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On July 4, protesters in Baltimore successfully removed the statue of Christopher Columbus in an effort to eliminate racist monuments to colonialism. Arms linked, protesters formed two circles surrounding the statue to protect those actively dismantling and prevent any intervention. Once detached, the statue stone was then thrown into the harbor. Both the mayor of Baltimore and the governor of Maryland have threatened anyone involved with arrest. This is compounded with Baltimore’s heavy surveillance. That’s why we’re posting this anonymously.
Baltimore is one of America’s test kitchens for panopticon police surveillance. Baltimore Police track cell phone use without a warrant. Until 2016 (after the Freddie Gray protests) they secretly filmed the entire city from the air, tracking the movement of every person in the city. They still film the entire city from the air with spy planes now, but it’s not a secret. I hear the planes daily. This is the equivalent of a police officer following you everywhere you go once you leave your home or enter the city. This is also a violation of the first and fourth amendments to the Constitution.
In 2020 the program was expanded, despite lawsuits from the ACLU, to use warzone surveillance developed by the military for recording battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan in a program called “Gorgon Stare.” But this isn’t a war. This is spying on residents in American cities, starting with Baltimore (although the company, Persistent Surveillance Systems, is not shy about its plans to expand to other cities).
Given Baltimore Police’s long history of racial bias and lack of accountability for abuses, these spy planes become another tool to continue their routine violation of the rights of black and brown residents. Combined with the BPD’s existing ground cameras, license plate readers, and other sensors, spy planes tie data together and provide highly detailed information about residents’ identities and activities. This dystopian “big brother” surveillance is a totalitarian regime’s wet dream and will without question be weaponized against activists. They’ve did it before, already after Freddie Gray’s death, albeit secretly. Now they do it openly, and yet the footage has never been used in cases of police misconduct, office involved shootings, or rape.
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