Join the Austin PSP team! Volunteers are needed for community outreach, Police Complaint Departments, copwatch, and much much more…or, just stop by and get to know the team!
NOTE: General meetings now take place on the second Thursday of each month.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Brave New Books, 1904 Guadalupe (downstairs)
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Participants are reminded of the PSP mission: “Through community organizing, engaging in non-political and non-violent direct action tactics, and utilizing new technologies, the Peaceful Streets Project seeks to bring about a cultural shift where individuals understand their rights and hold law enforcement officials accountable, and communities protect and serve each other.”
Anyone advocating violence or threats of violence in any form will be asked to leave.
This is event is open to all PSP supporters, but closed to media. Thank you!
Thank you Austin! A huge shoutout to PSP founder Antonio Buehler, who was voted Best Activist of 2012!
Following the third arrest this year of Peaceful Streets Project founder Antonio Buehler for legally filming police activity Friday, Sept. 21st, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has issued a statement calling the Austin Police Department’s policy on “interference with public duties” unconstitutional. The policy was issued August 28, immediately following Buehler’s second arrest.
On Monday, Sept. 24th, NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher wrote a letter to Austin Chief of Police Art Acevedo on this matter.
“Aside from being overly broad and vague the APD policy leaves far too much to the discretion of its officers, whereby they can construe almost anything as ‘interference,’” said Osterreicher in the statement. “Under these rules officers are free to create a chilling effect upon far more speech (photography/recording is deemed a form of speech for First Amendment protections) than is necessary to achieve a substantial government interest—that being actual interference with a police officer in the execution of his duties—and would thus be held to be unconstitutional.”
Buehler and Peaceful Streets volunteer Sarah Dickerson were arrested early Friday morning while videotaping a DUI stop in progress on West 6th Street and charged with interference with public duties. They were approximately 30 feet away from the officers and suspect when Officer Patrick Oborski, who arrested Buehler last New Year’s in the controversial incident that spearheaded the Peaceful Streets Project, shined a light in Buehler’s face and yelled at him to back up. Both Buehler and Dickerson moved backwards while Buehler repeatedly asked “how far?” receiving no reply. Sgt. Adam Johnson then illogically ordered them to walk to the rear of the parked police cars, meaning they would have to walk toward Oborski and the suspect rather than away from them. Buehler and Dickerson continued moving backwards while Buehler asked for clarification on where they could stand, until they were approximately 90 feet away from the suspect. Johnson told them to join the Peaceful Streets volunteers standing on the other side of Oborski and the suspect or leave, to which Buehler replied they were leaving when Johnson arrested both Buehler and Dickerson.
“We need to ask ourselves if there is a better way to form our communities, to love our neighbors, and to care for the most vulnerable and suffering among us. When we are positive that those in power are accountable to The People, only then can we call them public servants,” said Sarah Dickerson in a statement reflecting upon her arrest. “The right to film the police is the least of what we could and should be asking for. There will never be justice on scene or in the media again if we are not free to document and film those in power and to hold them accountable. What we are doing in the Peaceful Streets Project has intersectional implications, all of which rely on our First Amendment rights to free speech and to freedom of the press. How our court cases play out will affect free speech and free press rights for all.”
Following Buehler’s second arrest, his attorney Joe James Sawyer called that arrest retaliation for his outspoken activism, a “deliberate action and part of a calculated effort to protect the officer who arrested him New Year’s Day”—Officer Oborski, who was also present at the third arrest.
The Austin Police Accountability Coalition has been calling on APD to implement a responsible and constitutional videorecording policy, modeled on Washington D.C.’s concise policy which notes that asking questions about the appropriate place to witness the stop–as Buehler was doing–is not a justification for arrest, in accordance with Supreme Court ruling. The D.C. policy provides that officers “are reminded that there is no justification for ordering a person to stop . . . unless the member reasonably suspects that a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit any crime.”
“APD is on the losing end of the wrong fight,” said Sawyer. “This is the beginning of a real war, and it’s one they are going to lose. The Supreme Court of the United States has spoken to this . . . the people have a right to 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.”
The July 14 Summit brought together over 200 people from all parts of town and across political lines to change the culture of Austin from one of compliance to arming Austinites with the tools and resources to hold police accountable. At the event, Peaceful Streets placed 100 free videocameras in the hands of those without phones with recording capability, committed to monitoring police activity in their neighborhoods as part of the Peaceful Streets Community Response Team. See more, including photos and the full Summit program here.
If your organization would like to host a free Know Your Rights Training Session for your community, please get in touch! Trainings cover your constitutional rights when dealing with police, conflict deescalation skills and tips for activists, as well as using audio/video technology to hold police accountable. Trainings range from 1 to 3 hours and can be tailored to your needs.
To help shape the direction of Austin’s police accountability efforts, get involved: call us at (512) 981-7675 or e-mail email@example.com.