Surveillance Camera Players under surveillance

An article in The Globe and Mail from Canada last month reported that a group we've written about here previously, The Surveillance Camera Players, were under police surveillance themselves. (See NYPD war on terror snags artists.) This revelation is disturbing.

We've mentioned The Surveillance Camera Players in this space because they call attention to something many engineers who read this column are well aware of, but that the general public is largely unaware of: the dramatic rise in the use of surveillance video cameras in recent years. The Surveillance Camera Players don't hide in dark alleys or meet in secret hideouts. They are a group of people whose very purpose is to create public performances -- spectacles -- in front of surveillance cameras looking at major streets and building entrances in New York City.

They go out of their way to appear on surveillance cameras. Do the police really need to monitor such an organization as a security threat? Their purpose, of course, is to mock the security state apparatus.

Founded in 1996, The Surveillance Camera Players have been doing it for over ten years, receiving coverage in major news media like NBC's The Today Show, The New York Times and The Daily News all along the way. You may disagree with them, but surely these performance-art mockers of video surveillance are protected by the right to free speech, and should not be subject to government harassment or investigation -- unless the government views satirists and political opponents as security threats.

(Written by Cliff Roth and published in the 5 June 2007 issue of Video/Imagining DesignLine.)

Contact the NY Surveillance Camera Players

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

NY Surveillance Camera Players