May Day

As scheduled, the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) performed in front of two so-called webcams in Times Square, Manhattan, at 9 am on Monday 1 May 2000. This performance, this group's second in front of video cameras that upload to the World Wide Web, was designed in part to call attention to the fact that webcams, in the words of View Systems, Inc., "make remote internet video surveillance possible from anywhere in the world."

The SCP's performance was announced by the following press release, which was sent out by e-mail and fax.

At 9 am, Eastern Standard Time, on Monday 1 May 2000, the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) will perform in front of two so-called webcams installed in the windows of Lindy's Restaurant, which is located at 45th Street and Broadway, Times Square, Manhattan.

Unconditionally opposed to the use of surveillance cameras in public places, the SCP usually perform in front of surveillance cameras owned and operated by the New York Police Department. But the webcams at Lindy's -- not surveillance or even security cameras in the strict sense -- are worse than any surveillance camera operated in a public place by law enforcement.

Webcams are video cameras that can be used to broadcast material on the World Wide Web. Usually installed above home computers, webcams are used by people who have informed and gotten the consent of the small number of people who are being recorded for uploading to the Internet.

But the webcams installed at Lindy's are pointing out into public. Turned on twenty-four hours a day, these webcams capture and broadcast the images of thousands of unsuspecting people every single day. No one is being informed that their privacy is being invaded, and no one has been asked for, not to mention given, their consent. People's rights under the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution are being indiscriminately violated.

The SCP wont stand for it, and have chosen May Day -- symbol of international solidarity among working people -- to protest.

Please either attend in person or watch at these websites, which are maintained by Earthcam, not by the SCP: 1. Camera 1 or, if your browser cant handle Java scripting Camera 1 or Camera 3 or, if your browser cant handle Java scripting Camera 3.

As was made clear in a post-May Day article published in The Daily News, this announcement was of interest to the Intelligence Division of the New York Police Department. On Tuesday, 2 May 2000, in an article entitled "Fear of unrest puts police on high alert," it was stated that:

Police went on alert after eyeing several Web sites affiliated with recent World Trade Organization protests in Seattle and Washington. The sites called for protests at Times Square [hic] and Jersey City's Liberty State Park and a vague reference to a "guerilla gardening action" at unknown locations.

Fortunately for the SCP, the police spies didn't know the exact location in Times Square at which the group was performing. If they had known, it is possible that the SCP, just like the 20 black-clad anarchists who tried to participate in a permitted May Day rally at Union Square in favor of the rights of workers and immigrants, would have been preemptively arrested on a bullshit charge and illegally detained. (This outrageous and flagrantly unconstitutional tactic has been widely adopted by police during and ever since the huge anti-IMF and World Bank protests in Washington, DC, on 16 April 2000.) It is worth noting that neither the organizers of the Union Square rally nor the self-satisfied group calling itself Reclaim the Streets/New York City, which organized the gardening action, did anything to stop the police from arresting the anarchists, nor have they done anything since those unconscionable arrests took place to protest against them.

Let us note the following before moving. On 13 July 2000, The Daily News reported that, just before the 20 black-clad anarchists were falsely arrested, they were also photographed by Intelligence agents from the Philadelphia Police Department.

With the NYPD's blessing, Philadelphia cops conducted a cloak-and-dagger surveillance of demonstrators at a May Day rally in Union Square possibly violating a 1985 consent decree designed to protect people's privacy. Undercover Philadelphia cops took photos at this May 1st Union Square rally in support of granting illegal immigrants amnesty.

At the May 1 rally, undercover Philly cops snapped pictures of about 20 demonstrators dressed in black and covering their mouths with bandannas the same outfits protesters wore in last fall's violent rally at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.

It was part of Philadelphia police strategy to identify troublemakers who have said they plan to attend the Republican National Convention, said Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney. "We are reacting to all different information coming over the Internet regarding what people may or may not do," said Timoney, former first deputy police commissioner of the NYPD.

Rally leaders expect 30,000 peaceful demonstrators in Philadelphia, and have promised "massive civil disobedience" if they are forbidden to demonstrate in the streets and confined to reserved pens.

Internet sites are filled with information for would-be protesters, including a roster of activities ranging from a July 31 "March for Economic Human Rights" to an Aug. 2 "Convention Disruption."

But the picture-taking in Union Square may have violated the 1985 Handschu consent decree, which established a three-person panel to oversee surveillance of activists and political groups by the NYPD's Intelligence division.

