Written by Jerry Ashton
A “National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and Criminalization of an Entire Generation,” will be arriving at major cities and towns across the U.S. in a nationwide call to action.
Overseen by the October 22 Coalition, the action is expected to be a historic condemnation of the Department of Justice for its 19-year history of failures to collect and share statistics on the use of excessive force by police officers, even though this action was mandated by “The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994,” the largest crime bill in U.S. history.
But, resistance on the part of local police departments, and a lack of enforcement — interest? — by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, effectively neutered the legislation. Because of this there is no central reporting authority, although FBI statistics point to at least 500 citizens killed every year by law enforcement.
And the anger has grown, and is dry tinder for any and all real, or perceived, police malfeasance.
According to the staff of We Copwatch, this day of action will serve as a manifestation of citizen outrage over the shooting death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, and choking death of Eric Garner in NYC’s Staten Island Borough. One killed for jaywalking, one for selling one untaxed cigarette.
It is not just the headline-grabbing incidents like these two which are stirring the flames. Across the U.S. there are countless episodes of reported (and unreported) unpunished infractions by the police as they carry out their mission to “serve and protect.”
In NYC just this week, a cop assaulted and arrested a subway musician for playing a song, even after the officer verified that he hadn’t broken any laws! By some stretch of what must be termed “cop logic,” this Bully in Blue still felt that an arrest was needed.
The musician, Andrew Kalleen, was physically manhandled in full view of people on the platform and then handcuffed and taken away over the loud objections of bystanders. In an interview later with “The Free Thought Project,” Kalleen said:
“As far as a statement, I’d say not to put all the blame on the cop. This is a symptom of a much larger problem. It is everyone’s responsibility to move our society’s values to a mindset where this sort of thing is unthinkable. We need to recognize that we have allowed ourselves to continue to live in a police state.”
(It is entirely likely that, as this was caught on video, Kalleen may enjoy a lawsuit windfall and citizens of NYC will dig into their pockets to pay for this police bullying. Odd, isn’t it? This willingness to pay huge settlements rather than hiring and training competent police officers?)
Jacob Crawford, a co-founder of We Copwatch is well familiar with the importance of such documentation, having been at the Occupy Demonstrations in Oakland, CA where 24-year-old Marine Corps veteran, Scott Olson, was severely injured by police action. Video that was taken, along with detective work by Crawford, resulted in a $4.5 million settlement.
“Copwatch” and similar citizen watch volunteers will likely be at many of these demonstrations on Wednesday,” Crawford declared. “More people are identifying with this experience, and it is our job to intersect with them and any police presence to protect the safety of the citizen.”
Which underscores the importance of: (1) citizens actively observing police action and reporting wrongdoing; and, (2) the importance of video — and its legality.
The public is fed up, and wants the facts
Statistics are needed to prove the extent of police incursions in civil rights. Statistics made the difference in New York City, tipping public opinion to put the brakes on “Stop & Frisk” police tactics in the Big Apple.
Activist organizations which have never taken part in police protests previously have partnered with others in solidarity to hold officials and police accountable for citizen deaths and brutality. Their ranks are further swollen with the influx of members of legacy organizations that once dealt only with civil rights; scores of new groups have formed in heretofore silent communities.
The October 22 Coalition website remarked:
“We have seen other attempts at creating some modicum of accountability being thwarted or ineffective, such as the gutting of civilian oversight mechanisms and useless federal investigations of police departments by the U.S. Department of Justice, while those who document police misconduct are under attack. But we applaud the different ways that people have risen up and persevered.”
One more march. Who will watch? Who will listen? Will you be there to record it?