“Cops Gone Wild”: Community fights back

By Guest Columnist Aug 07, 2008

by Joyce Li Councilman Charles Barron speaks to the crowd Today, community members, social justice organizations, and elected officials gathered at the Manhattan fortress called One Police Plaza in a coalition-based effort against police brutality. The press conference, dubbed "Cops Gone Wild" mounts pressure on the NYPD to speak for all of its wrongs, and the organizers offered a laundry list of abuses, some as recent as a few weeks ago, and others decades-old. Rodstarz and G1, two-thirds of revolutionary hip hop group Rebel Diaz were on hand to remember their June 18th beating and arrest, which was steeped in racism and brown-phobia. Bushwick-based Make the Road NY remembered the charges brought against a large group of youth en route to a friend’s funeral (police response? They looked like a gang). Councilor and former Black Panther Charles Barron called for the immediate resignation of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, though he was "speaking as himself, not the coalition." Organizers from Make the Road NY But the hope was apparent in everyone’s eyes, as expressed by NYCLU chairman Norman Siegel, who advised all to submit multiple copies of police brutality footage, "not only to the NYPD, but to the CCRB [Civilian Complaint Review Board]," and to the Mayor himself. Siegel hinges upon a growing trend of alternate narratives – accounts of police footage that have snuck in through YouTube’s back door to become overnight (anger-provoking) sensations. Such was the case of Rodstarz and G1, whose scuffle was filmed by a friend visiting from Chicago. The ubiquitous presence of cameraphones, inexpensive digicams, and video cameras have begun to call out the NYPD’s culture of lies – including a knack for testifying against defendants whose arrests they played no part in. Rodstarz at the mic And to call out what has always been: Lisa Ortega (of Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities) reminded everyone that her constituency has always been an easy target for the NYPD. Members of the Harlem-based Picture the Homeless rang out with a cry of "No Justice, No Peace!" between speakers, while the police (at the foot of their headquarters) hung back. Surely there’s a long road to go in police accountability, but more and more evidence is emerging to prove that police officer perjury happens, all the time. But New Yorkers are finding new ways to exercise their rights, through documentation and awareness – in the words of one MtR organizer, "we are the sleeping giant. And it’s time to wake up."