Police on playback — copwatch in New York City

by The New York Video League | October 22, 2012

Stories of police brutality are often told in a way that casts victims as helpless bystanders of cops run amok. We met with Sean Pagan, a recent victim of police violence, and found that his story changes how we think about policing in New York. Sean’s story shows that communities are finding new and innovative tactics for dealing with discriminatory policing, beyond waiting for legislative reform. One such tactic is copwatch, in which individuals or teams film police officers in action. But what’s the history of the tactic? What are the risks, limitations and impact of filming the police? And how do these videos change the way we understand narratives of police violence?

The Day That Malcolm Won Harlem Over…

August 12, 2012
[An excerpt from a pamphlet, An (Abridged) History of Resisting Police Violence in Harlem (PDF) by Mariame Kaba and designed by Eric Kerl (see http://policeviolence.wordpress.com/historical-moments/). It focuses on an incident that brought Malcolm X to national prominence in 1957.]

1957 Johnson X Hinton Incident

There are many versions of the story of Johnson Hinton. Even his name is contested; in some accounts he is called Hinton Johnson and in others he is Johnson Hinton. There are a few details of the story, however, that seem to be settled history.

In April 1957, Johnson Hinton came upon a couple of police officers who were clubbing a man named Reese V. Poe on the corner of 125th street and 7th Avenue in Harlem. Hinton called out to the officers: “You’re not in Alabama – this is New York! ” The police then turned their nightsticks on Hinton clubbing him and cracking his skull. The officers subsequently handcuffed Hinton and took him to the 28th precinct stationhouse. By the time the evening arrived, there were over 2,000 people surrounding the precinct demanding that Hinton be provided with adequate medical attention.

Johnson X Hinton, it turns out, was a black Muslim who belonged to Mosque Number Seven, the largest mosque in the country – led by a 31 year old preacher named Malcolm X.

At this point, the accounts begin to diverge. In some recollections, a woman who had observed the altercation ran over to the Nation of Islam’s (NOI) restaurant to report the news. Several phone calls later, Malcolm X, accompanied by a small group of Muslims, was at the precinct insisting to see Johnson X. At first they were denied by police but as the crowd outside grew to hundreds of people, they were finally allowed to see Johnson X who was in great pain and distress. The police allowed Johnson X to be transported by ambulance for treatment at Harlem Hospital. Remarkably, once he was treated, the hospital released Johnson X back to the police. By the time Johnson was back in police custody, the crowd outside of the 28th precinct had swelled to over 4,000 people.

When Malcom X returned to the precinct from Harlem Hospital, it was past midnight. He tried to post bail for Johnson X, but police refused to release him and said that he had to remain incarcerated overnight until he could appear in court the next day. By 2:30 am, Malcolm decided that negotiations for Johnson’s release were at a stalemate. With thousands still assembled outside the police precinct, Malcolm X gave a hand signal to his lieutenants in the Fruit of Islam (FOI) and within seconds the crowd silently began to disperse. The next morning, Hinton was dumped in front of NYC’s felony courthouse after a bail of $2,500 was paid by the Nation of Islam. He was promptly picked up and driven to Syndenham Hospital in Harlem to be treated for his injuries.

James Hicks, the managing editor of the New York Amsterdam News, offered his own account of the episode. He reached out to Malcolm X, asking him to act as a mediator between the police and community members. Peter Goldman, in his book “The Death and Life of Malcolm X,” remembers Hicks telling the story this way:

“I was chairman of the 28th Precinct Community Council at the time, and at two in the morning I got a call from the 28th to come over to my office. I went there and I met Inspector McGowen, Deputy Commissioner Walter Arm and Deputy Inspector Robert J. Mangum, who’s black. McGowen said, ‘I had a normal arrest, he was resisting, he got beat up and he’s over there in the 28th Precinct now.” He said, “They’ve got two thousand people out there,’ He said, ‘You know Malcolm X? I said, ‘Yeah, I know him’ – we were pretty good friends by that time. Got to be lunch buddies at the Chock Full O’ Nuts at 125th and Seventh. McGowen said, ‘You think you can get him up here?’ I said, ‘Yeah, give me a little time. Where is he?’ He said, ‘Over at the 28th.’

