Not too long ago, I was waiting for the subway, about to head up to see my girlfriend in uptown New York. I’d just recently moved to the city and I was used to carrying my pocket knife with me – a 2-inch assisted-open karambit that I would carry with the clip out on my right pocket. As I was waiting, a plain clothes cop approached me, tapped me on the shoulder and began talking to me, asking to see my knife. As someone who has never even been approached by police before, I was freaking out a bit. He played with the knife a bit before asking me why I carried it, to which I apparently responded, “for protection.”
The reality is that I am an acting student that also works on set design and set construction. Anyone who works in technical theater would admit having a pocket-knife on you is not only reasonable, but at times, just the sensible thing to do. However, feeling as panicked as I was, I just said the first thing that came to my mouth. That worked out great.
Due to that statement, I won myself three hours in jail and a court date. When I went to court, and missed five classes, I sat for eight hours only to be called up and told the DA had nothing at the time and to come back on a different date. At this point, I had been in jail and missed a whole day of classes to go to court, just to be told to come back again.
Finally, my attorney reached an agreement with the DA to allow me a six month grace period. If I don’t get arrested again, my record is cleared. All I have to do is complete some community service. That’s right, I get a clean record at the cost of giving up a little more of my life. Not too big of a deal right? There are endings to this little scenario that could be much worse.
That’s not the problem though. The problem is that I had to go through any of this at all. If all was as it should be, the cop should never have approached me. If he did anyway and I told him why I carried the knife, then that answer should have been perfectly fine and he should have allowed me to walk away without even a slap on the wrist. Legally, I should be allowed to carry a knife for my protection and be allowed to openly state that I do, even if that is not the real reason I have always carried it on me.
It disturbs me greatly that in this land where freedom supposedly to reigns and we have the right to bear arms (or in this case a tool that can be used as a weapon and vice versa), I must fear leaving my room everyday. I do not go out of my way to harm others. I am not out to hurt anyone, take from anyone or do any such thing. I don’t even drink or do drugs. Yet, I still fear that something will happen to me.
Why do I need to do community service? In what way did I harm the community? Are there mothers fearing for their child’s life because I am building a set and have a knife handy in order to help me? Or, if I did buy and carry a knife for self-protection, would they fear me because I would be better able to defend myself and others against violence and theft?
I will perform the community service because I want my record clean. But, that does not mean I agree with the process I am now stuck in. We live in a country that is slowly turning into everything it used to stand against. When the innocent cannot leave their homes safe in the knowledge they will live their lives free, that is a problem. I fear this only the beginning of the problem.
Christina Gonzalez and Matthew proactively look out for their neighbors in Harlem and greater NYC, and thanks to the Internet, they’re helping peeps across the globe. The duo – labeled “professional agitators” by an employee of New York Police Department’s 30th Precinct – use their cameras and share ideas to mitigate institutionalized thuggery.
The footage of Christina and Matthew used in this video were captured in late August, 2013 when Jacob Crawford and I passed through NYC with the Police Accountability Tour.
Before arriving in town we had contacted Christina and were looking forward to connecting. Once in NYC Christina and I realized that we’d already crossed-paths two years prior during Occupy Wall Street. My bud Tommy and I were nearby to Christina when some folks wearing “NYPD” badges snatched her up (for the egregious act of filming).
It’s great knowing Christina and Matthew are out there. I’m sure their neighbors feel the same.
Not this weekend but next, the National CopWatch Conference is going down in the South Bronx.
The conference is being organized by those involved with Peoples’ Justice for Community Control and and Police Accountability, which was initiated by the NYC Coalition Against Police Brutality (CAPB), and allies.
If you’re in the Big Apple you should definitely go to connect with others in your community, share ideas and skills, and take another step forward to a reality free from institutionalized violence. If you’re elsewhere on the east coast (or even further away) get with some friends to split the fuel costs, or hop on Megabus or another means of transpo, and make a weekend out of it.
The more we’re connected not just online but in person the better we, who value justice, accountability, liberty, and peace, will be.
A few weeks back when in NYC, the second stop of the Police Accountability Tour, Jacob Crawford & I had the good fortune to meet a lot of the folks involved with the upcoming conference. Here’s a vid we made using footage captured at the unveiling of a mural with CopWatch & know-your-rights info:
No matter where you’re at be sure to connect with those in your area – it makes all the difference: CopBlock.org/Groups which includes known Cop Block, Cop Watch, Peaceful Streets and other police accountability groups
The text below is from the post Cop Watch Conference 2013! at http://peoplesjustice.org. It’s shared here in the hope that some readers will be inclined to attend the event, support their efforts from afar, and/or be motivated to take action in whatever peaceful way you think most effective.
