Ground Zero: Ferguson

Director statement:

My name is David Whitt,

I’m a community organizer and the director of Ground Zero: Ferguson. I was living in the neighborhood during the time Mike Brown was killed. This police shooting led to the most widespread unrest in the United States since the Civil Rights era. It catalyzed the slogans Hand Up, Don’t Shoot! and Black Lives Matter, and sparked a nationwide conversation about police brutality and racism in law enforcement. Since then, we have witnessed many similar murders by police captured by citizen cameras in cities across the country. But while affected communities continue to struggle for justice, authorities and the media respond to these police killings in a manner that systematically avoids conversations about real solutions. More importantly, the people most impacted by these killings are least likely to be included in these conversations.

The real solution lies in listening to the stories of real people. I started to collect the unheard voices of Ferguson by filming interviews with residents of my community. This documentary tells their version of what happened and their vision for what needs to happen. But to fully and authentically capture these voices, I need your support. Join this campaign, and help me complete this film, so this story can be shared with audiences everywhere.

The film will weave together a broad collection of interviews with first-hand witnesses, local residents, community organizers, and law enforcement representatives into a thematic narrative of collective reflection. Some of these voices take us back to the experience of living in a neighborhood that was literally being barricaded and under siege by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, assisted by the Army National Guard.

Others will tell the story of a community memorial built in the middle of the road where Michael Brown was killed. As mourners came from everywhere to pay their respects, this memorial started to become a point of contention in community-police relations. It was run over several times and even burnt down at one point. I will never forget the day I woke up to the smoldering memorial with police standing idly by as it was burning

But Ground Zero: Ferguson also tells the story of a neighborhood that found real solutions. You’ll meet the residents of Canfield Greens who stopped police brutality by coming together and creating their own systems of justice and mutual accountability after police decided they would no longer patrol the area for one year after the August 2014 shooting. They’ll tell you how people came together, and which struggles they endured in resisting the institutions that were supposed to fix, not perpetuate, the problem.

This documentary begins and ends in Ferguson, but takes it takes the viewer on excursions to North Charleston, Baltimore, Oakland, and Staten Island to highlight similarities and explore differences to other high-profile videotaped police killings.

In doing so, we reflect on common patterns of ( mis)representation and strategies used to divide the public in the wake of these incidents. We examine the so-called Ferguson Effect, widely publicized in the public narrative by leading figures including former FBI director James Comey. This is the idea that increased scrutiny of law enforcement by citizens equipped with video cameras will lead to more crime because the police are undermined in their effectiveness. Since 2014, studies have repeatedly found no evidence of a Ferguson Effect with respect to crime, or the number of officers killed on duty. Yet in 2018, sensationalist media continue to ask such ill-informed questions as “Is the ‘Ferguson Effect’ to blame for the carnage in Chicago?”

Ultimately, Ground Zero: Ferguson is a documentary that highlights the need to struggle for public space in the wake of police tragedies: the fight for physical space to come together, the fight for narrative space to be heard, and the fight for political space to find solutions.

The Team
David Whitt is a filmmaker, activist, and community organizer from St. Louis, MO. He is the founder of the Canfield Watchmen, a cop-watch movement created in the Ferguson neighborhood where Mike Brown was killed. He is also a founding member of the St. Louis First Responders, a network of lawyers, activists, and community members that responds to police shootings. David is a trainer and on-the-ground coordinator for WeCopwatch, and regularly travels cross-country to support other groups and initiatives.

Jacob Crawford is a filmmaker, journalist, and veteran activist. He is executive producer of the 2017 documentary Copwatch, and also creator of These Streets Are Watching, the first in-the-streets, non-dramatized know-your-rights training video (released in 2004). Outside of film, Jacob has worked as a professional investigator for a law firm that successfully sued the Oakland Police Department in multiple cases over the span of three years, securing a total settlement value of nearly $10 million for plaintiffs. He has extensive experience in the assembly and presentation of evidence, and has incorporated this knowledge into his journalism and film work.

