Category Archives: Protests

We are All Protesting in Hong Kong Now

Pearl River     The big reveal on protests now is an admission of what many have known or suspected for years:  domestic surveillance is real and it’s all around us.

According to press reports, the Department of Homeland Security deployed helicopters, airplanes and drones over 15 cities where demonstrators gathered to protest the death of George Floyd, logging at least 270 hours of surveillance, far more than previously revealed, according to Customs and Border Protection data.  The rationale for the huge budget of the department, especially after 9/11, was to protect the US homeland from foreign terrorists.  Now we find out that even low-level DHS operatives can call for air support to monitor domestic protests.  It is even hard to imagine the security rationale.  They claim it had to do with identifying arsonists and vandals, but that is actually the job of local police, right?  What’s the federal scope for domestic spying on that order?  Is this an antifa hunt or just standard operating procedure, now exposed.

DHS is quick to claim that they were not using facial recognition software and that their equipment was not up to the task of recording license plate numbers for example.  It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that the march of technology will make that denial moot PDQ.  Of course, none of us were born yesterday, so it strains credibility to believe that they were using all of this airpower supposedly to identify arsonists and other miscreants but they can’t really identify them.  This is a vacuous head fake.  Presumably, if they did see something from the air, they could turn it over to the myriad local police departments that do in fact use recognition software to handle that part of the spying protocol.

The cities targeted by DHS included Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Minneapolis of course.  The longest flyover was in Detroit, where one administration after another has been scared to death that black rebellion could breakout at any minute for more than fifty years.  Not scared enough to actually solve any of the embedded and structural issues, mind you, but scared enough to spend billions over these decades to police problems governments have been unwilling to solve.

Now that the USA under Trump is on its way to becoming the new China, the pandemic is providing a small silver lining during this tragic and depressing time by making mask wearing mandatory.  We need to follow the lead of our brothers and sisters in Hong Kong and make masks, hats, and even googles semi-standard wear for protests and demonstrations.  We should do so not because we anticipate violence from the police and national guard, but to dissuade the chilling effect of mass surveillance for any wary of standing for justice in the streets.

For some of us, we can come as we are, now that any remaining doubt of all of such domestic spying has been confirmed as common knowledge in police and security circles at all levels.

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USA Protests by the Numbers

New Orleans     The New York Times print edition featured a two-page spread overlaying the map of the United States in a special Black Lives Matter section.  Across the map were the names of the 2000 cities and towns where there had been protests in a recent two-week period against racism and police brutality.  This was a powerful expression of this surge of Americans confronting this persistent disease in our country and demanding change.  Wow!

As impressive as the mapwork was, I was more intrigued about who or what was doing the counting.  The small print said, Count Love.  Ok, I’m game.  Let’s look under the hood.

Count Love turns out to be a website protest tracker working only in the US.  The creators are clear about their motivation:  relief from the election.  They are more measured, saying…

We are Tommy Leung and Nathan Perkins, engineers and scientists with a keen interest in civic responsibility and public policy. We started Count Love in catharsis to 2016, and we continue active development during our free time. We met during overlapping stints at MIT while working on our Masters in Technology and Policy.

Good for them.  And, for all of us.  Whenever you might feel we are somehow sucking all of the oppression down, you can click on the statistic link and bam, find that …

Since January 20th, 2017, we’ve learned about 19,326 protests with over 12,533,319 attendees—individuals demonstrating for inclusion, human rights and the environment.

Our fellow traveling brothers, Tommy and Nathan, don’t gild the lily on the numbers as the president is want to do.  Their rules for counting the love are pretty rigorous.  They use a crawl algorithm to scour newspapers and television news.  They don’t count fluff.  They round down on generalities:  about a dozen, they record as 10, dozens they record as 20, hundreds they list only as 100.  The rookie organizer’s attempt to count children as part of the crowd can’t make it past these guys.

Not only are they conservative in the counting house, but they also leave the windows wide open so that anyone can see what they are doing.  They encourage people to use their numbers.  They link you to explanations more MIT than me and you, but that’s OK, too.  Although transparent, some of their site is clunky.  Open the home page and you find yourself looking at a random district in some state like Washington or California.  I’m not sure why that is, but it’s offset by some good overall graphic representations and categorization of protests that not only include civil rights and the environment, but also collective bargaining, i.e. union work, and legislative protests.

They are missing community actions, but that can be fixed.  Maybe the best thing about their effort here is that they also have an anonymous way that you can submit your own protest to the mix and have it become a part of the data.  I like that.  It’s not the same as front page news, but I like the fact that your action is part of the collective force for change, more than simply a picture on Facebook.

Good work, guys!  Sending some love over to the Count Love crew!

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Please enjoy Change is Gonna Come by Los Coast Feat Gary Clark JR.

Thanks to WAMF.

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