This September 27-28, Cop Watchers and police accountability organizers from across the country will converge to share skills, practices, resources, and ideas. Over the course of two days of skills-building workshops, panels, performances and collective visioning, we will envision and develop a Cop Watch community that is stronger, more unified and better prepared to affect real change for & with our communities.
This Conference is specifically aimed at bringing together groups and individuals from WITHIN communities highly targeted by police abuse & violence, in order for our own communities to be empowered & organized to change the way our peoples are policed ourselves.
@ The Point, 940 Garrison Ave
Hunts Point, in the South Bronx NYC
*6 train to Hunts Point
To Register for the Conference: http://bit.ly/14DM2nl *Registration deadline: Friday, September 20th*
*$25 Registration Fee (*Nobody turned away, waiver available)
**Travel scholarships, housing support & registration fee waivers available to those in need!
Presented by Peoples’ Justice for Community Control and Police Accountability, with support from the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Peoples’ Justice for Community Control and Police Accountability (PJ) is a New York City coalition of grassroots organizations working in Black, Latino, Asian and LGBT communities, led by Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the Justice Committee, and CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities. The coalition was formed in the wake of the 2006 New York City Police Department killing of Sean Bell and shooting of Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman in order to respond to the incident and highlight the systemic nature of police violence. After verdict in the Sean Bell case, the coalition took on a more proactive approach and developed a long-term strategy to contribute to the movement for police accountability through community education, empowerment and organizing. Currently this strategy is being advanced through Know Your Rights training and outreach, as well as organizing Cop Watch teams and expanding the “culture of Cop Watch” throughout our communities.
Jacob and I sat down and gave a quick recap of the videos we’ve made since hitting the road with the nine-city Police Accountability Tour.
If a video mentioned is of interest to you click it (as it’s annotated to take you to that video) or scroll down on this post to find and watch it.
Though we’ve only visited Austin, New York City, and are now in Cape Town, we have churned out a solid base of content due largely to doing logistics ahead of time and having solid connections on the ground in each location.
Stay tuned, as we have a lot more content captured ready to be edited and uploaded and we will continue to collect footage that makes clear the fact that badges don’t grant extra rights.
If you appreciate our efforts feel free to help defray our costs (mostly transportation and food, as we’re crashing with friends along the way) via http://wepay.com/donate/patour2013. If you want to give Bitcoin that’s appreciated as well: 1Hy8xL2ey3GwFLTEd3NTS76A3bWMnQ2dRP
Note: This post was originally titled “Did Rochester, NY Police Help Double Shooting Murder Suspect Get Away?” It was changed to “Rochester PD’s 10min Response Time Gives Shooter/Murderer Ample Time to Escape” to better reflect the reality of the situation. -Pete Eyre
Rochester, NY Police Chief
By Davy V.
Neighbors on Rochester, NY’s Pullman Avenue say that Rochester, NY Police officers took too long in responding to a double shooting that left a 32-year old man, in critical condition, and a 27-year old woman, Walesy Alvarez, dead.
“I called 911 and asked what the hell is taking so long, they said we’ve got police coming”. said Keith Perez, a neighbor.
“It must have been at least ten minutes before the first policemen came”
“I’m upset that the response just doesn’t seem to be there”, said Perez,
referring to the Rochester, NY Police department.
One woman described her attempts at calling 911, “You couldn’t get through, you couldn’t even get through, the phone was just ringing.”
“That’s the problem, we could not get through!” said the woman.
Rochester, NY Mayor Thomas Richards
Asked what he had to say about his officers’ response time, a Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard said in a sarcastic tone, “We would have loved to have been here sooner.”
In the meantime, Marcus Freeman, who is considered to be armed and dangerous, is somewhere out there.
wanted in double shooting which left
one person dead.
Watch the video above as Rochester, NY Mayor Thomas Richards, guarded by Rochester Police officers, do the “no comment” shuffle, when I ask him what he thinks about what neighbors are saying regarding the RPD’s response time.
This post was shared by Mike Vitale via CopBlock.org’s submit page, where you, too, can share your story.
A few days ago, my friend and I were leaving some construction work in a small town called Nyack, NY. We started heading home when we passed a cop going the opposite direction. Before we got to the end of the road, he appeared behind us. At that point, we knew we were about to get stopped and harassed by the Orangetown, NY road pirates. We turned left and the lights and sirens went off and we pulled over. Before the thief could come to the window, my friend already had his license and registration ready; he gave it to him without even asking why he was stopped. After a few illegal questions like, “Where are you coming from?” and ” Where are you going?, he went back to his pirate ship to run my friend’s information. I recorded both interactions, but the first one was worthless. This is what he said when he returned to our car after about 10 minutes, during which time backup arrived.
