Dillon Sung in collaboration with Stop LAPD Spying Coalition

Rapid Response Fellow 2020 - 2020

The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition is a grassroots community-based organization based in Los Angeles that seeks to build community power toward the abolition of the police state. The Coalition organizes to expose and dismantle the rapid expansion of the surveillance state and the continuing incorporation of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency tactics and programs into domestic and local policing. Dillon Sung is a multimedia artist (drawing, painting, installation, social practice), political organizer, and Ph.D. student based in Los Angeles. She has background particularly in migrant justice organizing and in creating art for campaigns against deportations and state surveillance. Dillon and Coalition members have been collaborating together since 2014.

What do you plan to do during Phase 1 of Rapid Response?

The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition’s plan for Phase 1 of Rapid Response is to organize all the materials we have collected over the years from governmental agencies and more in order to house them in a consolidated digital archive. We plan to make this archive freely available to the public. The majority of the materials we currently store are from our Public Records Act (PRA) requests, which include state surveillance documents describing policies that are currently operational. Digitizing and making public the information we have gathered and work we have done to date will greatly add to the Coalition’s capacity in doing broad-based community education and outreach. Our goal for this digital archive project is to support organizers in building community power nationally and internationally and be a resource to artists and researchers creating work on state power, violence, and surveillance towards the abolition of the police state.

Materials include:

• Documents received through Public Records Act (PRA) Requests;

• Video footage from police commission meetings and other public venues;

• Various literature review, including community-based reports;

• Court documents from litigation and other filings;

• Record of coalition communications;

• Various forms of media coverage.

Crucially, this digital archive project is not exactly an archive. State archives function towards the legitimization of state power, and community-based archives are often understood as providing representation within historical memory through counterarchiving. The Coalition’s digital archive is firstly meant to have efficacy in the present and to function as a community organizing tool. Thus, we plan to represent the existing community-led work behind the demand for these documents as potential models for organizers, such as the drafting of the PRA requests, the subsequent navigating of the epistemic violence that is trying to make sense of how the state writes itself, and the sharing of this process through public education materials. Furthermore, our project will involve integrating community members in conceptualizing and developing the archiving process.

How does your work relate to the theme of the open call?

Since 2011, the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition has been actively engaged in grassroots organizing—including community theater, town halls, community forums, conferences, surveys, teach-ins, and advocacy—with the primary goal of creating popular education, dialogue and analysis to break down the various Architectures of Surveillance. We utilize multiple campaigns to advance an innovative organizing model that is based in Los Angeles but has implications locally, nationally, and internationally. The Coalition’s work is built from a paradigm of the coalescing trajectories of the national security police state, including the development, legitimization, and operationalization of tools of social control. In partnership with the community, we intervene within the ever-evolving mapping of the numerous intersections of public and private sector agencies, corporations, academic institutions, social media, local and federal law enforcement agencies, and international partnerships to create a comprehensive landscape of surveillance. This mapping supports a better understanding how layered surveillance is within the massive Information Sharing Environment (ISE), which the Coalition has named “The Stalker State.” This framework of the Stalker State is a key element that guides our organizing strategies. Pierre Bourdieu evinced how the state produces itself most cogently in its own documents and how scholars in particular have to be careful of basing their research on state documents alone, as it could lead to replicating the image of the state exactly in how it would want to be perceived. Our digital archive project seeks to build transparency through these documents and bring them into the specific context of an abolitionist politics, providing a critical reworking of this state imaging. We seek to build knowledge, power, and healing in our communities by providing a deeper grasp into and practices against these landscapes of surveillance.

What does the future look like to you?

In thinking of an abolitionist future, I came to realize that I had to interrogate the notion of temporality itself. The U.S. is regulated by several temporal regimes, among which are the absolute temporality of Enlightenment time, the settler colonialist temporality of U.S. national progression, and the post-Cold War era’s “end of history.” In Omens of Adversity, David Scott contends that revolutionaries themselves have depended on the linearity of time in which “pastpresent-future were connected in a chain of progressive succession so that past gave way to present and present gave way to future in uniform and unfailing rhythms of dialectical overcoming.”[1] However, now that we have met the “end of the great modernist narratives of revolutionary overcoming. This end of alternative futures…has precipitated a certain experience of crisis of time or, anyway, of the temporality of the present that seems so much like the ends of time.”[2] In this crisis, what become the potentialities of resistance, agency, and alternative temporalities? How do you respond when the future feels foreclosed? I remember grieving an acute sense of a foreclosed future for unauthorized migrants when a friend of mine self-deported from the U.S. some time ago. Once he got off the plane, he posted on social media, “I’m not illegal no more.” Illegality and criminality are located as places one must leave. Yet, what does this mean for those enmeshed within illegality and criminality, designated with the condition of a suffering past in order to be assigned a freer futurity? I wonder if an abolitionist future might mean a freer past and present and working towards a futurity that does not require locating one’s illegality and criminality to a linear temporality. “Goodbye, friend” must at least be followed with “until we meet again.”

[1] David Scott, Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), 108.

[2] Scott, Omens of Adversity, 71.

What is your grounding ethos?

The grounding ethos of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition is the dismantling of surveillance, spying, and infiltration in its multiple forms, which requires methodically unpacking, developing, and disseminating a shared analysis that grounds and guides our fight against the complex apparatus of the police state. The core principle of our work, grounded in abolition, is intersectional movement building—a concerted effort to reach out to diverse communities and build deep understanding and solidarity around these issues. Often missing from the analysis of surveillance and data gathering are narratives revealing how the national security police state is an everexpanding endeavor, fundamentally flawed by design, organized to repress and criminalize Black, Brown and poor communities, causing irreparable harm to ourselves and our social fabrics. We organize to build power, not paranoia. As a result of our work, a growing number of people and sectors are engaging based on their unique individual and collective experiences, exposing the deep human impact and trauma of these programs. Our outreach and education, shaped by historic and current realities, is anchored in a human rights framework that looks beyond constitutional protections, civil rights, and civil liberties. For the Coalition, the primary indication that our efforts are working are when people go beyond invasion of privacy and look at surveillance through a racial justice lens and a tool of social control. As we continue building our understanding of various intersections of surveillance with our personhood.