Documenting Surveillance — AFSC Blog 1 Cross Post

I’ll be cross posting all blog posts I make while working as an American Friends Service Committee Intern. You can find the original post here.

Tuesday signaled the first day of our 6 week American Friends Service Committee internship. During our time, we’re going to learn about how militarism and violence culture spreads through the cultural consciousness and how we can use our art to uplift the voices of the oppressed and educate others. So far, we’re off to an incredibly informative start.

Our first day revolved around learning what militarization is: the systems and ideas that arise from increased xenophobia, armament and government-sanctioned violence resulting in increased military recruitment, surveillance and minority oppression. It was a complex discussion centered around how militarism (the ideological counterpart to militarization) saturates our lives and creates the systemic oppression so many of us deal with in our day to day lives. Continuing this dissection, we went on a photowalk to document the more of visible parts of militarization, including surveillance cameras, constant police presence (both on the street and in schools), and other symbols that glorify war and violence.

Picture by Selah Amoaku

For me, the most eye opening find was the sheer number of surveillance cameras that could be found on a single block. Coming from a comparatively tiny town, I’d never thought to take notice of how many cameras were watching me. It feels like a gross invasion of our personal privacy, to be unable to walk down the street without being recorded.

Is this gonna be published or about how [the cops] are bad guys? I’m really not supposed to do this.
The officer removed his badge in order to avoid identification.

Another surprise came when we tried to photograph the metal detectors inside Jones High School. A CPD officer working security actually let us in to get a better shot, so I took the opportunity to ask him for a photograph for a “school project.” After a little back and forth (“Is this gonna be published or about how [the cops] are bad guys? I’m really not supposed to do this,” I learned that CPD officers are not supposed to allow photos to be taken without deferring to what ostensibly functions as a PR department.

I appreciate the opportunity AFSC is providing us. I seriously appreciate the support of Debbie and Melisa, our mentors. I look forward to not only documenting the tools of oppression, but also learning to use my art to fight back against it.

A small bonus was the excellent poster next to the officer in the school.