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24 Mar
2014
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Encouraging Bystander Empathy

One corollary of our efforts to drive a change in culture through direct action tactics is an increase in bystander empathy, and ultimately, action. Bystander empathy with regards to police abuse has posed a challenge because of the inherent fear that people rightfully feel when confronted by a police officer. The Peaceful Streets Project was launched because Antonio Buehler was assaulted and framed because he tried to get two police officers to stop assaulting a woman who had not committed any crime, and who had not posed any public safety threat. If Antonio did not stand up for the woman who was being abused, he never would have been arrested. Such tactics by police can have a chilling effect on the willingness of people to stand up for others. However, Antonio’s case was unique in that another random bystander took video of Antonio being assaulted by the police, and that helped give him the evidence that would allow him to fight and beat a felony charge.

The Peaceful Streets Project wants to empower tens of thousands of volunteers to stand up for one another as opposed to remaining silent when they see police abuse. In order to do that we need to do more than help people find the courage to speak up when they see abuse; we need to encourage bystander empathy. One of the shortcomings of our society is that we more often than not collectively empathize and side with police officers as opposed to the people they interact with, as we buy into the notion that police officers are automatic heroes who risk their lives to protect us from criminals, while those they arrest or harm are assumed to be those dangerous criminals. In addition, in our society certain demographics of people are more easily dismissed or forgotten when they become the victims of police abuse and violence than others.

By sharing stories of abuse through the Police Abuse Complaint Departments, building communities of diverse people, and bringing people together to engage in direct action, the Peaceful Streets Project plans to shift that collective empathy from police officers to the victims of police abuse, or at least to a neutral position. This will help people overcome their apathy so that they will stand up for those they may not normally identify with, which will in turn help other people to do the same. Additionally, we hope that this mentality bleeds into courtrooms so that suspects may one day be able to realize the stated ideal that we are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, as opposed to a jury assuming one is guilty and automatically believing the testimony of police officers who may be the real criminals.

21 Mar
2014
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Does the Peaceful Streets Project Work With or Against Law Enforcement?

The Peaceful Streets Project works with and supports many victims of police abuse and violence, and many of the communities we are trying to empower are comprised of high numbers of victims of police abuse and violence. As such, the Peaceful Streets Project seeks to ensure a safe and secure environment for these victims by refusing to allow law enforcement agencies, officials or their representatives from participating in Peaceful Streets Project actions or events. Further, the Peaceful Streets Project will ensure the trust of the victims of police abuse by not working with or supporting any coalitions involving law enforcement agencies, officials or their representatives acting in their official capacity. While we acknowledge there may be some potential benefits to working with law enforcement on select initiatives, we are not willing to risk the safety or psychological security of those we are trying to serve.

Further, we made the strategic decision to focus on direct action tactics as opposed to political action for two primary reasons. First, we felt that we could best influence culture by working directly within communities, as opposed to trying to fix or reform the system (which could include working with law enforcement). Second, we felt that there were plenty of organizations that were already working with law enforcement to try to reduce the incidence of police abuse and criminality, and that replicating their efforts would be a poor use of resources.

The Peaceful Streets Projects attempts to avoid taking a position that is either for law enforcement or against law enforcement. We actively oppose police officers who abuse their authority and commit crimes against the public, and given the rate of such crimes we can easily spend all of our time working against those elements of law enforcement. At the same time, we will eagerly provide moral support for and rally behind those police officers who have the courage to stand up to the thin blue line (the fraternity of police officers) and hold police officers who commit crimes accountable for their actions.

3 Mar
2014
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Updated Cop Watch Code of Conduct

We have updated our cop watch guidelines to better reflect our nation-wide focus to combat police abuse and our desire to improve the level of our rhetoric when interacting with police officers. Please click on this Cop Watch Code of Conduct for a pdf that you can print out and share with volunteers at each cop watch event.

23 Feb
2014
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Echoing Green Fellowship Semifinalist

The Peaceful Streets Project has been named a semifinalist for the 2014 Echoing Green Foundation Fellowship. This year, the Echoing Green Foundation received 2,726 applications for the 2014 Echoing Green Fellowships. Of these initial submissions, only the top 15% have been named Semifinalists. The 444 Semi-Finalists for Echoing Green Fellowships span the globe, with breakthrough ideas and the entrepreneurial drive to disrupt the status quo.

Since their founding in 1987, Echoing Green has provided nearly 600 promising social entrepreneurs working in over forty countries with $33 million in start-up funding, customized support services, and access to our global network of champions. These social innovators have gone on to launch, and now lead, some of today’s most important social enterprises throughout the world.

The Peaceful Streets Project looks forward to being able to share our vision of a society free of state-sponsored institutionalized violence with this influential group of social entrepreneurs and donors.