“So I got over, and there he is with his people – with them and the bystanders they must have had 2,600 people lining the sidewalks between Seventh and Eighth avenues on 123rd Street. I said, ‘Hey, Malcolm, Jesus. What’s going on? He told me one of their people was inside, he’d been beaten and needed medical attention. He said, “We’re going to stay right here, Brother Hicks.’ I asked him if he’d come back to my office and talk to the police people. He said, “If you think anything can be accomplished, I’ll go. But only on your word.’ So we went back and walked up to my office at the Amsterdam News – it was on the fourth floor.

“When we got there, Walter Arm started talking. He was in charge of public relations: he’d been a police reporter, and a good one, but he was white. He said, ‘My presence here, and Inspector McGowen’s, and Deputy Inspector Mangum’s, indicates how much concern the police department has for this situation. However, I’d like to say that the police of the city of New York can handle any situation that arises in Harlem, and we’re not here to ask anybody’s help.’

“Well, Malcolm sat there and listened, and then he got up and put on that camel’s hair coat of his – he’d been a hustler and he always dressed sharp – and he told them, “There’s nothing more to be said,’ Just like that. And suddenly he was striding out the door of my office. I can still hear his steps – clump-clump-clump – going into that gloomy city room. All the lights were out; my office was in the back at the end of the corridor, and he walked out into the darkness. Someone said, ‘Where’s he going?’ And I said, ‘He’s leaving.’

“I followed him out. I said, ‘Wait a minute, Mr. X.’ He stopped out in the darkness there. He said, ‘Brother Hicks, I’m only here ‘cause you said something could be accomplished.’ He said, ‘They don’t need me. They say they can handle it. Well, let them handle it.’

“I said, ‘Wait a minute.’

“I went back to the room. Mangum said, ‘Tell him there must be some level we can get together on if he’ll only come back.’ I went back and told it to Malcolm, and he came back. He said, ‘I only came back because I respect Brother Hicks.’ And I said, ‘Have a seat.’

“This time, Arm shut up. Malcolm said, “I have no respect for you’ – Arm – ‘or the police department.’ He may have said something to Mangum, too. [What he told Mangum, according to a police source, was: “I don’t talk with white man’s niggers.” Mangum, this source said, was “very hurt.”] Malcolm said, “One of our brothers has been beaten, and all we are asking is that we be allowed to go in there and see him and determine if he is in need of hospitalization. The evidence we have now is that he should be in the hospital. If we find that he doesn’t need hospitalization, you can go on with your case. If he does, we want him hospitalized.’ So Mangum and Arm agreed. They hadn’t even seen the man themselves. They said, ‘All right, let’s take a look. If he does need hospitalization, we’ll give it to him. Would that be satisfactory to you?’ Malcolm said yes. They said, ‘Will you then get your people out of the block?’ Malcolm said, ‘this is all we asked for and this is all we want.’

“In effect, the police were saying, ‘We can’t handle it without you.’ Nobody got down on his knees. But they bowed.
“So, we walked the three blocks back to the station, and Malcolm’s people were still there. The men were standing in the gutter with their arms folded. Immobile. The women were on the sidewalk behind them with white kerchiefs on their heads. And nobody said a word. The light in the stationhouse was the only light in the block. I remember thinking, ‘Where did they all come from? – a movement like that growing up right under your nose. When we got to the station, there was a black sergeant on the door. I heard him saying, “Goddamn Muslims – who the hell are they anyway? Turn me loose with this club and I’ll clear this block.’ John X, who was with Malcolm, turned and just stared at him, and I said to McGowen, ‘You better get that sergeant off the door.’

“We went on in and saw the man, and they had torn his head off – [sic]. One look and McGowen said, “Get him to the hospital.” He said, ‘Mr. X, he’s going to be sent to Harlem Hospital – is that all right? Malcolm said, ‘That’s all we asked.’ McGowen said, ‘Would you take the responsibility of sending your people home? Malcolm said, “I’ll do that.’

“And then, in that dim light, Malcolm stood up and waved his hand, and all those people just disappeared. Disappeared. One of the police people said to me, ‘Did you see what I just saw?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, “This is too much power for one man to have.’ He meant one black man. I’ll never forget that.”

Johnson X survived his assault but had to have multiple brain surgeries and live with a metal plate in his head. Johnson X filed a lawsuit against the NYPD. An all-white jury awarded $70,000 to him; this was (at the time) the largest police brutality settlement in New York City.

In his book “The Savage City,” T. J. English writes of the Johnson X incident: “It was the beginning of a new kind of relationship between blacks and the police in the city of New York.” Malcolm X had stood up to the NYPD and won. No one in Harlem would soon forget that.

