We won't be rats in cages

Faced with the somber picture of the development of video surveillance, the opposition to video surveillance has developed and multiplied its networks, and has refused all fixed and banal ideas. The goal is to show the public and the powers that be, that a movement of structured opinion exists at all levels.

If, in 1995, a spontaneous movement started in several cities (Touloise, Paris, Roubaix, Nimes) during the passage of the Pasqua video surveillance law, it didn't have a structure and was out-of-breath. And yet, some of these collectives, such as SVEF [translator: Souriez, Vous Etes Filmes] and FA Nimes, are still active and provide a line of continuity. After a dry spell, new collectives appeared (SOS Video Surveillance in Vaulx-en-Velin, "No to Big Brother" in Lyon, and the Collective Against Video Surveillance in Herblain), new networks of resistance to the commodification of the world and life developed, and certain struggles interconnected (juridically, internationally, locally) -- so that, today, one can say there exists an organized resistance that has multiplied initiatives and that doesn't hesitate to engage in acts of civil disobedience, as CLIFTI did on 2 February 2000 when it occupied the video surveillance command-post in Levallois or at the 3 March 2000 demonstration against the surveillance of workers at IBM.

These isolated initiatives are significant: in April 2001, the young people of Satrouville, wearing bonnets and scarves, quickly destroyed a surveillance camera installed only two days previously on the Plateau, at the intersection of La Rue Gorki and L'Avenue de l'Europe. They threw an R5 at it and then struck it with a baseball bat. The evening ended with a riot, humorous, like the student of the Beaux Arts who in 2000 organized a bus tour of video surveillance cameras in Paris.

For its part, "Smile, you're being filmed" has confronted the Departmental Commissions of the Haute-Garonne and 92, and attempted to obtain lists of the cameras that they each operate.

It is necessary, nevertheless, to find out, if there is a multiform resistance, whether it is incapable of weighting its decisions. In the last two years, the referendum turning down video surveillance in Couilly-Pont-aux-dames has been the only concrete case of failure.

The same for businesses. Except for the general strike in the Morbihan factory in 1994 where the personnel won, the complaint of the union SUD Indre et Loire against the Post Office (installation of cameras in the sorting center), and a week of general assemblies on a platform of the parcel post (Creteil), the news is hardly convincing. (Here one must distinguish the 1998 press conference on businesses organized by Smile, you're being filmed!)

Meanwhile, for the first time, the debate concerning [the "reality" TV show] Loft Story permits one to pose the problem of private life at the national level, beyond activist circles. A good time for the networks to drive the nail home.

Postscript: we can't forget to say that at the heart of strikes or other social movements, such as those of 1995 or the unemployed workers' movement of 1997, the aversion to video surveillance manifests itself in a collective and spontaneous fashion (cameras deteriorated at the faculty building at Censier, covered over at the ANPE, etc).

Listening to all the networks.

(Written by Souriez, Vous Etes Filmes and re-printed in No to Electronic Watchtowers: Elements of Reflection on Video Surveillance. Translated from the French November 2003 by Bill Brown.)

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