Because I wrote last week about the beautiful souls opposing Oakland’s surveillance plans, the day before a City Council vote on the matter, I wanted to offer an update to readers who may not live in the Bay Area. As always, I focus on the anarchist angle and don’t much discuss other factors. One depiction from anti-surveillance partisan Yasha Levine is here. Reporter Matthew Artz provides a neutral overview here.
The call “ALL OUT” from Occupy Oakland, seen Tuesday, is understood to mean doctrinaire anarchists. The sidewalk in front of our home serves as an anarchist promenade, so I can tell you that the sour-faced, black-clad youth who normally pass by were absent Tuesday evening. This is always the case when a riot occurs, though anarchists can’t always pull one off.
Mayor Jean Quan needed to respond in some way anti-surveillance outcry, which was not limited to anarchists after Snowden. She also needed to deprive anarchists of a chance to spark a riot. Hours before the meeting, she announced her support to move the existing surveillance center to the Port of Oakland and that the center would not be linked with surveillance within the city.
This accomplished the city’s primary objectives, which was to keep the city eligible for a $10.9 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security and approve a deal with the security technology contractor, Schneider Electric. At the same time, the move ameliorated fears that Oakland would be allowing the DHS to spy on citizens, targeting activists, or initiate race-based crackdowns.
Quan’s shift in position would allow the American Civil Liberties Union to claim victory, backing away from true anti-surveillance believers. The ACLU had charged that privacy protections were vague but did not join anti-statist fundamentalists in opposing surveillance against crime and terrorism per se, though the mix of voices within the raucous crowds at City Council meetings are hard to distinguish.
Meanwhile, the port, which is under the jurisdiction of the city, gets surveillance against terror threats, which is the DHS’ primary concern.
The meeting was open to public comment and beautiful souls of all kinds filled out speaker cards, though by the end people were simply elbowing their way to the lectern. I followed the proceedings on Twitter and KTOP-TV10, where viewers had to choose between members of the public traumatized by visions of Orwellian dystopia and city officials trying to cut a deal.
Council sessions open to public comment have long had the tone of a dysfunctional therapy group in Oakland, with anarchists now promoting a kind of primal scream therapy. Council members listen to the public as best they can to often tragic stories, some told well and some poorly, trying to pluck out something of bureaucratic or political value.
The photo above shows a man Matthew Artz referred to in a tweet as “the surveillance ninja,” who wore a mask while photographing public officials at the meeting. Some interpreted his message as a piece of political theater, the mask intended to show how everyone would have to live in Oakland’s new surveillance state. Even if it was only theater, wearing a mask in council chambers ignores the context of Black Bloc rioting in Oakland, a play at quasi-anarchist fashion at best.
“I think everyone should wear masks every single day,” said the man, who seemed drunk.
“Thank you,” a council member replied. “We get your message.” ■