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Community Comes Together on Privacy and Surveillance
ACLU Santa Cruz to Take the Lead on License Plate Readers
Wednesday night at Louden Nelson Community Center a standing room only crowd heard presentations and exchanged sharp views on privacy and domestic surveillance with local activists and Council Member Micah Posner. The forum entitled Surveillance City covered a broad range of local privacy topics and produced a particularly spirited dialogue on the issue of the proposed use by the Santa Cruz Police Department of Automatic License Plate Readers. Presentations were made by activist/journalist John Malkin, Restore the Fourth Santa Cruz Co-Founder Colin Campbell Clyde and Council Member Micah Posner. An animated short produced by ACLU Santa Cruz Technology Chair Jay Campbell was screened.
It was clear from the overflow crowd of well over 100 residents and the intensity of the discussion that resistance to the increasingly diminishing right of personal privacy in Santa Cruz was something that the community was eager to rally and organize around. Many in the audience called for a fuller discussion of the vote by City Council to accept Justice Assistance Grant funding for the license plate readers and urged Council Member Posner to push for a rehearing of this issue.
Local Constitutional Rights advocate Daniel Sheehan decried the invasion of privacy this technology represents and said that the question is not how these readers should be used but whether or not they should be used at all. In his view, any guidelines or protocols established for their use would create a potential for abuse that far outweighed any perceived benefit to the community.
Attorney and long time homeless rights advocate Ed Frey called for full transparency in city council decisions and particularly noted that the deliberations which led to the council's acceptance of the grant funding should have been a matter fully disclosed and debated in a public forum. Robert Norse echoed his sentiments in a pointed criticism of council protocols. Council Member Posner, who admitted to being less than fully informed himself about the readers, urged the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union to “take the lead” in galvanizing public opinion and support for reconsideration of council's decision.
The forum, which was scheduled to end at 8:30, lasted until nearly 9:30 as many of the attendees remained to continue the discussion about the privacy and surveillance issues that clearly resonate with many residents.
As of this writing, ACLU Santa Cruz is developing an on line petition and will continue to be engaged in the broad issue of domestic surveillance and specifically the effort to gain a rehearing before council on license plate readers.
Co-sponsors ACLU Santa Cruz and Restore the Fourth Santa Cruz wish to thank Food Not Bombs Santa Cruz for provided a wonderful meal and the people of Santa Cruz who made this forum a truly community building event.