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Surveillance Is Trash

Surveillance Is Trash: Dec. 2021 Group
Photo: Wanda A. Romain / EOS
Surveillance Is Trash: Dec. 2021
Photo: Wanda A. Romain / EOS

Peace by Piece New Orleans is a founding member of the Eye on Surveillance (EOS), a coalition of groups concerned with the use of surveillance programs in New Orleans. In 2020 EOS drafted Ordinance 33021, calling for a ban on the city’s use of four surveillance technologies including facial recognition, characteristic tracking, ALPRs (or stingrays) and prediction policing. New Orleans City Council passed Ordinance 33021 in December 2020.

EOS pledged to spend 2021 engaging more with community and exploring alternatives to surveillance and policing practices that serve to criminalize Black and Brown communities. During our efforts to pass the ordinance, we heard time and time again from City Council and community members that some areas of New Orleans are primary targets for illegal dumping, and that crime cameras were a solution to eliminating this activity.

Illegal trash dumping is a pervasive problem that demands holistic, sustainable solutions. Construction and demolition debris, industrial waste, tires, furniture, and litter have taken over our communities and blighted property exacerbates the problem. Community members do not know who is dumping or why and feel abandoned by the city. History has shown us that cleanups and more surveillance cameras do not stop trash from showing up on our streets. There is a need to address the root causes of waste and bring forth positive, community-driven solutions.

On Sunday, October 17th, Eye on surveillance in partnership with Healthy Gulf, Common Ground Relief, No Waste Louisiana, the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED), and the Worker Center for Racial Justice launched Surveillance Is Trash, a series of local cleanup efforts in the Lower Ninth Ward and across the city. Cleanups alone are a temporary solution to a persistent problem. The goal of Surveillance Is Trash is to systematically clean up trash and collect data to identify the sources of waste in our neighborhoods.

More than 35 volunteers collected over 3,800 pieces of trash. We also heard from community leaders who spoke to the importance of created community-centered solutions that don’t surveil our neighborhoods or police our residents. According to EOS member and climate activist, Sage Michael, “The Surveillance Is Trash event spawned opportunities to come together on other organizations' campaigns and brought a feeling that people care in this community and about this community. There is a  Zero Waste Challenge launching on November 15 and I think we can participate in to engage on the topic of dumping.”

- Blair Minnard
Peace by Piece NOLA Program Associate