Notice how he already assumed my friends license was no good. It’s terrible how we’re all guilty of something in their eyes….
This video shows interactions had on Sunday, August 25, 2013 with some NYPD employees. Unfortunately the idealistic traits put forth on NYPD vehicles – “Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect” – weren’t too evident. Instead, a more accurate trait visible was non-responsiveness and evading.
Don’t you deserve better?
Help us Share With Others the fact that Badges Don’t Grant Extra Rights
- AUSTIN, TEXAS Aug 15-20
- NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK Aug 21-25
- CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA Aug 26-Oct 10
- OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA Oct 11-19
- DENVER, COLORADO Oct 20-26
- DETROIT, MICHIGAN Oct 27-Nov 01
- CHICAGO, ILLINOIS Nov 02-10
- ATLANTA, GEORGIA Nov 11-17
- NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA Nov 18-24
On that post, I noted that “I hoofed around Manhattan for a bit” during which time I had a couple interactions with folks wearing NYPD badges. To document those interactions I had with me a HD JVC camera mounted to a monopod, which had a Rode shotgun mic attached. I also used my Droid to stream to http://bambuser.com/channel/CopBlock
Sunday, Aug. 25th, 2013 8:50am EST – just wanted to add the two videos below.
In the first video Jacob and I mention all the good folks we were able to connect with. As those video interviews are edited and shared they’ll be linked to from that video as an annotation, as well as included in the Police Accountability Tour playlist.
In the morning Jacob and I worked online from an area coffee shop. Then we assembled a loft bed for our bud with whom we’re staying as a token of thanks. At 4pm* we were on the corner of 138th & Adam Clayton Powell Blvd for the unveiling of a Copwatching inspired mural. After a number of solid people involved with the mural creation and on the ground Copwatching and training around NYC spoke others present were able to share some thoughts.
Jacob noted how blown away he is to be part of this growing crew. We both left with a t-shirt that says “Copwatch” on front and has “These streets are watching” on the back. The latter happens to be the name of a 50-min know your rights documentary Jacob created a decade ago after spending time on the ground with Copwatchers in Cincy, Denver and Berkeley. I encouraged folks present to realize that policing can never be fixed as now structured and encouraged the documenting/disseminating via outlets like CopBlock.org/submit.
After the speakers we captured on camera a lot of informative interviews. So much so that we didn’t leave until 8pm when my camera batteries were exhausted and our bellies were hungry. We caught a bite at Sylvia’s with our buddy Alvin and later, after parting ways, I hoofed around Manhattan for a bit.
I had a couple interactions with New York police employees, which I captured on my HD JVC camera** mounted to a monopod. I had attached my Rode shotgun mic and streamed via my Droid. The former is now being imported and converted and will be uploaded shortly to http://YouTube.com/CopBlockRaw and the later can be viewed at http://bambuser.com/channel/CopBlock
Below is the last encounter*** I had. My phone and video camera both died despite the charge both received when at Sylvia’s. I didn’t pack up but stayed present with my now-dead cameras pointing at the scene for a few more minutes. The police employees obviously weren’t aware that my gear needed some juice. Once the driver was put in handcuffs I started walking east towards Times Square.
Mr. Cheng, who was standing nearest to me, and who had been shadowing me (him on the street, me on the sidewalk) walked after me and said something like, “We need your information!”I responded, “Am I being detained?” Cheng again demanded my information. I asked for a second time, “Am I being detained?” “No” Cheng said. I continued on my way and wished him a good night. I didn’t want to be in his or his colleagues presence without being able to create an objective record of the exchange.
Cheng then called me a liar (as he’d previously indicated that the footage I captured would have to be shared with him so it can go to the driver if he sought a lawyer’s help, to which I’d told him that I had no problem sharing it with the driver directly), then “Coward.” I responded, “At least I don’t subsist on stolen coin.” The bystanders seemed supportive.
A long half-block down I asked a few gentleman standing near the corner if the Starbucks across the street was open 24hrs. I was told that it was. They asked me about my gear and I informed them of the interaction I just had. When noting the names of those involved, one of the gentleman echoed the name “Cheng…” When I asked if he knew Cheng he said, “lieutenant Cheng” as if he had a reputation. The two guys that had been about 30′ away to my east when I had been filming the police interaction approached and we had a good convo. They were appreciative of people looking out for each other.