Patrick Hamm is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and founder of Bulldog Agenda, a Berlin-based production company. A 2018 Berlinale Talents alumnus, he most recently completed Freedom For the Wolf, an epic investigation into the global rise of illiberal democracy, which took him to the frontlines of protest movements around the world. He is also executive producer of Copwatch, which tells the true story of WeCopwatch, an organization dedicated to filming police activity as a non-violent form of protest and deterrent to police brutality. Patrick holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Harvard University and a B.A. in Ethics, Politics & Economics from Yale University.

Andreas Brinck is a digital activist and experienced online campaigner. Following a private sector career in online marketing, he now manages social media campaigns for NGO clients like climate advocacy networks 350.org and FossilFree. He is a longtime climate justice organizer, and currently runs a popular news and live-streaming portal that reports on the resistance against open-pit coal mining in Germany. Andreas visited Ferguson as a Heinrich Böll Foundation Welcoming Communities Awardee in 2016. He holds a B.A. in Business Administration from Boston University.

We are grateful for our partners at WITNESS for their mentorship and ongoing support of this project.

The Campaign
Unfortunately, making real films costs real money. We need to raise a minimum total of $45,000 to complete this film. Your donations will allow us to film the remaining scenes and interviews, to hire the necessary post-production specialists, to license third-party footage, and to promote the film after its release. Because Ground Zero: Ferguson challenges existing narratives, it’s important that we steer clear of reductionist mainstream discourse, and we can only do that if we stay independent of the constraints that come with traditional film financing.

If you choose to support our campaign, we got a number of cool perks for you! Depending on the level of your contribution, you will receive screen credits, limited edition apparel, or early access to a digital download of the film. For higher-level donors we offer gifts like VIP tickets to the premiere or an individual Q&A with the filmmakers. And for anyone choosing to donate at one of our producer levels – you receive the full perk package and we consider you to be a member of our team.

All contributions matter, and even if you can only donate $10, you’ll receive a shoutout on our social media channels and receive regular insider updates from the campaign.

This campaign is a flexible campaign. That means If we don’t raise the entire goal amount, we still receive the funds from all committed donors. In that event that this will happen, our contingency plan is to use the funds that we receive to complete the remaining interviews and location shoots in the most economical way, and to hire an assistant editor that we can afford. This will allow us to complete a rough cut of the film, which we can then use to fundraise for our remaining post-production expenses.

Wanna sue Darren Wilson?

WeCopwatch is putting an official call out for legal representation in a civil case against Darren Wilson.

The world knows about Darren Wilson because he murdered Mike Brown on August 9th, 2014 in Ferguson Missouri. Darren Wilson murdered Mike because in his own words he knew he could without legal repercussions.

As we know, Police officers are efficiently trained in how to kill, and what type of murders they can get away with. Generally speaking, if you are a black man in AmeriKKKa, police know that they can not only murder you, but they will get a free paid vacation, and likely a promotion.

Like so many others, in the case of Darren Wilson, there were already red flags in his past. Red flags that if his supervisors in the Ferguson Police Department had disciplined rather than embrace, the murder of Mike Brown may have never happened.

One red flag that comes to mind is the videotaped arrest of Mike Arman on October 28, 2013. Standing on his own property, Mike was approached by Darren Wilson regarding alleged potential municipal violations. The type of municipal violations that local police used to prey on Ferguson residents in a ticket for profit model that was exposed in the months following Mike Brown’s murder.

This videotaped arrest, along with discrepancies in Wilson’s report, were enough in 2013 to show that Darren Wilson was not only a liability to his department, but a danger to the public.

Ferguson police incident report: Darren Wilson arrests Mike Arman by Jon Swaine on Scribd

We are looking for legal representation for Mike in a civil case against Darren Wilson and the Ferguson Police Department. The statute of limitations is coming up with October, so we need to move fast. All inquiries can contact us at WeCopwatch@protonmail.com.

We thank you for your time. WeCopwatch

Three Years Ago Baltimore was on Fire

Three years ago we were on the ground in Baltimore supporting the people of West Baltimore as their neighborhood was invaded by hundreds of law enforcement officers and national guard. We had been in contact with Kevin Moore who on April 12, 2015, filmed the brutal arrest of his friend Freddie Gray. Freddie would die a week later in police custody setting off street rebellions that would last for days.

