COLUMBIA — A demonstration in downtown Columbia on Friday might have made residents feel a bit closer to the plight of paparazzi-chased celebrities in hopes of raising opposition to Proposition 1.
The demonstration was sponsored by the Keep Columbia Free Coalition, a recently formed alliance created specifically to urge Columbia voters to reject an upcoming proposal to install surveillance cameras in downtown Columbia.
Dan Viets, director of the Mid-Missouri chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the event was designed to be a “mock surveillance” protest in which demonstrators with cameras will take pictures of people who go by.
“It’s meant to raise consciousness that it’s something people don’t want; to be put on camera all the time,” Viets said. “It’s a creepy thing for the government to put us under surveillance just because someone might possibly commit a crime.”
The demonstration was held at the corner of Ninth Street and Broadway from 4 to 6 p.m.
Mayoral candidate Paul Love, who spoke during the demonstration, said he opposed Proposition 1 because of its implications for individual privacy.
“Our law is based on precedent, so if we’ve agreed that it’s OK to watch us, then it’s OK to watch us,” he said. “Anything that you agree to do today is still OK tomorrow, and they’re going to have a lot more capability to track you tomorrow than they do today.”
Attempts to reach Karen Taylor, the creator of the Keep Columbia Safe* group that supports Proposition 1, were unsuccessful.
The Keep Columbia Free Coalition, which is a union of the Mid-Missouri Chapter of the ACLU, the Liberty on the Rocks organization and the Boone Liberty Coalition, is now authorized to accept campaign contributions and spend money to promote their opposition to Prop. 1, which will be voted on April 6.
The coalition doesn't oppose surveillance cameras in high-risk areas such as parking garages where they are used mainly to protect private property. Likewise, it does not object to private businesses installing their own surveillance cameras because what they record is not public information.
Flakne, the secretary of Keep Columbia Free, said Liberty on the Rocks is a grass-roots non-partisan organization that grew out of the Ron Paul Revolution movement. The group meets weekly at The Heidelberg restaurant to discuss current political issues.
The Boone Liberty Coalition is not affiliated with a political party, but members share a similar philosophy to the Libertarian Party, Flakne said.
Flakne, a member of Liberty on the Rocks, said he was approached by Viets to work together on a common goal of opposing the camera initiative and to educate voters on its implications.
“There’s a lot of younger folks in Columbia that do not understand the issues,” Flakne said.
MU student Erika Adair, in passing by the scene of the demonstration today, said she wasn’t concerned about the issue and would be hesitant to vote on it because she didn’t know much about it.
“The only time I’m worried about getting stuff stolen from me is when I set my purse down in a place, not on the street,” she said. “I’m not at all scared, but I’m from Kansas City so it’s a drastic change."
In addition to today’s demonstration, Viets said the coalition will sponsor a screening of the film “1984” at The Blue Note on April 2 to raise awareness about the camera initiative. The screening will feature speakers to describe the issue and ask for donations to the campaign.
Flakne said though the Keep Columbia Free campaign does not currently have much funding, he hopes to run radio ads if more money is raised to publicize the reasons why he feels Proposition 1 is a bad idea.
"There's a lot of half-truths and mistruths about crime rates downtown," Flakne said. "We're just struggling to get the truth out."