Under the agreement, police must have "specific information" that a crime is being or about to be committed.

"The court order forbids the New York Police [Department] to host or help visiting police spy on the lawful political activities of New Yorkers," said Franklin Siegel of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Siegel yesterday wrote to Police Commissioner Howard Safir and Corporation Counsel Michael Hess charging the agreement had been violated.

In the letter, Siegel wrote that city police "cooperated, facilitated and supported activities" of the Philadelphia police.

Bruce Bentley, a lawyer who attended the demonstration, said a top city police official pointed out the Philadelphia cops to him.

"When I asked if that was a violation of [the agreement], he said it did not apply to Philadelphia police," Bentley said.

NYPD spokesman Tom Fahey said yesterday that city cops did not cooperate with Philadelphia police because "pictures were not shared. If [lawyers] think there was a violation, they can challenge us."

For more on the on-going surveillance of anarchists and other "anti-globalization" activists, see our report on The US Army.

Consisting of Duff, Miranda, Susan, Kimberly and Bill, the SCP performed three plays in front of Earthcam's webcams: You are being watched for your own safety, an updated version of Headline News, and a brand-new play entitled We know you are watching: mind your own business. Hundreds of miles away, Udroma watched the performance on his personal computer and downloaded the lovely images of it posted to the SCP's photographs page. In addition to performing, the SCP handed out a flyer, which had a map of surveillance cameras in the Times Square area on one side. Created by Art Toad, this map shows a total of 129 cameras installed in the area bounded on the north and south by 50th Street and 42d Street, respectively, and on the west and east by Eight Avenue and Fifth Avenue, respectively. (Six of these cameras are webcams, eight are operated by the NYPD and 115 are privately owned.) On the other side of the SCP's flyer was the following text.

Under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, your rights to privacy and anonymity must be respected, even when you go out in public.

And yet, without asking your permission, or even telling you about it, a company named Earthcam has installed two "webcams" in the windows at Lindy's Restaurant, located at Broadway and 45th Street. Every few seconds, these webcams upload relatively clear pictures to the internet. There are two URLs involved: Camera 1 and Camera 3.. As a result, the number of people who can see pictures of you is potentially very large and could include just about anybody.

These webcams are not operated for the purposes of security. They are there so that voyeurs and cyber-tourists can gawk at and invade the privacy of unsuspecting people such as yourself. Earthcam will soon install face recognition software on their cameras so that their computers will automatically be able to match your face against a series of databases, recognize who you are, and announce your identity and whatever "interesting" information about you they have retrieved. Needless to say, you will never be given the opportunity to inspect your files for inaccurate, out-of-date or illegally obtained information.

And so, act now, before it is too late.

Down with Big Brother! Unplug ECHELON!

Given to people walking by and seated inside of Lindy's, this flyer included a picture of Monsieur Le Toad standing in front of Earthcam's Camera 3 and holding up a sign that clearly says UNPLUG ECHELON. (ECHELON is the name of a super-secret automated system created by the National Security Agency and used on a world-wide basis to intercept, read and analyze every single form of electronic communication used today.) The responses to both the flyer and the performances were largely positive. Though some people declared themselves to be in favor of surveillance cameras, almost everyone agreed that the existence of these cameras should be publicly announced. As for Earthcam's webcams, everyone to whom the SCP talked agreed that they were creepy and completely unnecessary.

In attendance at this performance were a reporter from The New York Times Magazine, which is doing a story on surveillance and privacy issues that will supposedly feature the SCP, and Michael Caronna, the author of a recently published article on the surreptitious installation of surveillance cameras in New York City's subway cars. In regards the latter, it is worth reporting the following rumor: the self-proclaimed Mayor of New York City, after reading Caronna's article, announced at his May Day press conference that he was aware of a group that "trivialized" surveillance cameras by performing plays in front of them, and that he was contemplating drafting either legislation or an executive order that would illegalize such activities. Though it has been unable to confirm this troubling rumor, the SCP have no trouble believing that Ghouliani would respond to the SCP's existence in such a fashion. The group is outraged that this so-called leader would dare to even contemplate taking such a clearly anti-democratic step, not to mention talk about it in front of reporters. The SCP hereby vows to continue to fight against the indiscriminate use of surveillance cameras in public places, even if the group's protests are pronounced "illegal" by some cancer-ridden fascist.

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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