This document communicates how to effectively stand-up for your rights. Take from it what you find valuable to your situation. This is a working document and we welcome your input so that we can all learn from each other. It was created by Pete Eyre, Kelly Patterson and Clyde Voluntaryist (it does not speak for others involved at the decentralized CopBlock.org).
Know Your Rights
Live and let live – it’s an adage that, if put into practice, would help eliminate the need for these precautions. But right now some folks are putting faith into a badge idea – arbitrary authority. Fortunately, ideas have consequences.
In just under an hour, the four-part playlist below communicates some good knowledge on knowing and asserting your rights.
- Know Your Rights collection at Scribd
- Don’t Take the Plea Deal tri-fold informational/outreach flyer
- Jury Nullification page with resources, success stories and more
- Print-Ready Flyers outreach materials
- Allied Outlets expose yourself to the info and tactics others employ
- Police Accountability Groups connect with others nearby who know that Badges Don’t Grant Extra Rights
- Library think for yourself
- You’ve Just Been Arrested at a Festival. Now What? from October 08, 2014
- A Cop Stops You at a Festival: The “Know Your Rights” Infographic from April 30, 2014
- What To Do if The Police Stop You at a Music Festival from February 25, 2014
Interacting with police employees
Always document exchanges you have with police or those that you witness, preferably via video, if possible. Even better, stream the interaction in real-time to the Internet using a free smartphone application, which prevents it from being erased or tampered with should your equipment be stolen by police. In addition, it can help get the word out should you need support.
Filming your interactions has several advantages. Most importantly, it will help to safeguard you at that moment, as it very-likely will deter potential aggression, and it will act as an indisputable, objective, transparent record of the incident.
The deck is usually stacked against you in cases which come down to just your word against theirs. Filming captures an objective record of the exchange, making it easier for those who may later view video of the interaction to clearly see just who is the aggressor.
If stopped by a police employee ask, “Am I being detained?”
This question is important for several reasons. One is that certain rules regarding evidence that can be collected are dependent on whether you have been officially detained and whether the person stopping you has sufficient cause to detain you in the first place. Getting them on record regarding these issues can aid you greatly in the future if contesting such evidence becomes necessary.
Another reason to ask this is that it will serve as an indicator to the police employee you are interacting with that you are aware of your rights. While this doesn’t always make a difference, letting them know that you understand those rights and are willing to assert them will sometimes make them less likely to disregard them.
If you’re told “Yes”, stay calm, cool, and collected. You can choose to remain silent or you can choose to engage.
Police employees default to being on the offensive. If you’ve not acted in the wrong remain confident in your actions. The police state thrives on fear and acquiescence.
Always strive to deescalate situations, and thus increase the likelihood you’ll leave under your own locomotion rather than under the control of a kidnapper. Again, if the interaction is streamed or video recorded you’re much better positioned to be able to share the facts of the situation.
Police employees can and do lie (something that their friends in legaland have claimed is perfectly acceptable) in an attempt to solicit information from you or to get you to admit to engaging in an action they believe gives them the right to kidnap and cage you or someone else (even though said action may not cause a victim). Be aware that such dastardly tactics may be employed and act accordingly.
In fact, police employees are actually trained in methods of deception designed to trick people into giving up their rights and/or cooperating against themselves and or their friends. They are taught to act friendly as if they want to help you in order to gather information, which eventually could be used against you or others. In addition, they are instructed to phrase questions in a way that they sound like statements (I’m going to _____, okay?) in order to trick you into giving consent.
If you do engage, answer questions with questions. Ask, “Where is the victim?”, “Why do you believe you have the right to prevent my freedom of movement?” etc. Treat the police employee no differently than you would someone not wearing the same costume who approached and questioned you.
If you get arrested
Police employees often make arrests they know to be without merit, simply as a way to harass those who question their claimed authority. Several vague “go-to” charges are often used for such purposes including, but not limited to, disturbing the peace, trespassing, obstruction, interfering with an officer/investigation, failure to follow lawful orders, etc. Police employees recognize that there is very little chance they will be held accountable for engaging in such petty tactics.
If you’re caught-up in that scenario, don’t panic. The world won’t end. Now is the time to engage in damage control and move-forward to mitigate any further harassment and to seek accountability for the real aggressors.
Write down a detailed summary of what unfolded. Create an objective overview that will bring someone totally unfamiliar with the incident up-to-speed.
You may have an inclination to put this off until later, but it’s actually very important to do so while the incident is fresh. Details that are now clear will become forgotten with the passage of time. Plus, you’ll see just how useful making time to tackle this really is when you realize that it’s actually a time-saver. Instead of repeating the same story multiple times to different people, you can just point them to your write-up.
Where did the interaction happen? What was going on immediately prior to the interaction? What was the date and time? Who were the parties involved? What were their badge numbers, employers, contact information? What was given as rationale for stopping you? What was said during the exchange?
Share your overview at http://CopBlock.org/Submit
Document, Document, Document
Obtain as much related information as possible. The more comprehensive you are, the less-likely it is that frivolous charges will be levied against you and the more-likely it is that charges will be dropped.
Submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain all relevant objective information (i.e. footage from dashcams, bodycams, surveillance cameras, etc.) and if thought useful, and and all contact information or other data associated with the individual aggressor(s). Again, it’s not the Acme Police Department who acted but an individual employed by that outfit.
Win in the Court of Public Opinion
If you’ve done nothing wrong don’t be afraid. Fear is the mindkiller – it is used by self-proclaimed rulers to push others to cede to them double standards. We can never achieve justice and transparency through an institution corrupt at its core.
Voice as loudly and clearly as you can the rights-violations you suffered and continue to face due to the actions of the police employee and prosecutor.
Work to get your situation on the radar of others.
Share pertinent information via the form at http://CopBlock.org/Submit and any other outlets thought relevant so others can easily get on the same page. Encourage others, who have a grasp on your situation thanks to your write-up, and inclusion of relevant pictures and/or video, to call on your behalf and demand justice.
Currently about 95% of cases are plead out before trial, which does nothing to disincentivize the same or a greater level of police statism. As we each stand up and stand together the less we’ll be used as raw materials in a bureaucratic machine that purports to epitomize justice.
If the threats levied at you aren’t dismissed for lack of merit, demand a jury trial, even for something as trivial as a speeding ticket.
It’s not uncommon for court dates to be pushed back or for the “prosecutor” to stack threats against you. While court employees might hope such tactics will wear you down, point to such tactics as examples of their inability to make right by dismissing the charges levied at you and calling-out the real aggressors.
Court is called “legaland” for a reason. It’s an environment void of logic and common sense. Where public officials who purport to be acting to obtain justice in reality act to safeguard themselves and their colleagues. Don’t be surprised at or let yourself get worn down by their actions. Stand on your conscience and know that, at the end of the day, you did no harm. Not only will this resonate with you but it will embolden others to speak out and do what they know is right, until one day, the harassment meted out by those with badges, and the double-standards others afford them, are no more.
If we each stood-up for what we know is right, it’d frankly be impossible for this level of institutionalized violence to continue. In fact, to paraphrase Ludwig von Mises, we must proceed ever more boldly until no one buys into the bad idea that someone can have extra rights based on their attire.
At the end of the day, if you did nothing wrong then you should not be afraid to speak the truth. As we each stand-up we’ll empower others to do the same, and together, we’ll get there.