I crossed the street and entered Starbucks but found all the outlets were covered by plates. I decided to head back to our crash spot.
Shortly before the interaction above happened I had a question about a parking job:
Take-aways from today:
lots of good information was communicated at the mural unveiling – art is a powerful way to communicate ideas and bring people together
police accountability advocates are shedding fear, becoming better connected, and creating real supportive communities
technology is key to bypassing the claimed “authorities.” Bullies rely on the censoring of information. The liberation of information is powerful. Today I told folks both in Harlem and Manhattan about the ability to better protect themselves and others by streaming police interactions offsite using a free application like Bambuser (I pointed to http://CopBlock.org/Apps)
The interactions I had with NYPD employees reinforced how failed is the idea that “protection” can ever be provided by those who operate on a double-standard from the start. I was pretty friendly in my demeanor yet I was met by indifference at best and hostility at worst. Certainly transparency wasn’t a key trait
As John Bush says: “There’s strength in numbers, There’s strength in truth, and There’s strength in unity and we have all three”
* I also captured broll of the exterior of the Harlem Hospital per a passage I recently read in Malcolm X’s autobiography (below)
** I paid for the camera using Bitcoin (scroll to the bottom of this page to learn more about Bitcoin and to start utilizing yourself)
*** Note that I my approach and the initial interaction was captured by my JVC. For whatever reason my Droid had a glitch and wouldn’t stream so after attempting a couple of times I restarted the phone and it worked properly.
Two white policeman, breaking up a street scuffle between some Negroes, ordered other Negro passers-by to “Move on!” Of these bystanders, two happened to be Muslim brother Johnson Hinton and another brother of Temple Seven. They didn’t scatter and run the way the white cops wanted. Brother Hinton was attacked with nightsticks. His scalp was split open, and a police car came and he was taken to a nearby precinct.
The second brother telephoned our restaurant. And with some telephone calls, in less than half an hour about fifty of Temple Seven’s men of the Fruit of Islam were standing in rans-formation outside the police precinct house.
Other Negroes, curious, came running, and gathered in excitement behind the Muslims. The police, coming to the station house front door, and looking out of the windows, couldn’t believe what they saw. I went in, as the minister of Temple Seven, and demanded to see our brother. The police first said he wasn’t there. Then they admitted he was, but said I couldn’t see him. I said that until he was seen, and we were sure he received proper medical attention, the Muslims would remain where they were.
They were nervous and scared of the gathering crowd outside. When I saw our Brother Hinton, it was all I could do to contain myself. He was only semi-conscious. Blood had bathed his head and face and shoulders. I hope I never again have to withstand seeing another case of sheer police brutality like that.
I told the lieutenant in charge, “That man belongs in the hospital.” They called an ambulance. When it came and Brother Hinton was taken to Harlem Hospital, we Muslims followed, i loose formations, for about fifteen blocks around Lenox Avenue, probably the busiest thoroughfare in Harlem. Negroes who never had seen anything like this were coming out of stores and restaurants and bars and enlarging the crowd following us.
The crowd was big, and angry, behind the Muslims in front of Harlem Hospital. Harlem’s black people were long since sick and tired of police brutality. And they never had seen any organization of black men take a firm stand as we were.
A high police official came up to me, saying “Get those people out of there.” I told him that our brothers were standing peacefully, disciplined perfectly, and harming no one. He told me those others, behind them, weren’t disciplined. I politely told him those others were his problem.
When doctors assured us that Brother Hinton was receiving the best of care, I gave the order and the Muslims slipped away. The other Negroes’ mood was ugly, but they dispersed also, when we left. We wouldn’t learn until later that a steel plate would have to be put in Brother Hinton’s skull. (After that operation, the Nation of Islam helped him to sue; a jury awarded him over $70,000, the largest police brutality judgment that New York City has ever paid.)
When Jacob and I knew we were to head to NYC as part of the Police Accountability Tour we contacted a number of folks on the ground that we hoped to connect with, including Luke Rudkowski, founder of WeAreChange.org. On Wednesday, Aug. 21st Rudkowski joined us at our event and afterward, on the streets.
Rudkowski is the epitome of a journalist. He’s passionate, truth-seeking, and is working to create a better reality. Through the lens of his cameras and the sharing of ideas, he’s definitely having a positive impact.
I hope you can learn from Rudkowski – both in the use of technology to shine a disinfecting spotlight on those who claim a “legitimate” right to initiate force, and in the positive attitude that he encapsulates.