In 2009, NYPD Issued 'Surveillance Request' To 'Identify' Anonymous Members During Their Anti-Scientology Rally
from the people-wearing-masks-are-inherently-suspicious dept
Recently, Adrian Chen tweeted out something interesting: a link to an internal NYPD document detailing a "surveillance request" to stake out a rally by Anonymous at the Church of Scientology. Its purpose? To "identify as many members of as possible." The report goes on to note that the difficulty level of this task might be upped significantly.
Please note that members of the group frequently wears masks covering their entire faces.This is an important distinction, as certain members of the surveillance unit might have been more inclined to snoop on more easily identified, unmasked citizens. Now, I can understand why the NYPD might want to uncover the identities of Anonymous members as the (not really an) organization has wreaked a lot of havoc in various areas, most of them online. But there is something unsettling about a police force attending demonstrations and rallies to perform intel rather than to keep the peace.
But actions taken during Occupy Wall Street show that the PD's agenda usually means treating protesters (as well as anyone with a camera) as criminals. And attempting to "unmask" participants in an Anonymous rally lumps all attendees in with the activist group, even if many of them have never actively participated in any illegal activities. It also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Anonymous' "structure," i.e., there is none. There's no "head" to capture and mount on the metaphorical wall. There's also no "tail" to drag off to HQ and sweat down in hopes of it offering up higher-ranked members.
While it's true that you may find some criminals within the ranks of protesters for any cause, heading into protests with the intent of compiling a "To Arrest" list puts police officers into entirely the wrong mindset. There's enough "us vs. them" attitude floating around already. This simply creates an antagonism that skews the perception of every witnessed activity. Peaceful protests are now just riots waiting to happen. It's not people united for a single cause, it's a hive mind operating under a devious directive. The whole thing is unhealthy for both the police and the public.
Also worth noting is the fact that this occurred before the Occupy protests, when Anonymous targeted the NYPD for its acts of brutality against the protesters, meaning this attempt to unmask members wasn't a retaliatory act (which isn't OK but is at least a rationale) or an attempt to find those who made threats against the department.
That being said, the surveillance request (what there is of it) contains the following sentence, which is notable both for a.) the inventive disgustingness of the act and b.) not being accompanied by a drunk and disorderly citation.
Most recently, a member ran into the church covered in vaseline and pubic hairs.Yeah. This actually happened. And it also included nail clippings. This extremely random act of civil disobedience was denounced by irritated, non-Anonymous Scientology critics and the greased-up pube delivery system was arrested, briefly investigated and discharged by the NYPD.
Most notably, there's no reason given for the surveillance unless you count Vaseline Man as a valid impetus. The entire form is almost completely blank, giving the whole thing an appearance of "just because." Maybe the NYPD felt No One's Personal Army posed a threat to Mayor Bloomberg's Personal Army. Or maybe the Church of Scientology wields just as much power as people attribute to it.