A few days ago, after hearing a couple of loud explosions nearby, a concerned man grabbed his video camera, hopped in this wife’s car and drove around his New Jersey neighborhood to see what was to blame. He soon identified the cause – explosive devices thrown into an abandoned house by a group of black-clad men with firearms.
Desiring to keep his distance from them, he parked over a hundred feet away, exited, pointed his camera at them and clicked record. Despite the distance, in less than one minute his presence drew the attention of a couple of the men, who approached him.
At first things seemed congenial – they asked him how he was doing, to which he replied “Alright. How are you?” The men in black – strangers to the man – asked why he was filming and demanded his identification. The man informed that he had heard the bang and came out to investigate and questioned their use of explosives in a neighborhood across the street from a church. One of the strangers referred to the abandoned house as a “training facility.” [It's well-known that gangs traditionally have access to many residences and facilities where they plan their operations, hold their kidnap victims and store their hardware.]
Soon the demeanor of the men in black – identified only by the gang name “Police” on their outfits – became more aggressive. While one asked invasive questions the other got on his cellphone to let their fellow gang members know of the situation. Their badgering continued.
One gang member asked the man “And so why you takin’ pictures? That’s what we want to know” while repeatedly asking for his identification. The man inquired why they felt he needed to do this and was told it was because they didn’t know who who he was and that per the commands of those higher-up in the gang (arbitrary dictates written on a piece of paper) they had a right to such information. The man still refused.
The gang members got more aggressive and demanded to know where the man resided, stating that “We want to know why you’re filming us, and asking us questions” to which the man rightly responded, “I’m not asking anybody questions you walked across the street.” The gang members, obviously eager to protect their claimed territory, told the man that he was the only one who has had a problem with their actions and that they’re “not doing anything. [Historically, in areas that have been overrun with gangs, residents have been afraid or unwilling to question or speak out against them due to fear of repercussions.]
Again, the man, concerned for his safety and that of those in his community – pointed to the explosions and smoke billowing out of the abandoned residence. The gang members continued to demand to know his identification, telling the man “You need to tell us who you are. Yeah you do. We need to know who you are. And you’re not giving us ID.” The man noted that he didn’t have to disclose his identity. [The man's desire to not disclose his identification was likely due to the importance he places on safety for himself and his family, knowing that others in similar situations who have identified themselves have been harassed, assaulted, or worse by gang members.]
Then, seeing they had no purchase through their use of intimidation (something these gang members are encountering more and more) the gang members told him that he could not put his own hands in his own pockets. The man, as if verbalizing what he was thinking, noted:
It’s happening in my own backyard. It’s happening all over the United States. . . Why are you doing this for me? I didn’t ask you do come over here.
The gang members tried to justify their actions yet the man wasn’t buying any of it, telling them that they “seem like the terrorists” and were “terrorizing” him at the moment. Unsurprisingly, the gang members took offense to this. [Many examples exist of the lengths each gang member will go to protect the name of their gang. In fact, this action is so common by gang members it has its own name - "the thin blue line."] One gang member pointed his finger at the man and when questioned about why he was doing that he replied with a message reeking of hubris, “Because I can point my finger at cha.”
The man then asked if the gang members believed they had the right to hold him there (aka “detained”) and was answered in the negative yet the gang member continued to tell him that his actions seemed “suspicious”. He told the man that if he did not do as he was told he would be kidnapped and brought to the gang’s headquarters. When those threats still didn’t sway the man, the gang members tried another tactic – targeting the man based on the cracked windshield of the car he admitted to driving.
Yesterday another member of the Cop Block crew spoke with the man who shot this video. After the videocamera was shut off the gang members kidnapped him and brought him to their headquarters where they ransomed him to the tune of $750 for his freedom – an amount they claimed they were owed since the papers their friends issue the man to drive were “suspended”.
Overall, a very solid and principled stand by this man against the gang members. Yet in the end, rather than refuse to disclose how he arrived at the scene, he did give into the threats of the gang members. Still, the man was successful in what he set out to do – he found the cause of the explosion. And based on the use of intimidation and outright lying by gang members, this video will undoubtedly be seen by tens or hundreds of thousands of people who will glean some knowledge they previously didn’t have and will hopefully be more likely to stand up for their rights.