Stop Police Brutality, Stop Protests Turning into Riots

One thing that I’ve been seeing in the news entirely too much lately is how police in the East Bay have been dealing with protesters. They are wearing a lot of riot gear, and are quickly resorting to spraying chemicals and gasses, beating with weapons, and otherwise doing things that send people to the hospital. This isn’t right- no matter where you stand on the issues at the center of the Occupy movement, this is fascism. I wouldn’t want to see this kind of treatment against anyone.

The first example that comes to mind is this:

I don’t know what anybody’s yelling, but they’re just yelling. That’s no excuse for a baton to the guts, is it? I heard she lost her spleen to those blows.

Another recent event was the May 1st General Strike with protests and demonstrations. The police showed up in full riot gear with each officer that I saw hanging a carabiner full of zip-tie handcuffs. Here’s a gallery from that:

SF Gate Coverage of May 1st Protests

Some people (not necessarily protesters) showed up in black hooded sweatshirts with their faces covered, and tried to smash things. I’d like to think that we can get our points across without smashing things, and affect change without violence, just on the power of our words and the presence of our numbers. Wouldn’t that be great? Amazingly, technology has allowed us to do things that sound incredibly utopian, things that don’t really sound plausible. For example, when everybody and their mother shows up at the same place and same time, to collectively show their disapproval. Thanks to SMS messaging it happened in the Philippines in 2001, and with Twitter in many countries in 2010 in the Arab Spring.

An incident that hit a little closer to home happened this past fall. I saw a man loudly harassing an elderly woman on Lakeside in Oakland. By the time I got within 100 feet there were already two men defending her, and at least three other people who didn’t look like they’d be worth much in a fight who had their cell phones out and recording videos. I’m ambivalent about this. On the one hand, their cell phone videos could have been useful for prosecuting the guy later if he got violent without provocation. On the other hand, I didn’t see anybody using their phones to call the police. I have to cynically wonder if they were thinking about helping the old woman, or getting a hundred thousand hits on their youtube accounts. Fortunately the man left. I don’t know if the threat of being recorded caused him to re-think his actions, or if the mere presence of so many vocal bystanders telling him to cool it made him stop. He didn’t seem like a reasonable guy.

Assuming that more people are thinking in their right mind than not, my idea is this- why not have a wearable camera with remote storage, and sends a live feed for a record of what’s going in? The technology exists to make it time stamped, GPS aware, and able to survive having the cellular network shut down or jammed. The non-centralized storage would make it pointless for thugs to steal or break the camera (and if police do this, they become thugs)- the evidence would already be safely stored and unable to be deleted. Adding two or three different cameras that all show the same thing from different angles with identical timing would fill in the gaps in information, and make forgery and tampering very difficult to pull off. Police have cameras on their cruisers, why don’t we have them on our protesters?

Could something like that cause a major change in how we exercise our rights to peaceable protest and assembly, discouraging cops from beating us and from rogue elements from turning a protest into a riot? I hope so.

 

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