On Wednesday, I met up with KT and NEF of MassOps to check out the Republican National Committee meeting in Boston. We weren’t sure what to expect because the meeting hadn’t been mentioned by any news outlets until very recently and we weren’t able to find much information about it. We were interested in knowing if there would be any heightened “security” in the city for the event, such as TSA bag searches on the subway or militarized cops standing guard. The event turned out to be very low-key and there was no police presence at all from what we saw, so we ended up leaving pretty quickly.
We all chatted for a while and NEF decided to head home. KT and I headed back to the RNC meeting one last time to see if anything had changed. Finding nothing of interest, we started walking back down the sidewalk and we saw two motorcycle cops standing on the opposite side of the street. I stopped to take a few pictures and we noticed that one of the cops was using a radar gun to check drivers’ speeds.
We decided to warn the people driving by about the speed trap, so we headed over to a Post Office just down the street and KT bought a cardboard box for a few dollars. We ripped off part of the box and KT used a sharpie she carries around with her to write “Speed Trap” on it in bold letters.
As we started walking back down the street, a man walking with what looked to be his girlfriend or wife and their daughter spotted my CopBlock.org shirt and told me that he had seen the website before and enjoyed it. I gave him a Cop Block business card and we showed them our sign and explained what we were about to do. The man and his girlfriend/wife thanked us and told us they appreciated what we were doing.
We stood on a median down the street from where the two motorcycle cops were located. KT held the sign and I periodically checked to make sure that the cops hadn’t spotted us. Both of us had cameras ready in case we were approached by the police.
We both waved at drivers and encouraged them to put their cell phones away if they were talking on them. It appeared as though nearly everyone driving by saw the sign. Tons of people thanked us, gave us a thumbs up, or honked at us to show their support for what we were doing.
After we had been warning drivers for a while, two state police vehicles drove past us. One of the state cops who was driving actually stuck his head out the window of his vehicle and flipped us off. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not recording our entire outing, so I didn’t get this on video.
After the staties drove past us, they presumably tipped the two motorcycle cops off about what we were doing. A minute or two later, one of the motorcycle cops rode up to us, stopped his bike, and tried (but failed) to convince us that what we were doing was a waste of time.
After the first cop left us alone, KT continued to stand with the sign and I walked up the street to confirm that we had broken up the speed trap. When I saw that both cops were gone, I headed back to meet up with KT. As I got near where KT was standing, she was approached by the second motorcycle cop. Both of us were caught off guard (in retrospect, we shouldn’t have been), but we managed to get videos. KT told me that before either of us turned our cameras on, the cop got her attention by yelling “Hey, Einstein!” at her.
After the second cop rode off, we walked down the street and spotted both of the cops stopped on the side of the road. They chatted for several minutes before riding off.
The first of the cops who approached us told us that our sign “doesn’t work,” but it was pretty obvious to us that it had. From what I could tell, not a single driver was pulled over while we were out with the sign and the cops gave up as soon as they found out about what we were doing.
KT and I decided that the cops probably went to a different location to set up a new speed trap, but between the time we were warning drivers without the knowledge of the cops, the time the cops spent figuring out where to set up the next trap, and the time it took to travel there, we had disrupted their activities for some time. We probably saved some people from getting stopped and ticketed and we did it on very short notice with a budget of only a few dollars.
The best part about doing this sort of activism was the reactions we got from the people driving by. I can’t remember the last time in my life — if there ever was one — that I was thanked by so many complete strangers for something I did.