Oakland, CA – A wide-ranging coalition of Bay Area activists will converge at Oscar Grant Plaza this Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 from roughly 6pm onward, to speak out against Oakland City Council’s plan to approve Schneider Electric as the contractor for Phase II of construction of the proposed Oakland Police Department’s surveillance hub, the Domain Awareness Center (DAC). If Schneider Electric is approved, this would be the final vote before construction would continue on the DAC. Activists are braced for this possibility and are ready to launch a lawsuit against City Council to halt construction, based on civil liberties violations and noncompliance with the city’s own contracting policies, including its Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance.
The DAC is a proposed $10.9M Department of Homeland Security-funded, 24/7 surveillance center, which has generated a firestorm of press, from such media outlets as The New York Times, The Guardian, Al Jazeera America, Russia Today, Boing Boing, AlterNet, Truthout, Common Dreams, TechDirt, and the East Bay Express. Locally, it has spawned a fierce groundswell of resistance, uniting a disparate coalition of impassioned residents representing the entire political spectrum from left to right who are unwaveringly saying “no” to government surveillance and the militarization of our community. The project, which was initially sold to City Council under the auspices of protecting the Port of Oakland’s infrastructure, has grown exponentially in scope since its inception and would now enable law enforcement to engage in widespread warrantless surveillance of Oakland residents, using large numbers of surveillance cameras, license plate readers, thermal imaging devices, gun-shot detection sensors, toll payment tracking for those using electronic passes, and social media monitoring, along with other tools. Though the project is slated to receive federal start-up money by way of grants from the Department of Homeland Security, this funding will expire after two years, leaving tax-paying residents to foot the continued expenses of running a state of the art, round-the-clock surveillance center.
A letter in support of not awarding Schneider Electric the contract (*document attached*) has been signed by the following community groups and group members: Normon Solomon, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, Phat Beets Produce, Women for Genuine Security, Access, National Lawyers Guild, East Point Peace Academy, The Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, ONYX Organizing Committee, former council member Wilson Riles, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, CODEPINK, Elaine Brown, former Chair Black Panther Party, Alameda County Against Drones, Oakland International Socialist Organization, Veterans for Peace, California and Alameda County Democratic Party delegates, and Prison Activist Resource Center, among others.
The coalition seek the unequivocal termination of the project, which they feel violates the legal rights andprivacy of ordinary, law-abiding citizens; has little to no accountable oversight and no privacy framework in place to dictate policies regarding retention and dissemination of the collected data. It will create even deeper distrust between citizens and law enforcement in a city which has for decades been the epicenter of police violence against citizens – at a time when the Oscar Grant and Alan Blueford murders and the near-lethal brutality seen in the Occupy Oakland demonstrations are still fresh on people’s minds. It has tremendous potential for data leaks, whether from outside hackers or from inside operatives; and would be an incredibly poor use of public funds, when the city budget is already strapped for cash. Demonstrators are resolute that the DAC will not be built in Oakland. They are asking residents to come out to send a clear message to CityCouncil that if this project isn’t terminated, City Council will be in for a fight!
For additional information on the DAC, the mounting efforts to stop it, and a complete list of the press coverage it’s garnered, the best resource is Oakland Wiki.