Aug 16 2013

Boston speed trap gets Cop Blocked

Dr. Q

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.

radargun

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.

ktspeedtrap

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.

Check here for KT’s video of the first cop and here for my video of the second cop.


Oct 23 2011

Boston occupation movement demands police reforms

Dr. Q

This weekend, Boston’s Occupation movement has put its energy into demanding reforms of the Boston Police Department.

On Saturday, demonstrators from Occupy the Hood, a gathering of people from the predominantly black and Latino neighborhood of Roxbury that began Friday, joined together with Occupy Boston to protest against police brutality as part of the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality.

New England Cable News has some footage of the protest which you can view below:

The Boston Herald also has some coverage of the protest here.

Prior to the protest, a list of specific demands was posted on OccupyBoston.com:

1. The current CO-OP (Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel) must be given subpoena powers and the ability to initiate its own independent investigations.

2. There should also be a true Civilian review board with the same powers as, but independent of, the CO-OP. The CO-OP is primarily made up of criminal justice/law enforcement professionals and appointed by the Mayor. A true Civilian review board would be compromised of a cross section from all walks of life within the communities most affected.

3. We have begun work with State Officials to examine and propose a State Commission on Police Brutality. This commission would work statewide to study, examine and investigate cases of police brutality and misconduct where cities and towns have found themselves either unwilling or unable to adequately address these issues in a just manner. Local DA’s and Police Departments have shown that they cannot police themselves and some level of accountability must be established.

4. The Boston Police Department needs to reflect the diversity of the city in its command staff and other decision making positions. We recognize it is only in standing together, united in our solidarity and in action, that we will overcome police repression and succeed in creating a better world.

What do you think of these ideas for reforms? Let us know in the comment section or send us an email using our contact page. If you have any media (photos, videos, etc.) from the protest that you’d like to share, please do so.


Oct 6 2011

What I saw at Occupy Boston

Dr. Q

Last Sunday, I decided to attend the Occupy Boston protest which I’ve blogged about a couple times in the past. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the protest, here’s how it’s described on OccupyBoston.com:

Occupy Boston is an on-going protest inspired by Occupy Wall Street, which started in New York City on September 17, and is connected to similar demonstrations and occupations taking place around the world. We are raising awareness about the discontent with the American corporate and political systems. We’re inspiring conversation, discussion and debate around topics like corruption, financial inequality, and political immorality.

Occupy Boston is not a single group with a single demand, but we feel our national leaders have let us down too many times, and the government needs to fundamentally change.

One thing that drew me to the protest was the possibility of police brutality and misconduct. There’s been so much brutality and abuse by the NYPD at the Occupy Wall Street protest that it’s difficult to keep track of it all. Luckily, nothing of the sort has happened at Occupy Boston. So far, there have been no arrests at all, let alone police brutality incidents. When I visited the protest on Sunday, the police presence was light and the police didn’t appear to be interacting much with the demonstrators.

Since there was no police activity worth documenting, I decided that I would spend some of my time at the protest taking photos and interviewing people about their reasons for attending. You can watch those interviews below:

I definitely didn’t agree with everything I heard at the protest, but I was still impressed to see so many people gathering together to discuss and advocate ideas that they believe in.

After I talked with some of the protesters, I left Dewey Square for a while to handle some other business and get some food. When I returned to the protest later that evening, I managed to show up just as a march was beginning. I joined in the march, took some more photos, as well as some more video (some of that footage ended up at the beginning of the video embedded above).

After the march, I attended the General Assembly meeting which is one of ways the protesters have coordinated their efforts. Unfortunately, the meeting was pretty long, so I ended up having to leave before it was over. Before I left, I dropped by the Really, Really Free Market tent that protesters had organized and donated a white CopBlock.org t-shirt. (If you happen to see anyone wearing this shirt, I’d appreciate a photo.)

