Protest like nobody's watching

Posted by CODEPINK Staff

by Sharon Miller, CODEPINK San Francisco intern

One of the things that I’ve been thinking, as we near the 10th anniversary of 9/11, is that it wasn’t long after the attacks that many Americans embraced the security state, perhaps under the impression that constant surveillance was the only thing standing between the United States and the terrorists. For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, advertisements like this one began showing up on public transit. We have been encouraged, by the government and by the media, to police each other according to our own definitions of “normal” and “suspicious.”

One effect of the level of community surveillance that became commonplace after 9/11 is a culture in which we police ourselves to avoid arousing suspicion. Self-policing affects how much of ourselves and our thoughts we choose to reveal to others. For several years, I worried that being too vocal about my opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would get the attention of those who would brand me as suspicious and place me under surveillance. Some would respond that if I had nothing to hide, the constant threat of surveillance shouldn’t bother me.  However, there have been reports of unsuspecting civilians being caught in the security/surveillance dragnet, who actually had “nothing to hide”—that is, nothing that could reasonably be interpreted as a threat to public safety.

For example, I recently found this chilling report about Minnesota’s Mall of America from NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting. The biggest mall in the country has established its own counterterrorism program, which gives a sinister, dystopian meaning to the term “mall security.” Journalists obtained 1,000 pages of “suspicious activity reports” on various shoppers stopped and questioned by security guards at the Mall of America dating back to 2005. Guards at the Mall of America interrogate an average of 1,200 people annually, ostensibly based on suspicions that they may be plotting terrorist attacks there. If a mall’s security force is included in the Orwellian-sounding Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, it begs the question: who else is watching us, and where?

At the same time, I just can't remain silent. I refuse to let my fear be used to justify war after endless war. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I refuse to give in to my fear of being "discovered." I will be joining CODEPINK and other activists and members of the community in a public local action for peace and justice. What will you do?

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