Castro Advocates Call for Safe Recovery - Not Surveillance
In Fall 2020, the Castro Community Benefit District (CBD)* announced plans to accept a $695,000 private grant to blanket the San Francisco's iconic Castro neighborhood with 125 security cameras, and to install a back-end network controlled by private third party Applied Video Solutions.
Following push-back from community-based groups - principally, the recently-established Castro LGBTQ Cultural District and the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club - the Castro CBD delayed the acceptance of funds to hear more feedback from community members.
We believe in safe and secure communities, but complex surveillance technologies will not make us more safe or more secure. Over and over again, we have learned that these technologies are used for purposes beyond the investigation of specific incident reports, and instead to target and harass peaceful protesters, people experiencing poverty and homelessness, and communities of color, in particular. Historically in the Castro - a neighborhood known as a beacon of free and diverse individual expression - surveillance has been used to target ACT UP protesters and mutual aid networks during the height of the AIDS Crisis.
More recently, the Union Square Business Improvement became the subject of a lawsuit alleging the mass surveillance of peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters in and around Union Square in May and June 2020, using the exact same technology now being proposed for installation in the Castro.
We urge the Castro CBD to reject this "gift." A surveillance network of this scale will forever chill free expression in the Castro. We must work together to protect communities and small businesses in and around the Castro, but turning the Castro into a surveillance state is not the way.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Cannot Be Used as a Pretext for Expanded Surveillance.
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Castro LGBTQ Cultural District
Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club
United to Save the Mission
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(*Community Benefit Districts are created by the City and County of San Francisco subject to a vote of property owners within a special property tax assessment district. They are quasi-private entities that include staffing and public funds through the City and County of San Francisco and are intended to supplement baseline public services provided by local government.)