Kevin told us over the phone that he was being targeted by police for releasing the video, and he was worried for his safety. We had a Copwatcher from Ferguson on the ground out there, and we had him bring Kevin to a Best Buy to purchase cameras. Within an hour, Kevin and our Copwatcher would be chased down by SWAT Officers leaving a protest and arrested at gunpoint. We told the arresting officers who had confiscated our Copwatcher’s cellphone that they had made a mistake, and that WeCopwatch would be on the next flight out to Baltimore. We kept our promise.

We flew out to Baltimore that next day to deal with the legal charges, and began the process of getting our Copwatchers out of jail. Once we were out in the streets we began Copwatching. The community, vindicated by Freddie’s video were very appreciative of WeCopwatch, and welcomed us with open arms. The police were not thrilled, however our group was constantly surrounded by main stream media giving us the ability to move freely, even after curfew was implemented.

Baltimore Rising: WeCopwatch Baltimore is Here

Kevin Moore’s video and subsequent arrest had made international news, and we founds our days there being followed by hungry reporters and undercover police.

VICE NEWS
INDEPENDENT

CNN was a funny one for WeCopwatch. Eager to capitalize on WeCopwatch, but confused about their angle, came to the conclusion that it would be best to produced two pieces on us. One positive, and one negative.

CNN Positive: Man behind Freddie Gray Video Speaks Out

CNN Negative: What It’s Like to Protest for a Living

Baltimore Sun Documentary
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/83897043-132.html

New York Times Documentary: Copwatch Vs. The Police

This type of attention was fairly new to our our organization and we learned a lot on how TOO, and how NOT to deal with the media. These experiences also underscored our position that people engaged in struggle need to be their own media so that they can control their narrative. It was our initial inspiration to produce our documentary Copwatch which is now available on Amazon Video.

Kevin Moore on Democracy Now

As typical with our organization, we spent two years supporting Copwatchers and residents of Baltimore through training, distribution of resources, and legal support. In the end, we watched charged dropped against the 6 officers indicted, and today sadly, not much has changed regarding the police in Baltimore. They are viewed as a brutal occupying army. Drug dealing and street robberies are so prevalent within the force that drug dealers caught with guns or drugs are routinely beat, robbed, and then released on the spot.

One positive thing that we see today in Baltimore is the continued powerful resistance in the streets. Against all odds, the community refuses to go down without a fight. And one thing is for sure. People from all demographics pull out their cellphone cameras when the police come into their community.

Copwatching is tough in Baltimore. WeCopwatch was heavy surveilled during our work in Baltimore to the point that our photos were at the security gate in every courthouse in Baltimore. but we know the work is invaluable.

As with the case of Freddie Gray, we know that video evidence can lead to police arrests, but ultimately we can not rely on the very system that protects police violence, to hold them accountable. But we continue to struggle, knowing that cameras and caring people have the power to save lives. We see Baltimore continues to resist, and we support them in their journey.

Ramsey Orta is creating a Graphic Novel

Solitary Confinement
From behind bars Ramsey Orta continues to stand strong. For those who do not know, over the past couple months, the ongoing harassment of Ramsey from corrections officers escalated, resulting in Ramsey being placed in solitary confinement.

Ramsey was pulled out of Franklin Corrections and transferred to Gouverneur Correctional Facility to serve out his solitary confinement, and was ultimately transferred to Alton Correctional Facility where he resides today. All these facilities rest on the New York/Canadian border, intentionally placing Ramsey as far away from his support network as possible. We visited Ramsey last month as he prepared to leave solitary and under the circumstances, Ramsey was in good spirits. Over the past few months Ramsey has been working on a graphic novel.

