Saturday, 1 August 2009

Cheeky Sarnians to ask Americans to butt out

The Toronto Star Jul 31, 2009 04:30 AM

Staff Reporter

Sarnia residents are planning a cheeky protest against an American electronic systems provider that's testing its newest technology – an 18-metre-long balloon equipped with a surveillance camera – on their city from across the border.

The event, "Moon the Balloon," is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Aug. 15 in Sarnia's Centennial Park. Any Canadian with two cheeks and a sense of outrage is invited to join in.

The surveillance technology is being tested by Sierra Nevada Corp. in Port Huron, Mich., across the St. Clair River from Sarnia.

"The balloon is a clear violation of our privacy and our sovereignty," said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who, though he won't be taking part in the protest, believes "greatly in freedom of speech and freedom of expression."

Bradley, who plans to take his fight to the federal government, said the balloon's camera is capable of reading the name on a boat 14 kilometres away.

"I've talked to a retired major general who's the leader on the project. He doesn't understand that we would see this as invasion of privacy. He just doesn't get it."

The retired major general in question, Mark Lott, did not return numerous phone calls yesterday. Nor did a Sierra Nevada spokesperson.

Jerry Sweet, 40, who grew up in Sarnia but lives in Yellowknife plans to attend the protest if not in body, then in spirit – and on paper.

"I have a couple of friends from Sarnia who live in northern B.C. We're going to get together and take some pictures, put them on a banner and ship it down to Sarnia so one of my relatives can moon for us by proxy," said Sweet.

"It's invasive ... just setting up a big camera and peering into Canada. And ... kind of rude."

Unlike mass mooning. That's typically polite Canadian behaviour.

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