13 Jan
2014
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Fundraiser Launched for Antonio Buehler’s Civil Suit Against Austin Police Department. #StandWithAntonio

In January of 2012, Antonio Buehler took a stand against the Austin Police Department while they brutally arrested a young woman. After he took a stand, he endured harassment by the police. He has been arrested numerous times trying to hold the police accountable, and currently has one conviction on appeal and five other charges outstanding. In an attempt to force the Austin Police Department to change their bully tactics he has filed a civil suit against APD, to include Police Chief Art Acevedo, Officers Patrick Oborski, Robert Snider, Justin Berry and SGT Adam Johnson. Please support him in his search for justice. Let’s put an end to police abuse. Please consider donating today: https://t.co/P8AyBBTB5q

All donations go directly to Silverman Law Group, the law firm that is representing Antonio. Donated fees will go toward court fees, depositions and expert testimony.

Please use the following hash tag when posting on facebook or twitter: #StandWithAntonio

18 Nov
2013
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Peaceful Streets Project & Culture Change in Austin by Richard Boland

In the early days of the Peaceful Streets Project, the easiest way to film Austin Police misconduct was to go to 6th Street (Austin’s Entertainment District) on the weekends, where we filmed multiple instances of officers being arrogant and brutal. In particular, during the weekend of the Formula One races a year ago, I, along with Lynn Foster and Harold Grey, filmed Austin Police officers tackling a tourist, and after he was held down on the ground, punching him in the rib cage in an apparent attempt to break his ribs. His crime: Not responding to their commands quickly enough, even though he apparently didn’t speak English.

This past weekend, we again filmed police on 6th street while the Formula One race fans were in town, but we started to notice a change: APD officers are becoming more professional and polite to the crowds. Even when arrests are made, they are usually with a minimum of force. This weekend, and actually over the last few months, I have not seen guns drawn, or pepper spray or Tazers used at all. This isn’t to say that they are perfect; I filmed one instance on Saturday, where our old “friend,” Cpl. Quint Sebek knocked a homeless person flat on the ground, but we also filmed even the Police Equestrian Team showing some discretion and restraint dealing with a passed-out drunk, something they would not have done in the past, even with cameras pointed at them. Friday night’s filming was particularly boring (which is actually a good thing). We noticed APD Assistant Chief Stephen Deaton supervising the officers, who were particularly on their best behavior with him there. We note with great pleasure that trigger-happy officers Nathan Wagner and Thomas Griffin have apparently been re-assigned away from the crowds on 6th street.

The Peaceful Streets Project was founded with the goal of changing the culture, both of the Police, and the Citizens. While I still think that we have a long way to go, it is gratifying to see some visible progress. The Austin Police ARE changing, and as they become more polite and professional, the crowds on 6th street are actually better-behaved, not worse. We believe that we are starting to hold accountable those in the APD who do not follow their own rules, as well as giving a voice and an opportunity for those who always wanted to do their job properly. In addition, the average citizen is realizing not only the legality, but the necessity of filming the police and creating a record of their actions. Aside from the Peaceful Streets film team, the were also people from the Black Star Initiative, and Austin Streets, two other Police Accountability organizations, filming on 6th street this weekend, as well as ordinary citizens filming with their cell phones every time an incident with the police happened.

I would like to thank everybody who has ever been out on a copwatch with us, and all of our members, past and present. The work we have done, the hardships we have endured, the risks that we have taken, and for several of our members, the nights spent in jail, are all starting to pay off. I particularly wish to thank Antonio Buehler, and everyone involved in actually starting the Peaceful Streets Project, when I was too skeptical that we could make even the change that I see today.

Our work is not yet finished, but it is gratifying to see as much progress as I do. Thanks again, everyone!

15 Nov
2013
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Let’s Make December a Month of Direct Action

The Peaceful Streets Project has had some fabulous successes since launching in mid-2012. We’ve hosted scores of cop watch events, Police Abuse Complaint Departments and Know Your Rights Trainings. We’ve held two national Police Accountability Summits that have drawn in activists from around the country. We’ve launched chapters in 15 cities and towns across the country. And we’ve supported and worked with allies such as Cop Block and We CopWatch in an ongoing effort by many to rein in the out of control cops that destroy the lives of so many peaceful people every single day in every corner of the United States (and abroad).

The success of the Peaceful Streets Projects, that we have seen manifest itself through a marked change in behavior of the police in Austin (TX) and other PSP cities, as well as a change in the rhetoric of people who comment on issues related to police abuse and accountability, continues to stem from the direct action tactics of our members. From protesting in Houston, to warning motorists of checkpoints in Manchester (NH), to writing cops tickets in New York City, to cop watching in Defiance (OH) and Sandusky (OH), the efforts of those who are willing to sacrifice their time to protect and serve the community without resorting to violence has had a profound impact on the people in the communities we serve as well as the broader public who is waking up to the pandemic of police crimes.

As the Peaceful Streets Project prepares to evolve over the next year (stay tuned for updates) in an effort to maximize our skills and resources, we must continue to stay engaged in the direct action that makes a difference for those who encounter aggressive police every day. Let’s make December a month of direct action! Please organize your local chapters to get involved in the local community by cop watching, holding a Know Your Rights Training, providing a platform for people to tell their stories of abuse or protesting out of control cops. And please feel free to share your planned events with us so we can advertise them on our facebook and twitter pages!

