Can I salute?

We're in Manhattan, near St. Patrick's Cathedral. On a sidewalk crowded with people walking by, a man gets down on his knees, looks up and prays. He isn't a Muslim nor is he facing in the direction of Mecca. He is Bill Brown, an anarchist, and he is praying to a government surveillance camera located in front of the cathedral.

On a placard that Bill takes care to show to the camera, it says: "I want God to see me." Perhaps some idle divinity is casting a glance at the video images captured by the 5,000-plus surveillance cameras currently being used in New York. But most of the hurried citizens circulating around Bill stoically ignore his prayers.

As a matter of fact, Bill Brown protests against the proliferation of surveillance cameras on the streets of New York. Due to public insecurity, New Yorkers are now seeing the "Big Apple" transformed into the streets of "Big Brother," where one's privacy may be lost on any corner.

For the last three years, the number of cameras has been growing, and has now reached around 5,000. Because of this, Brown and his anarchist companions founded a theater company called the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP). For the last four seasons, the SCP have been performing on the streets of Manhattan to denounce the presence of surveillance cameras. Their initiative began in 1996, with the presentation of two micro-plays in front of a surveillance camera.

[Written by Marius Serra, originally published 11 May 2001 by Gara and translated from the Portuguese by Bill Brown.]

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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