4 Years is a Long Time
Ramsey was having issues with correctional officers off the bat, and for the first 6 months of his incarceration, Ramsey was moved around to varies facilities, eventually landing in Upstate New York at Franklin Correctional Facility. The first year wasn’t easy supporting Ramsey either. It particularly difficult finding a lawyer who could assist Ramsey with his day to day issues and needs… Feeling helpless, we encouraged Ramsey to make the best use of this time, regardless of the obstacles. We explored different mediums available to him to express himself, whether it be writing, or illustrating, or even recording audio segments over the phone.

We held strong and are happy to report that we are entering 2018 with not only legal support, but an incredible support network. With the help of one generous donor, Ramsey received a typewriter this past fall, and has been busy ever since. WeCopwatch connected Ramsey with graphic illustrator Jonathan Burkhart, and many visits and 50 hours of interviews later, we are beginning to see the fruits of their labor.

A Graphic Novel

Of all of the people involved in Garner’s murder, the only person currently serving a prison sentence, is Ramsey.

Though his story has been told in pieces elsewhere, he has never before spoken publicly at such length and depth about what happened to him following the release of the Garner footage.

The struggles he encountered–with the public, the press, the activist community and most of all with the police–represent an important and not-often-told portion of the ongoing fight against police intimidation and brutality.

What can happen to someone who stands up to the police? How do the police exact revenge against those that expose them? What was it about Ramsey that gave him the will to film the police? (This was, in fact, not the only video he released of police brutality. ) These are questions that the graphic novel hopes to answer. -From The Official Gofundme for this Project


About the Art

Stylistically the art will draw heavily from expressionist movies and woodcuts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and from expressionism’s mid-twentieth century cousin, film noir. To achieve this feel all images will be drawn mainly using either white ink on black paper, or with scratchboard.

All backgrounds, landscapes and street shots are “on location”–which is to say they are drawn from references of the actual areas where they take place. In many cases reference images were shot with a Metro PCS Galaxy Exhibit–the same type of phone which Ramsey used to capture Eric Garner’s death. Many of the faces which appear in the graphic novel were also inspired by the myriad personalities that populate the Tomkinsville neighborhood in Staten Island. -From The Official Gofundme for this Project

Where photographic reference was not available, locations were recreated in detail by Ramsey. For example, a good portion of the story’s events take place in Ramsey’s apartment on Van Duzer St, in Staten Island. Since the time of the story he and his family have moved out of the apartment, so there is no longer access. RAMSEY, who at one point in time planned to become an architect and studied perspective and blueprinting while at technical high school in his teens, created very detailed floor plans of this location which were used extensively in the recreation of the scenes. He also drew extensive schematics of where the cops would place themselves in his neighborhood. -From The Official Gofundme for this Project

Plans for publication

We are currently exploring a variety of options to have the final comic published and printed. We have made no final decisions yet, so if anyone has any ideas please contact us through the gofundme page or at officialramseyorta@gmail.com. -Ramsey Orta Graphic Novel

We want to thank everyone who has been writing, donating, and sending care packages. This has been really challenging, but you have helped build a support network that impacts Ramsey.

We encourage all that have been supporting, to spread this gofundme and help make this graphic novel become a reality. And as always send letters and packages to

Ramsey Orta, 16A4200
Altona Correctional
PO Box 3000
Altona, NY 12910

He can get books magazines, regular mail, and money orders.
For phone calls, you must call Securis Mobile @ 1800-844-6591 to create a plan. You can also donate directly to Ramsey using his Paypal officialramseyorta@gmail.com

If you have any questions please contact officialramseyorta@gmail.com

Copwatch Trailer (available on Amazon)

Video produced by WeCopwatch about Ramsey before he was incarcerated

Ramsey Orta has been put into the SHU (Special Housing Unit) for 60 days

Ramsey Orta has been put in the SHU again. This time it is for 60 days..
For those who do not know. Ramsey Orta has been serving a four year prison sentence after being targeted and retaliated against by NYPD for filming the police killing of Orta’s friend Eric Garner back in 2014. (currently at Franklin County Correctional Facility)

Since he began serving his sentence, Ramsey has been repeatedly harassed, assaulted, and attacked by prion guards, and has been placed in solitary confinement on multiple occassions.

