Spies in the California Skies: New Records Expose State Police Aerial Surveillance of Racial Justice Protesters

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If you were one of the thousands of people in California protesting the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the countless other Black lives taken by police violence, there’s a good chance you heard California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopters circling over your head. And CHP may have recorded you too.˚

Our year-long public records investigation has exposed CHP’s aerial surveillance of racial justice protesters in dozens of California communities. We uncovered flight logs and hours of video footage that show how California police aimed high-powered aerial surveillance at racial justice protesters in communities up and down the state, including Berkeley, Oakland, Palo Alto, Placerville, Riverside, Sacramento, San Francisco, and San Luis Obispo. 

The footage we uncovered reveals CHP surveilling and recording Californians exercising their First Amendment rights, zooming in closely on faces and lingering over people speaking at vigils, handing out water, making signs, participating in die-ins, and even dancing. 

Watch the Footage

CHP Surveillance Vid


For generations, government agencies have surveilled and tried to suppress movements for freedom and justice. And last summer, they pulled out the same playbook, using their surveillance arsenal to  intimidate racial justice protesters. While the technology advances, the tactics stay the same: police and corporations working hand-in-hand to try to undermine movements for justice. 

Police surveillance is not safety – especially for communities of color. It’s long past time we reckon with the legacy of harm, stop surveillance, and build a future where technology is supporting our social movements, not propping up unjust systems to protect power and profits.

Sign the petition and demand that our government listen to calls for racial justice instead of trying to silence activism with surveillance.   

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