Big Brother Turns An Eye On The Park

SPOKANE — In advance of the Fourth of July celebration the Spokane Police Department has installed surveillance cameras in Riverfront Park to help them keep an eye out for potential problems.

These new cameras will be in use this coming Friday though police don’t anticipate any problems like last year where 17 protesters were arrested following a confrontation with police.

During last year’s protests three detectives shot video as they gathered intelligence on a self-proclaimed anarchist who helped organized the July 4th protest against police brutality. The video that was shot missed critical parts of the protest including the alleged assault of a Spokane police officer.

Spokane Police say they’ve learned from last year’s incident so this year several video cameras have been installed in the park to keep an eye on the crowds. To keep the cameras from being vandalized or stolen, police would not disclose how many have been installed or where the cameras have been placed.

The police department did confirm the cameras are directed on the busiest areas of the park including the meadow at the base of the clock tower where last year’s demonstration took place.

The camera system will be monitored remotely and in real time. Police say they will be looking for problems like people drinking alcohol in the park, assaults or disorderly conduct. All video gathered from the surveillance cameras can be used as evidence.

“By putting up hidden cameras in the park, the police are behaving as if there was something significantly threatening about utilizing the right to free speech to organize and demonstrate,” Travis Riehl, one of the demonstrators who rallied at the park last year, said. “Based on this reaction, I’d say it’s pretty reaffirming in that it shows that we are taking legitimate courses of action to effect societal change enough to have the authorities concerned with recording our annual picnics.”

Spokane Police spokesman Jennifer DeRuwe said that the cameras have only been installed temporarily and were in place prior to Hoopfest, though she could not confirm whether or not they were used to monitor the crowds in Riverfront Park during the tournament.

Riehl confirmed Monday that demonstrators are planning to march in the park again this year. They’re planning to pass out literature, give speeches and hold a picnic in the park. And unlike last year they’ve received a permit to peacefully assemble from the Spokane Police Department.