Police killings in USA: “Anaheim, Everywhere”

by nancy a heitzeg

In the aftermath of Anaheim — that anti-thesis of Disneyland – we will add the names of Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo to that endless list of those struck down by “extra-judicial killings by police, security guards or self-appointed law enforcers.”

Diaz is just the latest in a long line of police shootings of unarmed people of color. His name has come to symbolize the ongoing struggle against police violence in poor black and brown communities, for which authorities are almost never held to account. In Anaheim, where tension between police and the Latino community has been building for years, Diaz is the match that lit the fire which has spread throughout the city.

His shooting sparked an immediate protest by area residents who demanded answers from police. When some in the crowd allegedly hurled bottles and rocks at officers, police responded by shooting rubber bullets and pepper spray and releasing (apparently by accident) a K-9 attack dog into the crowd of mostly parents and small children. The chaos was captured on video by a KCAL news crew showing screaming mothers and fathers shielding their children in horror.
The following day a second Latino man, 21-year-old Joel Acevedo, was shot and killed by Anaheim police, who said Acevedo was shot after firing at police during a foot chase.

We say the names to honor the dead and the living — but their individual stories whatever their power, tell a collective tale as well. That is the story of unchecked — no routinized, normalized. even glorified – systemic structural violence targeting communities of color.

Lethal Police Violence and Communities of Color
While local state and Federal law enforcement agencies keep absolutely accurate records of the number of police officers killed or assaulted in the line of duty (typically less than 60 killed per year), there is no comparable systematic accounting of the number of citizens killed by police each year.

This data is not nationally gathered or reported, The task is left to individual researchers to cobble together local and state – level data (much of which has removed racial identifiers) and report what police only seem to be concerned about in light of potential litigation, Anywhere from 350 to 400 civilians are killed by police each year — an average of one per day. This number is certainly an undercount since it is based on police shootings and does not include deaths by choke-holds, hog-ties, tasers, reactions to chemical sprays or injuries sustained in beatings. Continue reading

Oakland police chief confronted and shut down at “Justice 4 Alan Blueford” townhall


Published on May 24, 2012 by mrdaveyd

After murdering high school senior Alan Blueford, Oakland police have been trying to do damage control. Initially they claimed Blueford was involved in a shoot out and shot the officer.. We now know the officer shot himself after killing Blueford.. The officer’s name was not released to the public due to California law. The police held a townhall meeting at Acts Full Gospel church to try and calm down angry residents. As Chief Howard Jordan rattled of lie after lie, folks turned their back to him..They were not feeling what amounted to a dog and pony show.. OPD cut the townhall short as folks surrounded the police and demanded justice for Alan Blueford.. We caught up with Oscar Grant’s uncle Cephus Johnson aka Uncle Bobby to get his assessment of what took place.

May 24, 2012
http://sfbayview.com/2012/oakland-police-chief-confronted-and-shut-down-at-justice-4-alan-blueford-townhall/

Chris Moreland, who cried “Justice!” at the Oakland townhall, is now in jail on $100,000 bail for battery of an officer, clearly a trumped up charge; arraignment Friday, 2 p.m., Wiley Manual Courthouse; support march 7 p.m., 19th and Telegraph

by Davey D

Alan Blueford, 18, was preparing to graduate from high school when he was murdered by police for running from them on May 6 in East Oakland.

Since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, close to 30 Black or Brown people have been shot and killed by law enforcement – or, in the case of Trayvon, wannabe law enforcement. Many of these shootings have been highly questionable, meaning the person killed was unarmed or there are strong conflicting statements from either the police or witnesses.

Here in Oakland, California, the shooting death of Alan Dwayne Blueford is one such killing. Oakland police have been very shady with the stories they put forth to the public. It seems like a deliberate attempt to muddy the waters, cast seeds of doubt and cover up their own mistakes.

Initially police said they were in a shoot-out and Blueford shot the officer in the stomach. Later the police said Blueford shot the officer in the leg. Next the police said that it was possible the officer was shot in the leg by another officer in a case of friendly fire. Finally it came out that the officer shot himself. He shot himself in the foot.

Many believe the officer shot himself after he killed Blueford and saw the young man was unarmed. The police then doubled back and said a gun was recovered; the community has yet to see any evidence of fingerprints, gun residue etc. Many have concluded it was the officer planting a gun near the scene.

This would not be unusual in a city that in the past 10 years has had to shell out over $58 million for wrongful death shootings and police brutality incidents. This would not be far-fetched in a city that was home to a rogue group of cops known as the Oakland Riders, who were found to routinely plant drugs and guns on suspects. One of the Riders is a still a fugitive at large. Continue reading

Eviction of Slum Dwellers and Repression of Anti-Eviction Demonstrators in West Bengal

Friday 13 April 2012

Aditya Nigam

It is the same story once again. Cleaning up and beautification of cities in the clamour for urban space for consumption and the luxury of the rich. And as we have seen, it makes little difference whether the government/s are Leftist or Rightist, whether they claim to represent the oppressed poor or not. Thus, on 30th March, 2012 the TMC government forcefully evicted around 300 poor families from the Nonadanga slum area in South 24-Parganas, in the name of ‘development’ and ‘beautification’ of Kolkata. Their shanties were razed to ground by the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority. The homeless slum-dwellers have been staying in an open field and are facing constant police harassment. Despite these harsh conditions, they have refused to depart and are presently on hunger strike. Their demand has to date failed to draw any favourable attention from the government. This neglect comes on the heels of the Planning Commission agreeing to annual Bengal plan around 16 per cent more than last year’s.

But the neglect is not only economic : the state government has intensified its repressive tactics. On 4th April, 2012, the Kolkata police and a gang of ruffians who viciously lathi-charged the dispossessed as they organized a protest march to draw attention to their wretched condition. A large police force attacked the protesters including women and infants; there was not a single female constable in the posse. Rita Patra, a pregnant woman, was seriously injured in the lathi-charge. Ten persons, including a baby boy and two girls in their early twenties, were severely injured. To protest this police brutality, slum demolition and forcible eviction, a day long sit-in demonstration was scheduled at Ruby Crossing, E M Bypass of Kolkata, on 8th April, 2012.
Sit-in by evictees
But this peaceful demonstration was broken by the Kolkata police, who alleged the assembly as ‘illegal’ despite having granted prior permission for the same. 69 protesters of ‘Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee’ (Anti-eviction Committee of Nonadanga) were arrested and transported to Lalbazar police station. A nine-year-old girl child, Manika Kumari, daughter of Dilip Shaw, was in the lock-up for nine hours; Manika Kumari’s detention violated the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, which starkly reminds us of Payel Bagh’s case during the Singur unrest. The police deliberately did not, moreover, issue any Memos of Arrest—another violation of legal procedures.

Continuing with the high-handedness, cases under section 151 of the IPC were slapped on the detainees. During the evening of April 8, all the arrested persons were released on PR bond in the presence of members of the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) and other activists through the rear gate of Lalbazar police station. However, seven democratic rights activists were not released and remained in confinement, i.e., Debolina Chakraborty, Shamik Chakraborty, Manas Chatterjee , Debjani Ghosh, Siddhartha Gupta, Partho Sarathi Ray and Abhijnan Sarkar. They have been falsely charged with a number of non-bailable criminal cases. When the released activists and others assembled at Lalbazar became agitated at this unexpected development, all were forced to flee by a huge contingent of aggressive police. APDR members proceeded to the central gate of Lalbazar to speak to the officer in charge and lodged a protest. According to the officers on duty, the seven activists had been charged under various sections including 353, 332, 141, 143, 148 and 149 of the IPC and were to be produced at the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM) court, Alipore, on 9 April, 2012. Continue reading

The police violence that many have always known, and others now discover

[New artwork from Rachel Marie Crane-Williams, on the USprisonculture.com blog.  We look forward to more of her cartoon art of exposure and reality. — Frontlines ed.]

Oakland’s police department, most brutal in the US, not part of the 99%


by hellagetto

Nov 2, 2011
Long before Lil’ Bobby Hutton, a 16 year old member of the Black Panther Party was gunned down by OPD (1968) to the still unnamed black man gunned down by OPD two weeks ago, Oakland’s police department has a long-standing reputation of shooting, planting evidence, harassing and otherwise terrorizing the community.

More recently, OPD raided Occupy Oakland in the early morning while protestors were asleep. That same night ,October 25th under the watchful eyes of OPD, Scott Olsen, a two-tour Iraq War veteran suffered a head wound for peacefully protesting in downtown Oakland. OPD claims not to have tear gas, rubber bullets nor concussion grenades due to federal orders currently against the department. The other 17 law enforcement agencies called in for back up are forbidden under a consent decree to bring in such weaponry as well. (OPD has been “monitored” by the feds since 2003.)

This footage is from a anti-police brutality community speak out held just in front of the Occupy Oakland camp on October 29, 2011.