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.
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
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.