Business / Economy

COMMENTARY: Are we being watched at the Farmers’ Market?

Surveillance cameras give event a 'big brother' feel

It’s a shame that the Hollister City Council and police department may have turned an American, family-friendly tradition – the local Farmers' Market congregation  into an NSA, FBI, and local law enforcement “surveillance state” folly.

Do you know that the Hollister surveillance/spy program put in place for the so-called “family friendly” Bike Rally, has continued afterwards?  The surveillance program that records images, has audio/sound capabilities, the recording of recognizing facial attributes of individuals, and yes, your license plate, for future reference, is on 24-7, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This is disturbing and more importantly, unwarranted and a violation of the public trust. Not to mention that it is stored for future reference and may very well be shared with the San Francisco Fusion Center of the U.S. Department of Homeland Insecurity, Fear, and Lies. It serves no conceivable legitimate national security interest or purpose, other than using that information (your dietary interest, purchases and conversation) against YOU! 

Spying on neighbors meeting at the local farmers' market, while they share pleasantries, greetings and the latest family news, high school friends share teenage secrets and what they have done for the summer, business colleagues and associates discuss trade confidentialities, etc., could now be in the hands of your local police for their viewing pleasure and interest – the same politicians and appointed officials you entrusted to protect your most fundamental of freedoms.

The uneasiness and surreal discomfort in knowing that you may be surveilled/spied-upon, by your local police, in a local hometown farmers' market – where crime is “rampant”- for no apparent legitimate governmental purpose, in unacceptable. This expression of disdain for and lack of trust in its residents is an example of political leadership and governing standard falling short of expectation.

The so-call legitimate government function or national security interest for this type of dragnet surveillance — to collect and store your every movement, what we purchase at the market, and what we say to each other in public — is uncalled for. As we look for greater anonymity, and when our political leaders fall prey to local law enforcement’s call for greater compromise of our individual freedoms and liberties – all based on unfounded fears – is just outright creepy!

As one San Benito High School student shared with me when asked why he wasn't partaking in the farmers' market “…it uneasy and uncomfortable to walk downtown when you know you are being watched by cameras….”.        

Luis Burguillo

As a student of the media and journalism, I am interested in utilizing the medium in order to assure that the residents of the City of Hollister and San Benito County are alerted, informed and educated on the official actions of their elected officials who are sworn to preserve, protect and defend the US constitution and Bill of Rights. More importantly, their engagement in the political process will hold the leaders accountable for their actions/decisions and lead to an improved governance.