1 Sep
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Austinites Stand Up for Constitutional Rights, Against APA Lies: Over 50 Participate in Cop Watch

Over 50 volunteers gathered downtown last Thursday night, Aug. 30, at a mass cop watch action organized by the Peaceful Streets Project (PSP) in response to recent Austin Police Department attempts to curb filming police encounters, a constitutionally-protected activity.

After PSP founder Antonio Buehler was targeted and arrested a second time last weekend while peacefully and legally filming police, Austin Police Association’s Wayne Vincent reacted with slanderous, entirely unfounded accusations that PSP “incites violence” and has “threatened” officers.

In fact, during last night’s cop watch, Officer Sebek, badge #3454, ran full force into a Peaceful Streets volunteer in an attempt to knock him to the ground, pushing him into another volunteer, and when asked about the incident claimed it was “probably” an accident, refusing to give his name and badge number. The incident and Sebek’s response were recorded.

While PSP’s sole tactic is peacefully bearing witness via videotaping, some APD officers have, over the past several months, engaged in: intimidation, yelling in close proximity to a PSP member, shining flashlights in several members’ eyes, giving contradictory orders to create confusion, physically pushing members on now three occasions, and using horses against members (a longstanding APD practice dating back to at least April 2001, when a lawsuit was won to cease this activity).

Prior to hitting the streets, volunteers received a training and were familiarized with the PSP Cop Watch Code of Conduct, which prohibits violent activity, rhetoric, and threats, among other actions. Organized in small groups of five to six people, volunteers covered the entire downtown area until the early morning hours. Although the police presence was greater than usual and the district busier than on a typical Thursday night in light of returning students, PSP organizers believe that the combined efforts of filming and observing police encounters minimized police misconduct and prevented unnecessary arrests.

“The only reason that the scene ever becomes unsafe in any way is due to the unprofessional tactics of a limited subset of the Austin Police population,” said PSP volunteer Monica Savant at a press conference held early Thursday. “The Peaceful Streets Project has many examples of uneventful, lawful arrests. We have examples of Austin Police officers generously assisting with good deeds. The situations that APA/APD refer to as evidence that we incite violence are actually scenes where officers are themselves aggressive, rude and unruly.”

Photos courtesy of Michael Long, http://www.austinphotographyworkshops.com/


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