On Anniversary of the Patriot Act, Artist Passes Out Pocket Knives at the Airport

Michele Pred handed out small pocket knives passengers arriving at San Francisco's International Airport to replace those that have been confiscated since the passage of the Patriot Act 15 years ago.

Dressed as a 1960s-era flight attendant (complete with an original hat worn by Pan Am stewardesses -- one of whom was her mother), Pred returned to travelers one of the most commonly confiscated items in airport security lines. The performance was, of course, sanctioned: she had received permission from the airport, obtaining a Free Speech and Expressive Activities Permit after a long application process. She specifically chose the two and a quarter-inch red knives as they are the most common of all those that TSA officers seize. To her, though small, the utilitarian object and the response its presence provokes at airports speak volumes about security culture.

"The text that I had printed on them was intended as a somewhat humorous way of driving home the notion that our focus on security has not only taken things away from us, but has not clearly explained what it has given back," Pred told Hyperallergic.

That such a thing as a "Free Speech and Expressive Activities Permit" even exists is possibly the most horrifying thing I've heard this week.

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9 Responses:

  1. The perfect complement to security theater.

  2. MattyJ says:

    Even worse? That it was a "long application process". How long could something like that really take, if it has to exist at all?

    Does Target still have those little free speech boxes painted on the ground outside their doors? It's been so long since I've looked down. My understanding was that in the 90's those were designed to curtail strikers by giving them 10 square feet to work in before they were legally trespassing. Someone may have made that up and told me about it, though. If there's no giant inflatable rat it's not a real strike, anyway.

    • Nrmrvrk says:

      Nope. No more free speech boxes outside Target. Not in Seattle anyway.

      Reminds me of SRL handing out black plaster replica .45 handguns to audience members at shows in SF(?) in the early 80s.

  3. Ryan Russell says:

    Oh man, that's pretty awesome.. but I'm super disappointed it wasn't inside the "secure" area.. but I guess that's far too much to hope for.

  4. This sounds familiar...

    Chapter 20

    At the departure gate, a drunken airport security woman was handing out box cutters to the passengers.

    "My asshole boyfriend's in San Antone," she slurred, pressing the plastic handle, sticky with beery sweat, into my hand. "Take over the plane, drop it on the fucking Alamo."

    Trix and I dropped the things into the nearest waste-basket. I looked back to see a team of cops lay into her with batons. "I'm white, you bastards!" she yelled, until one of them shot her with a Taser. The cops gathered around and silently watched her flop around on the floor like a fish out of water.
    "Just another day out at the zoo," Trix whispered. "Keep walking, Mike."

    Warren Ellis's Crooked Little Vein

  5. J. Peterson says:

    If only I could get one of those permits to put up ROBOTS SHOOT TO KILL signs at Stanford Mall.

  6. Barry Kelly says:

    Permit to Engage in Expressive Activity:

    BART requires those who wish to exercise their right to free speech to have a permit while on BART property. Permits for expressive activities are intended for those who wish to express a point of view.


  7. thielges says:

    SFO started the permit process when the Hare Krishnas (what ever happened to them?) used to persistently hassle passengers. They installed a special harassment booth in the concourse of terminal 2 between ticketing and gates. Those granted permits could say whatever they wanted so long as they remained in the booth. Regular passengers learned to give the booth a wide berth and ignore the pleading about chemtrails, vaccines, politics, etc.

    On pocket knives - after 9-11 I accidentally brought my standard victorinox on board a couple of times. And accidentally brought a bottle of water through security on a couple of flights last week. I guess there are still some big holes in the security sieve.

  8. Carlos says:

    So this is what Meryl Streep does on her days off. I always wondered.


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