What We Know
A call was made to the prison several days ago and we were informed that Ramsey was in the SHU after receiving multiple “tickets” by more than one corrections officer. At one point, Ramsey received two in one day.

One of his supporters received a letter on January 23 that said the following.
“How is everything? I hope all is well. As for me, I’m hanging in there. Still dealing with police fucking with me. I might be going to the box soon. I keep getting bullshit tickets. I just caught 3 in one week. . .”

Someone else in Ramsey’s support network visited him and said he looked really pale and was in a bad space. He saying he being continually harassed and violated.

Ramsey’s legal support are doing their best, but this abuse is taking a toll on Ramsey, and he needs our support more than ever.

We are asking folks to share this post
We are asking folks to write Ramsey and let him know he is not alone.
Inmate Mailing Address:
Ramsey Orta, 16A4200
112 Scotch Settlement Rd,
Gouverneur, NY 13642

He can get books magazines, regular mail, and money orders.

You can also donate directly to Ramsey using his Paypal officialramseyorta@gmail.com

Video As Evidence: A Copwatch primer to Filming The Police

Whether you’re Copwatching in the streets of St. Louis, or out on the reservations of Minnesota, this guide will provide you with best tactics and strategies while documenting critical incidents involving the police.

This Video as Evidence Guide was adapted in 2016 by WeCopwatch, WITNESS and our allies at Standing Rock. It was intended to help Water Protectors and activists fighting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline to safely, effectively and ethically document human rights abuses for evidentiary, advocacy and reporting purposes.

But these ideas can be implemented wherever the police are doing wrong. We hope you get a lot out of it. .
This information is part of our Copwatch College curriculum.

If you support the work WeCopwatch does, consider donating to us at WeCopwatch.org/Support

Also we produced a documentary called Copwatch! Check it out on Amazon Prime.
https://www.amazon.com/Copwatch-Ramsey-Orta/dp/B075VKBVK6

Ramsey Orta is Catching Hell

   

On October 21, 2017, we received information that Ramsey was in “The Box”, a term used for being put in disciplinary solitary confinement without contact to the outside world. We immediately reached out to his lawyer to begin the process of getting Ramsey the support he needed. On October 22, 2017, we received this letter from Ramsey outlining an incident involving threats and physical abuse.

The letter reads as follows …

10/16/2017
On the above date at around 5:30pm C.O D. Mortiz called someone on the phone, next thing I know 5 to 7 officers came into the dorm walking towards my cube. C.O M. Titus grabbed me by my neck and walked me in between the doors that allow you to exit the dorm. During this time C.O M. Titus shoved my face into the wall very hard and started to pull my hair from behind and began to slap me on the right side of my face a few times. When CO. M Titus stop and starting securing me down all over. When he got to the groin area, my dick, he grabbed it and pulled it twice. I was then slapped again and put in the van to get sent to Building 16, “The Box. When I got to The Box Sgt. J. Raymonda and C.O B. Fourner were the one’s who did the intake process. I asked to speak to a nurse due to the abuse that took place against me and nobody wanted to report it nor did the nurse when I told her. I fear for my life in this facility and can’t take the ongoing abuse anymore. Please help me! Ramsey Orta, 16A4200

Illustrations by Jonathan Burkhardt

We are concerned about Ramsey’s well-being. This is the most recent and worrisome ordeal that Ramsey has had to experience, but it’s not the first. As many know, Ramsey was poisoned while imprisoned at Riker’s Island in 2014. Since his incarceration in October 2016, Ramsey has been cut, harassed, put in solitary confinement, and shipped to a facility on the Canadian Border in an attempt to disconnect him from his Family and his support network.

                                Letter written by Ramsey dated 10.18.17

By now, Ramsey has been released from “The Box”, and he is grateful for the support he has received. For now, we ask that you pay attention, and support in any way you can.

