Have you ever walked down a street in a developed country? If yes, consider yourself the unsung star of a silent short, because someone, somewhere was almost certainly watching you as you did.
CCTV's nothing new, which is probably why people seem to have either forgotten about or become disinterested in how creepy it is. Not so Camover, a group from Germany who have been running around Berlin smashing CCTV cameras to pieces, which isn't surprising given that their slogan is: “Freiheit sterbt mit Sicherheit”, or "Freedom dies with Security".
Not content with giving the authorities a massive headache on their own, Camover have also recently announced a competition encouraging others to get involved. All you have to do to enter is think of a name that begins with the words “Brigade…” or “Command…” and that ends with the name of a historical personality, recruit a mob and smash up cameras. Then you send pictures and video evidence to their website, and they declare the winning footage. The competition ends on February 19th – coinciding with the European Police Congress in Berlin, a time for top bacon from the whole continent to come together and discuss tactics while eating doughnuts and telling each other about how they're "too old for this shit".
I admired Camover’s chutzpah, so I called them for a chat.
VICE: Hey, Camover – what's with all the aggro?
Camover: We were bored. Just kidding. We’re critical of consumer society, where people swallow the opinions given to them by the media. They forget to think for themselves. And we thought it would be fun to motivate people to go out at night and get rid of these annoying cameras.
So why don’t you like CCTV?
We’re a diverse group of people: Shoplifters eluding capitalism who don’t want to be monitored, passengers who don’t want to followed step by step and anarchists fighting everything that wants to control us. The state needs the power of surveillance so that we all feel that “He” is there and knows what you’re doing. We’re fighting for the freedom to live independently, so let’s start by smashing some cameras!
K! Do you get in trouble with the cops a lot?
No, we’re quite difficult to catch because we destroy the CCTV.
Ingenious! How would I go about destroying a camera then?
It’s funny to do it with a fire extinguisher – you get this surge of colour and everything gets dirty. It’s also fun to beat a camera down so that you can hold it in your hands.
What's the most effective way?
Either to give someone a leg up or get some rope so that you can take it away. That way it definitely won’t cause any more trouble. But if you do that, you need to put a hat over the lens or crush it so you know it’s not still transmitting.
How many cameras have you destroyed?
We have no idea how many we've already destroyed. It’s not a big deal to destroy a camera – often you can do it quickly on the way home.
In your video there’s one bit when you’re on a train. The other passengers look pretty passive. How have the public tended to react?
At first people can be quite shocked by our brutish behaviour and the fact that we’re all dressed in black and masked up. It’s a shame because most of us are anarchists so we try to be as non-violent as possible. We attack things, not people – cops and Nazis don’t count. Most people look the other way. Sometimes they blow the whistle on the cops. But sometimes people clap. That feels good. But the best feeling is when other people do this too.
Aren’t you just wasting taxpayers’ money, since the government will inevitably re-install any CCTV you take out?
Isn’t the government just going to waste taxpayers’ money when they replace the cameras that we are inevitably going to take down again?
Touché. So this is all building up to the European Police Congress that’s meeting in Berlin in February. Tell me a bit about that.
It's a meeting of up to 2000 high-ranking police officials who think they can define what’s good and bad.
What are they meeting for?
They’ll exchange knowledge so that they can develop state repression to the point where impossible to break out or even to resist. Sponsors like Siemens, Panasonic and IBM will be there promoting their own solutions.
So why are you against it?
We don’t like cops.
You don’t say. What else?
The congress has nothing at all to do with democratic decisions and with people’s safety. It's all about the security of governments and the capitalist economy which ensures the exploitation of people and the maximisation of profit. Besides, they think it's funny to shoot tasers at black people. There’s going to be a powerful and combative demonstration against it, because politicians, economic pigs and cops need to understand that their oppression will not be accepted.
Follow Simon on Twitter: @simonchilds13
Read more dissidence on VICE: