Group Protests Tempe Cameras with Theatre

Actors Rally on Mill Avenue

ASU students and alumni celebrated an International Day of Action Against Video Surveillance on Friday as five actors performed skits that protested the Web cams operating on Mill Avenue.

The group, Arizona Surveillance Camera Players, protests against the use of surveillance cameras and Web cameras and Web cams in public places because members believe it violates the constitutionally protected right to privacy. Their protests include short plays performed directly in front of the surveillance cameras with the idea that they are actually performing for a TV station.

The Arizona group is connected to the New York group of the same name that began protesting 1996.

Chuck Banaszewski, a Ph.D. student in youth theatre at ASU, founded and directs the Arizona chapter. The group, started in February, consists of Banaszewski and some of his "Theatre for Social Change" students.

The first International Surveillance Camera Awareness Day was on Friday, and 22 groups around the world did protest performances for this cause.

Banaszewski and his players acted out Don't Worry -- You'll still be Allowed to Shop! which mocked restrictions on Mill Avenue and TV Guide Reality-Based TV, which criticized shows like Spy TV, The Weakest Link, Temptation Island and Inside Edition.

There are two cameras that broadcast pictures at 24 hours a day. One is called "Sneaky peak" and is located at the corner of Sixth Street and Mill Avenue on top of the Urban Outfitters store. The other is a wandering camera that travels around every few months. Currently, the wandering cam is in the Performing Arts Center. The Web site broadcasts in the visitor section so outsiders can see life in downtown Tempe.

The Tempe Web site also has a "Camera Policy" section that reads, "We value the privacy of our citizens as they play on Mill. Anyone would be hard pressed to actually identify anyone because our cameras are up high and lack the sharpness needed for that exact reason."

The surveillance Camera Players stated at 10 a.m. and finished at 10:30 a.m. Tempe Entertainment and Management [T.E.A.M.] Security showed up at 10:10 a.m. to tell the company to remove themselves from private property. The security guards said that Center Point privately owns the entire sidewalk and protests are not allowed there.

"We don't stop if security approaches us," Banaszewski said. "We tell them to call the cops and if the cops ask us to leave, we will."

The founder of the original New York Surveillance Camera Players, Bill Brown, encourages this idea as well.

"The big story with us is that none of us has ever been arrested, even in all seven countries that perform this. Our protests are not violent, we just want to change people's opinions about privacy in public," he said.

Brown said he thinks that privacy is a fundamental human right.

"Many people believe that privacy in public is a contradiction to itself. With all due respect, this view is because of ignorance. We all have a right to privacy where ever we go, not just in our houses and bathrooms," Brown said.

Banaszewski wants awareness to [word missing in original] from his performances.

"The ultimate goal here is to have the cameras taken down or at least have regulations. I don't think this will happen in our day and age because of technology, but at least we can show people who don't know about the cameras where they are," he said.

The Arizona Surveillance Camera Players next performance is scheduled to be 9:30 a.m. Thursday on Mill Avenue and Sixth Street.

[Written by Sandy Almendarez and published in the Arizona State University student paper, The State Press, on 10 September 2001.]

Contact the Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail SCP

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

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