance attracted the close attention of the New York Police Department, NYU's security guards and the Park Police. (Normally the group is ignored by these people.) On at least four different occasions, security guards or police officers pulled their cars over and got out of them so that they could get one of the NY SCP's flyers and find out what the fuck the group was doing. (Only one of them was treated rudely: the NYU guard who asked "What are you doing?" in an aggressive tone, and was told, "Mocking your pretensions to authority" and "We live here." His response was both preposterous and chilling. "Haven't you heard about September 11th?") But none of the guards/officers did anything to try to stop the group from putting on its peripatetic performance.
On this occasion, the NY SCP was composed of Bill, Miranda, Susan and new-comer Jason. Over the course of its wanderings, the group was joined by two young men from Belgium. One joined the line of performers for the duration of the performance; the other took pictures. The group was also joined at one point by the Rev. Billy, who delivered a short, impromptu denunciation of the police surveillance camera at the base of Fifth Ave.
The performance was also covered by Jad, a reporter from radio station WNYC-FM, and a reporter for The Village Voice who happened to be standing on Broadway, looking for people to interview about terrorism.
Contact the NY Surveillance Camera Players
By e-mail SCP@notbored.org
By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998