I was arrested early morning on Friday, September 21, 2012 and charged with “Interference with Public Duties” for filming the arrest of a comrade attempting to film an Austin Police Department investigation and arrest. Although my primary focus in activism is on the Occupy Wall Street movement, I’ve been increasingly involved in the Peaceful Streets Project, an organization dedicated to holding police accountable for their often violent and unlawful actions.
After witnessing first-hand instances of police brutality against activists and the lies police departments spread to the mainstream media and in the court system to justify their unlawful and unethical behavior, I became involved in citizen journalism. My job? To film, photograph, and disseminate on social media the actions of my fellow activists and their arrests, in case they need this documentation.
Filming the police is integral in protecting the legal rights of activists, and it levels the playing field. In an arrest, the police hold all power, and we must submit to the arrest, to the police brutality, to the devastating effects of the prison system on our humanity, and then we pray that we have enough money and a decent enough lawyer to get us through the legal system. The right to film the police is the least of what we could and should be asking for. There will never be justice on scene or in the media again if we are not free to document and film those in power and to hold them accountable. What we are doing in the Peaceful Streets Project has intersectional implications, all of which rely on our First Amendment rights to free speech and to freedom of the press. How our court cases play out will affect free speech and free press rights for all.
My favorite chant in the Occupy Movement is, “We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!” We need to continue investigating the history of municipal police forces and to not be afraid to examine weaknesses in our current judicial systems and prison industrial complexes. We need to ask ourselves if there is a better way to form our communities, to love our neighbors, and to care for the most vulnerable and suffering among us. When we are positive that those in power are accountable to The People, only then can we call them public servants.
In jail, I wrote invisible prayers with my finger on my cell wall, asking for my freedom because writing is at the heart of how I understand life and our human pursuit of truth. In the same way, I feel compelled to document situations of oppression and abuse of power in order to restore the feelings of love and community in our world. I write to communicate the necessity of anti-oppression work and of the need for the activists in the Peaceful Streets Project and in activist movements worldwide, dedicated to the empowerment of all human beings and to the restoration of our humanity. Please bear witness.