UPDATE: LISTEN 2 THIS AMAZING MIX BY BALTIMORE RESIDENT DJ ES, MADE ESPECIALLY FOR THIS PROJECT
AFTSPn: An Introduction
“Art, for the Spy Plane” was created in reaction to the implementation of an aerial surveillance program during peaceful demonstrations related to the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other victims of police violence and discrimination. I created two giant banners, which artist friends and I decorated for one audience – “the eyes in the sky”. We wanted to give the surveillance program a message – “WE SEE YOU, DO YOU SEE US”.
The spy plane[s] (they actually plan to mobilize 3 planes) program is funded by white, Texan billionaires, and is managed by Persistent Surveillance Systems in collaboration with the Baltimore City Police Department, under the label “Community Support Program”. Persistent Surveillance Systems’ URL is www.PSS-1.com, and it’s president/owner’s name is Ross McNutt. I am a writer, but I cannot, for the life of me, make this stuff up. And, maybe predictably, they are pros at tugging the heart strings – check this vague, strictly emotional promo video out:
you can find more info on their plans for Baltimore here:
Persistent Surveillance Systems Homepage:
Information on the so-called ‘Community Support Program’:
The Baltimore Police Department’s Take:
Radiolab also did an episode in 2015 featuring them. They tote Mr. McNutt as having a “superpower”:
Needless to say, there are a lot of people who seem to think this business of keeping Aerial Investigation Research (AIR) planes – again not making this up – over a city region, but not themselves, is a very good idea, one worthy of being used during peaceful demonstrations and backed by a LOT of money. If you do need an informative explanation about why all of this is a very BAD idea, please read this article by Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle:
The ACLU did try to stop it, and relatively recently:
but alas, to no avail.
[MORE INFO CAN BE FOUND HERE: https://lbsbaltimore.com/?s=no+spy+plane]
While in the air, the program’s planes continuously record video, surveilling a metropolitan area that is largely black, brown, and overall, economically disparaged. The resolution isn’t that good (1 pixel per person, in their words), but they can track each pixel from departure to destination, then compare with ground cameras to confirm an individual’s identity. During the peaceful demonstrations the week of June 1st, the operational plane dropped it’s altitude from 10,000 ft. to 5000 ft. There are reports that the plane has gone as low as sub-3500 ft. (this is low). They are testing their metrics on us – this work was created to raise awareness about this issue.
The gallery below explains in further detail the inspiration and blueprint for realization behind “Art, for the Spy Plane”, [as archived on Instagram*]. Please read it to learn more about this work [click thumbnail for larger image, proceed left to right].
*note: I know the planes are not RC (remote-controlled) – was making a dumb joke from an uninformed position, making a guess at what was going on with the surveillance program, as I was learning about it. Normally I wouldn’t publish, I just think it’s a funny trope.
This work came together in two days [June 4-6, 2020], and was implemented in in Baltimore during national demonstrations to #endpolicebrutality, #defundthepolice and achieve #JusticeForGeorge Floyd – keep scrolling for a debrief/conclusion of event. I’d like to express my endless thanks to all of those who helped make it a reality. THANK YOU!
“ART, FOR THE SPY PLANE”, A conclusion:
the above images represent a debrief/essay summary of this work, as archived on Instagram (@redwoodindustrial). While we did not necessarily achieve “a solution” or the original goal (which was to block the Spy Plane’s view), we did successfully execute a collaborative hack of an otherwise lopsided system, and within a matter of days. Through the process much was learned, about the spy plane, as well as our tactics. I truly appreciate all who volunteered their time and effort on this work. Click thumbnails for larger view.
AN ASIDE: Instagram, though a considerable donor to political parties with which I don’t jibe, does happen to be a free, useful tool to develop this sort of project, and with no alternative, I have fun making the most of it. In the course of two days, I was successfully able to contact and bring together a team of generous, hardworking, and thoughtful volunteers, who helped me execute this project to a degree that I can only consider a success. Social media is an important tool, a technology whose effectiveness need not be diluted by the people who own it. Please read the summary above to get a better understanding of what this project achieved, and what it meant to the participants!
NOTE: AERIAL DOCUMENTATION IS NOT FROM THE SPY PLANE! It’s from the CBS raw helicopter feed, screen-captured remotely by a friend during the demonstration.