Tell All Potential Funders: Spy Planes Over St. Louis Lack Community Support

Potential Funders of Spy Planes in St. Louis

On December 12, 2020, Alderman Oldenburg introduced Board Bill 200, creating a contract with Persistent Surveillance Systems LLC to permit spy planes to fly over St. Louis. This is not the first time we’ve confronted this threat. The bill states this program will be “free” for the city, funded by private foundations and corporations in lieu of public dollars.  

We were pleased to read publicly on January 7, 2021 that Arnold Ventures, a Texas-based philanthropy organization, communicated to Alderman Oldenburg that the foundation would only consider funding this proposal if public dollars were also included at a level consistent with “strong community support.” In St. Louis the evidence is clear- there is no strong community support.

Those in favor of the contract included only four individuals, one of whom is Dr. Ross McNutt, the founder of the Persistent Surveillance System. 26 community members testified in opposition. Below, you can sign our petition to oppose BB 200.

"Persistent Surveillance Systems" is a mass-surveillance system developed by the military to wage war in Iraq. Using this in St. Louis would put the entire city under the eyes of our government and this private company without any regulations. Across the country we have seen protestors surveilled, social media scraped, and faulty arrests made based on technological mistakes disproportionally targeting Black and Brown people. We cannot be free to assemble with the fear of government retribution. We are not free when some of us find our actions and speech under scrutiny at every turn.

Please sign on to let any potential future funders know they do not have your support to fly unregulated spy planes in our city, and that they should instead put that money directly into our communities.

To: Potential Funders of Spy Planes in St. Louis
From: [Your Name]

Dear Potential Funders of Persistent Surveillance Systems,

As a St. Louis city resident I am asking you not to invest any money into Persistent Surveillance Systems, and instead invest money directly into our communities.

Both the sponsor of this bill and the founder of Persistent Surveillance Systems have suggested that Arnold Ventures may fund Persistent Surveillance Systems as they did in Baltimore. We know that Arnold Ventures’ core mission is “to invest in evidence-based solutions that maximize opportunity and minimize injustice.” We also know that Arnold Ventures informed Alderman Oldenburg that they were not interested in funding Persistent Surveillance Systems in lieu of “strong community support.”

That support does not exist in St. Louis.

We urge all potential funders to study and appreciate the will of St. Louis residents in contemplating their investment. On Tuesday January 5th, at the only public hearing for this proposed contract, only four individuals, one of whom is Dr. Ross McNutt, the founder of the Persistent Surveillance Systems, testified in support of BB 200.

We, the undersigned, join the 26 individuals who testified on January 5th at 1pm to express opposition.

Spy planes violate people’s rights and should never be used against our residents under the guise of public safety. As a resident and following the leadership of Black and Brown community leaders in St. Louis, I ask that funders direct their attention to grassroots-based solutions to attack the root causes of violence.

Thank you,
The residents of St. Louis city