You can check out the photographs I took at the protest via Flickr:


Sep 27 2011

#OccupyBoston General Assembly meeting to be livestreamed

Dr. Q

As I reported yesterday, the first General Assembly for the Occupy Boston movement is scheduled for tonight at 7:30 at the Boston Common gazebo (you can now RSVP on Facebook). I have just learned via Twitter that the meeting will be livestreamed so that people who cannot make it will be able to watch online.

You can either watch the livestream using the embed below or you can follow this link back to the original source.

Since I first reported on the protest, the Boston Police Department contacted planners of the protest via Twitter. “We look forward 2 working w/ u 2 ensure a peaceful event which respects ur right 2 protest & maintains safety,” tweeted a BPD spokesperson. A second tweet encouraged planners to “contact Special Events Sgt. Bill Ridge to coordinate logistics” which at least one planner indicated they would do.

Despite these reassurances, I still encourage anyone taking part in the protest to make sure they know their rights and to document all interactions with the police using video cameras. If you witness any police brutality or misconduct during the demonstration, be sure to let us know. You can email Massachusetts Cop Block using our contact page or you can connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.


Sep 26 2011

Protesters plan to “Occupy Boston”

Dr. Q

Wall St. protesters marching on Sept. 19
(Source: CBS News)

For more than a week now, protesters in New York City have been staging a demonstration on Wall Street against government and corporate corruption. The protest, which has been dubbed “Occupy Wall Street,” hasn’t been mentioned much by the mainstream media, but numerous videos from the protest have been making the rounds on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Metro reports that an “Occupy Wall Street”-type protest may soon be coming to Boston. Nelson Terry, a 23-year-old who drove to New York to participate in the Wall Street protest, is now trying to organize a similar demonstration in Boston using social media sites.

“Whether it’s a series of marches or occupations, that remains to be seen,” Terry told Metro. “The goal is to change the system and make it a real Democracy. Even if we are getting our asses kicked by the cops we will remain non-violent.”

Planning for the protest is currently taking place on the “Occupy Boston” Facebook page. Planning is also occurring via the @OccupyBeantown, @Occupy_Boston, and @NEFreedomRide Twitter feeds.

According to the Facebook page, the next step for planning the protest “is to organize a general assembly, for all of us to come together and begin this movement.” The “1st Boston General Assembly is this Tuesday, September 27… 7:30pm at Boston Common gazebo,” according to the page.

Arrest at Wall Street protest
(Source: The New York Times)

At the Wall Street protest in New York, the police response has been very heavy-handed. Police have arrested a large number of people, often on what appear to be trumped up charges, and have been extremely brutal (see the coverage at Injustice Everywhere here, here, here, and especially here). I don’t know how the Boston police will respond to the Occupy Boston protest, but I encourage everyone participating to prepare for the worst case scenario.

Make sure you know your rights when dealing with the police. Watching the video 10 Rules for Dealing with Police by Flex Your Rights is a great way to get an understanding of what your rights are during encounters with the police. You can find additional information in the FAQ on FYR’s website.  Also check out a “A Police Misconduct Victim’s Guide” by David Packman of Injustice Everywhere for some advice on what to do if your rights are violated by the police.

If you have a camera, bring it along with any extra batteries and memory cards you have. Try to record all your interactions with the police so that you have evidence if you or anyone else’s rights are violated. If possible, livestream your interactions with the police using a service like Qik so that people can watch the protests online in real time.

Be sure that you do not secretly record the police by, for example, hiding your camera in your pocket. Under the Massachusetts “wiretapping” statute, it’s possible to be convicted of a felony for creating “secret” audio-recordings of others — even the police — however, it’s legal to record others when in public if your camera is in plain sight (see the case of Michael Hyde for more information).  Although it’s legal to record the police, I would encourage protesters to password protect their recording devices if possible just in case the police try to confiscate them and delete the videos.

If you witness any police brutality or misconduct during the demonstration, be sure to let us know. You can email Massachusetts Cop Block using our contact page or you can connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Good luck and stay safe.