Protecting and serving each other.


Ashley Biviano

Uh oh, someone broke into your car over night and took your iPod and whatever loose change you had lying around. Maybe next time you’ll lock your car, or keep anything of value out of sight. I hear that things like this are happening all around Norwich, and I’ve read complaints via social networking sites that law enforcement officials haven’t been all that helpful. Hours after the fact, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done without the use of quite a few resources. A possible solution or deterrent for this? Maybe you want to install a couple cameras near your garage, facing your car. Maybe put a camera inside your vehicle. It’s also a good idea to notify your neighbors of what’s been going on, so that they can be aware and take the necessary measures so that similar things don’t happen to them.

You can certainly call the police department and let them know that an individual got into your unlocked vehicle and helped themselves to the $4.77 in your cup-holder, but I will not say that anything will come out of it that will help you out.

What you can do though, is take measures to protect and serve each other. Become an active member of your community.

Now with some of the examples that follow, many will say, “None of that happens around here, why should I care?” … That’s why I stated the situation above, something that is happening locally many people are peeved about – and a possible solution: keeping an eye out on each other.

The Peaceful Streets Project is an all-volunteer, grassroots effort with the goal of uniting members of a community to end institutional violence on the streets, regardless of where you live.

In our community we don’t see much direct police brutality; at least not documented and placed in the lime light. But I’m willing to bet a lot of you have stories; some stories that have gone unreported because, who do you report police misconduct to? The police. Who internally investigates the matter? The police.

The vision of the Peaceful Streets Project is to reach “a society free of state-sponsored institutionalized violence.” This shall be done by way of community organizing, engagement in non-political and non-violent direct action tactics. The goal is for individuals to know and understand their rights. Communities would ultimately be able to protect and serve each other.

Antonio Buehler developed the Peaceful Streets Project after his arrest on New Year’s Eve of 2012 for videotaping the police using excessive force against a female in Austin, Texas. Buehler has since become rather active in the sharing of ideas regarding police accountability and documenting interactions with officers.

The project offers training sessions on knowing one’s rights during police encounters and how to safely and responsibly document interactions, as well as an arena where those who have been victims of police abuse can go on record with their experiences. There are also “cop-watching” outfits, where groups peacefully video police activity to assist those who may be victim to police misconduct.

Bear in mind, these aren’t crazy people running up onto crime scenes videotaping like maniacs. Per rule number two in the code of conduct, “PSP participants shall make every necessary effort to not interfere with law enforcement officials while they are carrying out their official duties.”

…Cameras zoom in, folks. Police officers are armed. They’re not afraid to use their weapons. Use common sense.

The Peaceful Streets Project is hosting its second annual Police Accountability Summit this Saturday in Austin, Texas at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Admission is free and the speakers are sure to provide outstanding and informative discussion for concerned citizens, police abuse survivors, advocates of liberty, and police accountability activists from around the nation.

Before I continue with details on the summit, here are some things that have taken place around the nation lately, that many folks may not be aware of:

Police in Hawthorne, California unlawfully arrested a man who was videotaping a raid he had witnessed. There were others videotaping as well. The man had his dog with him, Max. When he had an inkling he was going to get arrested, he placed Max into his vehicle, and two officers approached, arresting him shortly thereafter. While being cuffed by Hawthorne PD employees, Max jumped out of the vehicle and a third officer approached, drew his weapon, and opened fire. Many times. Many, many times. Watch the video if you haven’t (use discretion, it is insanely disturbing). Max was barking. If an officer is threatened for his life by a barking dog… come on. So sad. And unnecessary.

In July of this year a NYPD officer was arrested and charged with attempted rape, unlawfully dealing with a child, endangering the welfare of a child and sexual abuse, according to media reports, after allegedly providing alcohol to a 16-year-old acquaintance and later sexually assaulting her. He has been suspended without pay (which is uncommon – it’s actually pretty uncommon for charges to be filed in situations such as these) and was released on $1,500 bail.

In 2010 in Albuquerque, a man was arrested for serving food without a permit, disobeying a police officer and trespassing. He was providing food for the homeless. According to reports the charge for operating without a permit was dropped, as there is no law stating you cannon feed the hungry if it is not for profit. The other two charges were later dismissed as well. The man sued the city, who opted to settle rather than follow through with proceedings, and the man received $45,000. He continues to feed the homeless every Sunday.

Not only one small deer, but now two, have been killed by authorities, according to media reports. Giggles was a baby fawn who was at a no-kill shelter and was scheduled to be taken to a wildlife reserve the following day. Instead, Department of Natural Resources officers came in heavily armed, removed and killed the deer. All because the shelter didn’t pay for a permit. … Insanity.

According to media reports and a security video, a 14 year-old mentally ill girl was being escorted down a hallway at the Citrus Health System treatment center for mentally ill adolescents in Pembroke Pines, Florida when a police officer reaches and grabs the female. She responds with a swat at the officer who then opts to punch her – fist closed – in the face, snapping her head back. Other officers join in the on the fiasco, and spray her with mace once she is down. She is 14. They charged her with resisting arrest. They are violent men terrorizing a mentally ill adolescent who was at the facility for help. I wonder if they’re proud of themselves when they go home.

Anyway, I could go on forever citing cases of police misconduct. It doesn’t have to be rape, killing of animals, or beatings. It could be unlawful arrests, illegal searches, harassment, or any other abuse of power committed by one who is in place to “protect and serve.”

With a little bit of education and motivation, it seems as though communities would be well equipped to protect and serve each other. Technology is a wonderful thing, and can be used to your advantage during interactions.

The summit in Austin has a terrific lineup of speakers and entertainers.

The keynote speaker is Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party and a long-time police accountability activist. Seale will speak about how a camera is a more powerful tool now as a weapon against police abuse than the rifles were the Black Panther Party often used when cop-watching in their communities in the past.

Radley Balko, author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Force” will deliver a second keynote speech. –By the way, go purchase that book and read it, folks.

Jacob Crawford of Wecopwatch.org, Carlos Miller of Photographyisnotacrime.com, Pete Eyre of Copblock.org will also speak at the summit, and are expected to share very important and informative ideas.

Buehler and John Bush (co-founder of the Peaceful Streets Project) will offer speeches as well.

B.Dolan will provide entertainment at the summit. He is a hip-hop and spoken word artist signed to Strange Famous Records who dug into activism when co-founding knowmore.org with fellow artist Sage Francis. I’ve personally seen them both live – more than once – , and B.Dolan doesn’t disappoint. Check out his “Film the Police.”

Tatiana Moroz will perform a song she wrote for the Peaceful Streets Project.

A victims panel is slated on the schedule as well as a discussion on reigning in the police through legislation. Free food and child care will also be provided at the event.

The 2nd Annual Peaceful Streets Project Police Accountability Summit is sure to be one for the books. While I can’t make it in person, those speaking and the individuals in attendance have my support, wholeheartedly.

Even though it may seem like things are A-okay here in Chenango County, take a good look around – look beyond your immediate surroundings. Just because you don’t see a police officer beating innocent women on our streets does that mean it doesn’t happen? No. Rather than turn a blind eye, I feel it’s best to become informed and share ideas regarding misconduct. If you don’t know what it looks like, you don’t know how to handle it.

If by chance you’re in the Texas area, I’d urge you to attend. Again, it’s free. You’ll learn a lot. If you can’t attend, you can always donate to the cause. I did. Gladly.

I think we’d could all benefit by helping each other out with things like this. When we know our rights, remain peaceful but diligent, and keep an eye out on one another, things can only improve.

You can learn more or help out by visiting Peacefulstreets.com.