On March 4th, 2014, Oakland’s city hall was crowded with people protesting the city’s plans to build the Domain Awareness Center (DAC).
The DAC is a $10.9 million surveillance hub that would integrate data from public and private cameras, license plate readers, facebook and twitter feeds, and other sensors to spy on the people of Oakland. Studies have shown that video surveillance has no positive impact on crime. Conversely, history has shown that government surveillance has been used to systematically target and repress organizing by our communities in Oakland.
Hundreds of people participated in the public comment period during the Oakland City Council meeting where the decision to approve the DAC plan was being decided.
In the days leading up to that meeting, ASATA members shared resources about the issue and some participated in a training at the Lighthouse Mosque to prepare talking points for when addressing the City Council.
Muslim communities know what a culture of surveillance means and how it feels to be unfairly targeted. Before the City Council meeting started, a press conference led by members of the Lighthouse Mosque took place on the steps of City Hall. There, ASATA member Nadia Hussain gave a speech about how surveillance does not make our communities safer. And as the sun began to set, everyone was invited to participate in evening prayers before going inside and facing the City Council.
The meeting continued late into the night as various Oakland residents, and community organizers voiced their opposition one by one. ASATA member Devika Ghai’s turn to speak came at 12:00am. When she said that as a Hindu, she would not stand by while her Muslim brothers and sisters were targeted, the entire courthouse erupted in cheers — shedding light on the need for more solidarity and work against Islamophobia within our diverse communities.
The final vote was made after 1am, whereupon the Council decided not to approve the Domain Awareness Center surveillance of the City of Oakland and instead limited the program to the Port only. This is a partial victory for the hard work folks have done in organizing against the proposed system. But clearly, the work continues.
Check out the live tweets from that night.