Washington Square Park

In an unpublicized appearance, the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) performed in front of surveillance cameras in Manhattan's Washington Square Park at 1:30 pm on Sunday, 7 May 2000. For this, the SCP's sixth performance in the park, the troupe consisted of Smitty, Kimberly, Susan, Bill, and Karsten. Videotaping was done by Jarod from MSNBC, which intended to do a piece on surveillance that would include a segment on the SCP, but ended up a dead end. In addition to handing out flyers that contained Art Toad's map of the location of all the cameras in the park, the troupe performed The Mass Psychology of Fascism, which the group hadn't performed since 8 December 1999. Composed of 14 boards, heavy and difficult to carry, and (apparently) only tangentially related to surveillance cameras, the SCP's version of Wilhelm Reich's famous book isn't performed as often as it should be, given the current strength of fascism in both Europe and the United States.

Thanks to the weird breakthrough achieved on 8 December 1999, when one policeman suddenly stopped harassing the SCP because a second officer told him to do so, the group was able to perform The Mass Psychology of Fascism at a leisurely pace, without interruption and in its entirety. The police didn't even send over a patrol car or a foot patrol "just to keep an eye on things." A change has certainly come. Back in April 1999, the SCP only performed in Washington Square Park if and when it could arrange for a legal observer from the New York Civil Liberties Union to be present. Today, the SCP uses the park whenever it wants!

The pleasure of performing the play in an unhurried fashion was certainly enhanced by the weather, which was sunny and unseasonably hot. Too often the SCP is forced to perform in the snow, rain or cold. In addition to suiting the preferences of the performers in the group, the steamy weather created a perfect atmosphere for the play, which of course concerns the necessity of sexual revolution and the liberation of human sexuality. But the greatest pleasure by far was the intensity of the responses to the SCP's map of the park's cameras, which was first given out there on April Fool's Day 2000.

Unlike Baltimore, which prominently posts signs that inform the public that video cameras are in constant use, New York City installs its surveillance cameras in secret, without ever intending to inform or get the consent of the very public that is being surveilled for "its own safety." This blatantly unconstitutional modus operandi is still being used, as was recently demonstrated. And so, to distribute copies of a map that depicts the exact locations of the secret cameras in Washington Square Park is, in today's New York City, akin to leaking State secrets. Not surprisingly, the maps were very popular at the park on 7 May 2000, indeed, far more popular than the SCP's actual performance. A number of people took copies of the flyer when offered, and thanked the SCP warmly when they saw what they had been given. Several people actually came up and asked for a copy. All told, the SCP managed to give away almost 100 flyers in a little over an hour.

Though they did not accompany a performance, the maps were also quite popular among park-goers the prior day, when two SCPers (Bill and Susan) gave them out during the "Million Marijuana March." Inspired by the smoke-ins of the 1960s, the march has been targeted of late by the current self-avowed Mayor of New York City, who refused to give its organizers a permit and only relented when a court ordered him to do so. To punish its organizers, the NYPD filled the park with police officers on the day of march. No rally was allowed to take place, and the march itself was very informal and poorly organized. Over 300 people were eventually arrested for disorderly conduct or possession of marijuana. Justifiably paranoid, the people who came to the rally -- and were disappointed and even horrified by what they saw -- were relieved when they were given a copy of the SCP's map. Though it couldn't be used by pot-smokers to avoid arrest, the map did something almost as good: it gave people the feeling that resistance is still possible.

Contact the Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail e-mail:notbored@NOSPAMoptonline.net

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

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