It's OK, Officer!

Between 2 and 2:30 pm on Tuesday 9 October 2001, the New York Surveillance Camera Players (NY SCP) performed an ambulatory version of It's OK, Officer in the area between Grand Central Station and the United Nations. Normally watched by a great many surveillance cameras, this area of Manhattan has also become full of police officers, National Guard units, trucks full of sand and other measures designed to "stop terrorist attacks" in the wake of the United States military's highly publicized and very ill-advised attacks on Afghanistan, which began two days previously. Though it was written well before the 11 September 2001 disaster, It's OK, Officer says a great deal about what New York City has become since then: i.e., an armed camp in which both military and law enforcement authorities demand to know what its citizens are doing out in public.

The NY SCP, which on this occasion was composed of Bill, Susan and Miranda, were rather pleased -- and even a little surprised -- to find that their performance was very well received by the people who happened to see it. Contrary to the many news reports that say that the vast majority of American citizens are perfectly willing to give up "some" of their freedoms for "increased security," the NY SCP found that their fellow New Yorkers do not see their options as a simple choice between keeping their constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties and being "safe" from terrorism. One can be both free and safe!

Occasionally stopping their performance to hand out generic SCP flyers to people who'd stopped to watch it, the members of the group had several very interesting (and encouraging!) conversations about the importance of speaking out in favor of and protecting our collective and individual civil rights, despite -- and even because of -- the phony "war on terrorism." Easily the most interesting conversation took place with an officer from the NYPD, who was stationed at the Israeli Consulate on Second Avenue and 42d Street. Curious about what was going on, the officer came up to the group as it was speaking to two passers-by. When handed one of the NY SCP's flyers, the officer said that he'd already heard of the group! From the officer's attitude, it was clear that he respects what the group stands for and has done in the last five years. His attitude clearly had an effect on the people who watched the encounter, who perhaps expected that the "cop" would have to arrest "the demonstrators." When this did not happen, several of the spectators smiled.

Totally unannounced, the NY SCP's performance wasn't covered or photographed by any news reporters.

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NY Surveillance Camera Players