This year marks the 25th year of the riots in Los Angeles, which were a direct result of the Rodney King beating on March 3, 1991. That beating just like the police brutality against Michael Brown, Eric Garner and so many more lives were captured on tape by innocent bystanders.
Do we ever wonder what happens to those capturing the injustice? I know I didn't, but thanks to the new documentary Copwatch that portal has now been opened. Directed by Camilla Hall, this documentary profiles several WeCopwatch members - revealing how their mission to film police brutality has impacted their lives. This isn't about what happened in front of the cameras, but about those who stood behind them. The members featured captured the fatal arrests of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray.
Jacob Crawford is a guerrilla filmmaker based in Oakland, California who in 2002 decided to take his camera to the streets to document what was going on with the police in East Oakland. As a matter of fact, Jacob was actually cited for riding his bike on the sidewalk to prevent him from "copwatching." Another example of how police departments nationwide will go to any lengths to hide their "dirty deeds." When Oscar Grant was killed on the BART subway platform , it was pro-active "copwatchers", but not active with Jacob's group that captured that horrific event. Until that moment, Jacob had never seen a cop kill anyone on tape.
When word got out in the media about Michael Brown, Jacob flew to Ferguson, Missouri to document the mayhem. Shortly after his arrival, he meets up with David and documents his ideas on what has occurred in the process of Missouri citizens organizing a peaceful protest to honor Brown's untimely demise.
Communities may not have any power to stop the brutality against the unarmed, but they can continue to document in an effort to make the police departments accountable for their actions. After all, it IS our constitutional right to film any injustice and/or ask for a officer's name and badge number. Did you know that? I didn't until now.
Eric Garner had just broken up a fight, when the police attempted to arrest him and this time Ramsey Orta caught the action. As a result, protest broke out worldwide. Citizens were getting fed up. Shortly afterwards, was arrested on drug related charges when the Police purposely edited video that supposedly was be used n order to indict him on those trumped up charges.
Finally, the focus turns to Freddie Gay in Baltimore, Maryland. This time the officers involved were all charged with secondary involuntary manslaughter. The hard part would be assuring that these officers are convicted and not just getting a legal slap on the wrist. Were these officers indicted, released or their charges dropped? Justice is always worth the price paid in its pursuit.
Copwatch, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, is a cautionary tale in how to properly document injustice and how to react when you are the one the injustice is happening to. This goes for women traveling alone, young teens (male of female) and anyone that feels they may be confused with someone who is considered "dangerous" or "threatening" based on appearances alone. See it. Film it. Change it.
For more information on Copwatch feel free to stay connected with the progress of this film via social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Copwatchfilm.