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Faith leaders should not support spy plane

Victory Swift, mother of Victorious Swift, a student murdered in 2017, speaks out in favor of aerial surveillance as a tool to fight deadly violence. Behind her is community leader Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, left, and Cynthia Bruce, of MOMS, who lost her son in 2016. The press conference was organized by mayoral candidate Thiru Vignarajah to call for action on aerial surveillance to help fight crime. Vignarajah proposes limiting police use of the program for murder, shooting and carjacking investigations, with the requirement that police obtain a warrant.
Victory Swift, mother of Victorious Swift, a student murdered in 2017, speaks out in favor of aerial surveillance as a tool to fight deadly violence. Behind her is community leader Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, left, and Cynthia Bruce, of MOMS, who lost her son in 2016. The press conference was organized by mayoral candidate Thiru Vignarajah to call for action on aerial surveillance to help fight crime. Vignarajah proposes limiting police use of the program for murder, shooting and carjacking investigations, with the requirement that police obtain a warrant. (Amy Davis)

As a Faith leader here in Baltimore, and as a minister of the gospel, I’m sad to see so many clergy supporting mass surveillance of citizens here in Baltimore (“Over 70% of Baltimore residents would support controversial surveillance plane, poll shows,” Oct. 14). The story of people of faith — from subjugation in Egypt to the Roman Empire’s mass slaughter of Christian communities — is one of fighting against oppression. And one of the most effective tools of any oppressive empire is surveillance. It was used to target innocent Israelites in Babylon, Christians in Rome and it will hurt innocent Baltimoreans too.

The problem with surveillance is not just theological, though. It’s practical. The “promise” of surveillance is safety. But the only thing it ensures is we will all be less safe. There are no easy answers to the scourge of drugs and crime. It requires all of us to get involved in the communities we live and work in to make them safer and more habitable. Ceding authority to a faceless drone in the sky only serves to more quickly cut the bonds within and between communities.

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Instead of washing our hands and saying the plane will fix it, we should spend money to build relationships in our poorest communities, job opportunities for our most vulnerable residents and to create opportunities for hope in our sanctuaries and in our streets.

Rev. Grey Maggiano

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The writer is a rector at Memorial Episcopal Church.

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