Knowing that the government is monitoring peace activists all over the country gives one pause as to what they’re trying to “protect” — certainly not free speech or national security. However, a group in Cleveland, Ohio seems to have come up with a nifty idea intended to turn the tables on the watchers. Link here (you’ll have to make up an age and zip code to read all of it). I hope this idea catches on. If so, go out and buy a trench coat, black sunshades, and get a group together and join in on the fun. Go ahead, let your body be used for lewd purposes, like fake spying. After all, if they fuss about the get up, you can just quote Mata Hari: “Harlot, yes. But traitor? Never!”
The watched became the watchers Monday.
Trench coats and shades. The surreptitious passing of a mysterious black briefcase. Cameras and binoculars focusing on — none of your business.
Someone singing the refrain to “Secret Agent Man.”
It was guerrilla theater staged outside the Celebrezze Federal Building about 7:30 a.m. by the Northeast Ohio Anti-War Coalition (NOAC).
Some two dozen members of NOAC and other groups affiliated with the coalition dressed in exaggerated spy gear to protest government surveillance of a NOAC meeting in Cleveland last November, and similar monitoring of other peace groups, including the Quakers.
Hence, “Operation Turn the Tables,” as one sign read near the man wearing a CIA — “Citizens Intelligence Agency” — jacket.
“Google This!” another sign dared.
NOAC member Sarah Morton said the demonstration was intended to plant a covert tongue in a very serious cheek — matching a perceived government gaffe with an equally ludicrous gesture. To “make people think about the ridiculousness of this federal action,” as Morton said.
The “spies” were bracketed by Homeland Security cars parked behind them, and security keeping a watchful eye in front of them from the building on East Ninth Street and Lakeside Avenue.
Peering back at them through comically fake glasses, under a wide-brimmed fedora matching her tan trench coat, Penny “Peacenik” (her term) Allen, of Cleveland Heights, said of the recent government surveillance, “I can’t imagine why they feel we’re threatening enough to spy on us.