“Cop Blocking is not one of my favorite forms of activism. To be honest, I dislike it. Mostly because I try to avoid violent people as much as I can. However, in the situation when police are threatening violence to your neighbors right in front of you, I feel an obligation to help out.”
So said Rob Mathies recently, in his post about copblocking, in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Let’s face it: not everyone is comfortable copblocking. Situations can be intense and unpredictable. But what if you could avoid confrontation while still looking out for the safety of your friends and your neighbors?
It all starts with your mindset. Some detractors try to paint copblocking as “rabblerousing” or “just looking for trouble.” But if your primary concern is for the safety of others – as it should be – you will know that you are not looking for trouble. Knowing that you are in the right puts you in the correct mindset to avoid confrontation.
Consider how the following four tactics might make copblocking more comfortable for you:
1 – Don’t approach the scene. Yes, it is truly heroic to do something like “unarrest” someone, or to physically interfere with a police employee abusing a victim. But if things haven’t turned that severe yet, your mere silent presence can do a lot to deter any violence from even arising. Stay back. Stay silent if you want. You don’t need to get involved. By simply making your presence known and putting your eyes on the situation, you are already making the statement, “I am an eye-witness, and you are being watched.”
2 – Use a concealed camera. We’ve seen that police employees sometimes get outraged at the mere sight of someone openly filming them. Using a hidden camera instead can ensure that you still get to capture the truth without incurring yet more aggression. Take caution that in a few states, the self-proclaimed rulers declare that using hidden cameras is “wiretapping.” If you reside in these areas, evaluate your own risk levels before using a hidden camera. Everywhere else, hidden cameras can take some tension out of the situation.
3 – Go with friends. If at all possible, copblock with several or many others. There is strength and safety in numbers. Your group can stay together, or even better, separate out in various directions to capture the truth from many angles. This has the bonus of making it appear that several unrelated individuals have independently arrived to observe the scene, rather than a single and more easily-targeted group. Some members of the group can openly use cameras while others use hidden ones. Those who feel comfortable with approaching the scene can do so, while the others hang back to record.
4 – Control your voice. Your nervous system will in part respond to how you use your voice. If you keep your voice steady, calm, and collected, your nerves will want to follow suit. A polite and steady voice also has the added benefit of de-escalating a situation. You can’t go wrong with saying, “I’m just a concerned person who’s here to make sure that everyone stays safe.” If you’ve chosen not to talk to the police, set the proper tone by saying this phrase to yourself and other bystanders while you film.
These four tactics – that of not approaching the scene, potentially using a concealed camera, going with friends, and controlling your voice – have all been used successfully by copblockers who prefer to avoid confrontation. Whatever your comfort level with copblocking, the only important thing is that you do it. Do for others as you hope they’d do for you.
B-ROLL USED IN VIDEO: