Sometimes Cop Blocking is a planned activity. Sometimes it just happens, as it did with new mover Amanda Billyrock and her friends in Manchester:
Less than 24 hours ago, I had never cop-blocked before.
For the unaware, allow me to describe: the term “cop-block”, coined by CopBlock.org, is the de-escalation of a potentially dangerous situation with police employees, by ensuring that all parties are held accountable for their actions. The main task is filming police interactions, but there’s more: getting names and badge numbers of the employees, repeatedly asking “Am I being detained?” to establish the requirement that there be suspicion of your having committed a crime for a stop to even be taking place, and refraining from saying anything more than “Am I free to go?”, as police are trained (and legally protected) to lie to you in an effort to prompt you to say something that they could use to prosecute you.
As I know I have readers of all ages, allow me to make a special statement to those old enough to remember a time when one didn’t generally need to fear the local police: things are different now. A brilliant strategy, put in motion by the Reagan administration, to gradually turn police into a domestic army has been at work for decades. This conversion is currently churning out such horrors as military tanks rolling down residential streets with guns pointed at Boston residents, to SWAT teams (wearing more armor than foot soldiers in Afghanistan) breaking and entering into the homes of peaceful people all over the country. In short, we now have what is called a police-state, and it grows everyday thanks to perverse incentives by the federal government, namely the Department of Homeland Security (Orwell couldn’t have thought of a better name).
People such as myself, who had their rights violated by police employees prior to learning the tactics of cop-blocking, can fall into avoiding nearness to police at all costs from then onward. I myself was firmly committed to this course of action for life, until last night.
I was walking home from the weekly Bitcoin meetup in Manchester with three friends from my building. As we approached an intersection, we noticed two police cars with their lights flashing, pulled over behind another car on the side of the road. I would have continued on my way home, but my friend (and landlord) stopped in his tracks, turned to the rest of us, and evenly asked, “You wanna go cop-blocking?”
I was immediately torn. Part of me said, “Yes, Amanda, this is what being in the Free State is about. Go,” while another part of me said, “Are you kidding? Do you remember what happened last time you were around those flashing lights?”
The former voice quickly won out – I moved here to help build a community of peace with my brothers and sisters, and there’s no time like the present, is there?
My heart began to pound as we walked toward the scene. My shaking hands fumbled through my purse for my phone. With relief I saw that my phone’s battery was still fully charged, and I opened the camera application. Video mode: on. Film: on.
As we approached, my phone now pointed and filming, I whispered to my roommate, “I’m not going to say anything. Please do all the talking.” He assured me that he would.
We stopped at about 8 yards from where two police employees, one on each side of the stopped car, were shining a bright flashlight directly into the face of the driver. Immediately they turned to us, and one said, “Everything alright here, folks?” (Which is cop-talk for, “There’s no reason for you to be here. Leave immediately.”)
My roommate politely replied, “We are concerned citizens, here to make sure everyone stays safe. We are also audio and video recording.”
Immediately, the atmosphere of the situation changed. The cops stopped shining the flashlight in the driver’s eyes. They stepped back from hovering around the vehicle. They began to use a more polite tone when addressing the woman in the passenger seat.
I am happy to inform you that nothing exciting happened. We maintained our position, continuing to silently film for the next 20 minutes, until the car pulled away and the police employees retreated toward their ever-flashing vehicles. As we walked past them on our way home, my roommate returned their own original question to them: “Is everything alright?”
“Yes,” they politely replied.
“Good,” my roommate said.
And so it was that for the first time in my life, I took an action to preserve the dignity of my neighborhood. I made the statement that violence toward peaceful people will not be tolerated where I live. I took responsibility for combatting the rising police state, right where I can have the most effect—in my own backyard.