Pictures from Copwatch Documentary

THIS IS HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT RAMSEY

1. Donations are crucial in keeping Ramsey connected with his Family and community. If you want to make a one-time donation, or give a little every month, feel free to use this PayPal
“OfficialRamseyOrta@gmail.com “ or send postal order (only) to

Ramsey Orta, 16A4200
Franklin Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 10
Malone, New York 12953-0010

2. You can send food packages to Ramsey. We have an Amazon wishlist that has food items that the jail accepts.
Link: http://a.co/0ptyH6P

3. You can send Ramsey books. He loves to read political work, know-your-rights books, history books, etc.
You can send books to

Ramsey Orta, 16A4200
Franklin Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 10
Malone, New York 12953-0010

4. We need more people sharing posts on Twitter and re-posting content from his https://www.facebook.com/SupportRamseyOrta/ page. If you have online reach and want to be part of Ramsey’s support team, email us at WeCopwatch@protonmail.com

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Pictures from Copwatch Documentary

Media coverage of Ramsey’s recent incident
http://fair.org/home/ramsey-orta-cant-breathe/
http://www.silive.com/news/2017/10/post_1784.html
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/ramsey-orta-jail-guards-beat-eric-garner-death-video-article-1.3596164

Other News

https://indypendent.org/2017/11/what-the-hell-does-it-take-to-convict-a-cop-of-murdering-a-civilian-in-america/
http://solitarywatch.com/2017/10/29/seven-days-in-solitary-102917/

Ramsey Orta is still behind bars. Here’s how you can support him

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Like so many families across the nation, WeCopwatch is tasked with supporting one of our loved ones serving time in the Prison Industrial Complex. As Ramsey comes up on his first year of incarceration, and with three to go, we at WeCopwatch have been reflecting on our strengths and our weaknesses, so that we can continue to be a better support network for the years to come.

Comic Book sketches of Ramsey by Jonathan Burkhadt

Our Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths
1.Ramsey has received a lot of sporadic support in the form of donations, letters, and visits.
2.We have been able to visit Ramsey.
3. We have been able to fundraise when Ramsey’s commissary is empty, and we send out food packages when we can, we also keep photos coming in to him.
4.And do our best to be a connection point for Ramsey to the outside world.

Weaknesses
1.Beyond a few dedicated people, we have no formal support network in place to support Ramsey.
2.WeCopwatch has no online reach and has difficulty fundraising, or getting information out to large populations of people.
3.When Ramsey was in solitary confinement, we couldn’t find a lawyer that would be willing to call or visit Ramsey.


August interview with Ramsey Orta

We want/need to do better for Ramsey. But we need more people involved to make this possible.
Ramsey is in good spirits, but in his first year in prison, Ramsey has already been put in solitary confinement, he has been cut, and Ramsey has been moved around several times, and is currently at Franklin County Corrections Facility in UpState New York, on the Canadian Border making it hard for him to stay connected to his community.

We as a community can do more to keep Ramsey safe and healthy. We want to plug you in. In any way you can. Consider the following. First and foremost Ramsey needs continuous donations of any form. Keeping his communication open to the outside, and money in his commissary is a must. WeCopwatch helps manage his PayPal donations in the areas mentioned.

THIS IS HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT

1. If you can donate one time, or a little every month, feel free to use this PayPal
“OfficialRamseyOrta@gmail.com “ or send postal order (only) to

Ramsey Orta, 16A4200
Franklin Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 10
Malone, New York 12953-0010

2. You can send food packages to Ramsey. We have an amazon wishlist that has food items that the jail accepts.
Link: http://a.co/0ptyH6P

3. You can send Ramsey books. Ramsey loves to read political work, know your rights books, history books, etc.
You can send books to

Ramsey Orta, 16A4200
Franklin Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 10
Malone, New York 12953-0010

4. We need more people helping post on twitter and content on his https://www.facebook.com/SupportRamseyOrta/ page . If you have online reach and want to be part of Ramsey’s online support team, email us at WeCopwatch@protonmail.com

Ramsey is keeping busy though.
He’s enrolled in classes,
reading the books and letters sent to him.
And recently Ramsey, Jonathan Burkhardt, and WeCopwatch have began working on a Comic Book showcasing Ramsey, his life, Copwatch, and Know Your Rights information. It’s sure to be a hit.


Ramsey Orta Can’t Breath – Produced by WeCopwatch