Keep up the great work! Those of you who are willing to donate your time to help protect those in your communities from aggressive, violent and criminal cops are truly protecting and serving!

31 Oct
2013
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Good Cop for October 2013: Derek Huff

Why he deserves it: For the month of October, the Peaceful Streets Project has selected former police officer Derek Huff as the good cop of the month. Huff and his partner witnessed three cops viciously beat a handcuffed man who was down on the ground.

The beating was so brutal that Huff said it looked like the victim had gotten into a head on collision and smashed his face into the steering wheel. Huff said that while watching the beating he was reminded of the Rodney King incident. Huff and his partner Mike Furman agonized over what to do about the violent crime they had witnessed, and the next day they decided to come forward to expose the criminal cops.

However, like most instances where a “good” cop comes forward to expose criminal activity, the criminal activity by corrupt cops is covered up by corrupt cops in the department, and the good cops are run out of the department. That is exactly what happened in this incident, and three years later Huff resigned.

Constable Jack Redlick, the lead cop in the violent beating has a long history of abuse. In 2011, he shot and killed a 17-year-old aboriginal boy. Police claimed Cyrus Green, had fled the scene of a robbery and was threatening them with a knife and a baseball bat. Then, last year, Redlick picked up a man in his 50s who had been reported by his mother to the police. Redlick ended up walking the man to an area where they couldn’t be seen, and then put him face down in the snow and punched him repeatedly — while holding his head. In both cases the police also engaged in a cover up.

If only someone like Derek Huff would have come forward sooner, perhaps Redlick wouldn’t have had the chance to victimize (and kill) others. We honor cops who are willing to expose the crimes of their brothers and sisters in blue. We encourage them to do so, and we will stand with them when they do.

We still haven’t been able to find a Hero Cop of the Month because we haven’t found a cop willing to stand up to the thin blue line and arrest criminal cops within their ranks. However, we celebrate good and brave actions by cops and that is why we name Derek Huff our Good Cop of the Month for October.

30 Sep
2013
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Good Cop for September 2013: Corporal Timothy Brasuell

Why he deserves it: For the month of September, the Peaceful Streets Project has selected Bethel Heights (Arkansas) police officer Corporal Timothy Brasuell as the good cop of the month. Corporal Brasuell was being pressured by his police chief, Don Mckinnon, to generate arrests and tickets regardless of whether or not the victims had committed any traffic violations. In other words, he was pushing crooked cop behavior by his subordinates in order to generate revenue for the department. Disgusted, Brasuell decided to record his chief’s instructions.

His chief implicated himself a number of times, to include giving Brasuell his piece of advice:

“I wanna stop that car load of dumb sh*** in the car, I wanna stop it, but they are not going to do anything wrong.
Hell, I’ll get behind or the other lane and I’d start crowding them.
Kinda dirty pool but i got two or three arrests out of it.”

Sadly, despite the courage of this cop that was wiling to cross the thin blue line to expose a criminal police chief, the county prosecutor decided to do nothing – showing us once again that it is going to take much more than one cop standing up to see justice served. However, we cannot blame Corporal Timothy Brasuell for the cowardice of his department or the prosecutor. If they had even a small fraction of the courage of Corporal Brasuell, then Don Mckinnon would have been charged for conspiracy. At least the city council chose to fire the corrupt police chief.

We still haven’t been able to find a Hero Cop of the Month because we haven’t found a cop willing to stand up to the thin blue line and arrest criminal cops within their ranks. However, we celebrate good and brave actions by cops and that is why we name Corporal Timothy Brasuell our Good Cop of the Month for September.

 

17 Sep
2013
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Recap of Peaceful Streets Project-Austin Community Meeting

I. Theme: non-political direct action we can all take to combat police abuse and create more peace in the streets.

What is Peaceful Streets Project? The Peaceful Streets Project is an all-volunteer, grassroots effort uniting people to end the institutional violence taking place on our streets. Through community organizing and direct action tactics, the Peaceful Streets Project seeks to support communities in understanding, exercising, and standing up for our rights.

Vision: A society free of state-sponsored institutionalized violence.

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.

II. We’re committed to creating safe spaces for activist and community
No talk of using violence for political change
No insults. Ad hominem
No sexism. No racism. No hate.

PSP has suffered from this type of negativity in the past and we are currently working on institutions and safeguards, including a dispute resolution policy as well as a code of conduct for our communication channels and meetings, to prevent this type of behavior in the future.

III. Why PSP is holding community meetings?

John Bush was inspired to organized a series of community meetings in order to provide a juxtaposition to the meetings being put on by community leaders close to the establishment that offer false solutions that rely on the very institutions responsible for the abuse and murder.

See this Liberty Beat story about the East Side Coalition Community Meeting – http://thelibertybeat.com/community-meeting-on-apd-use-of-lethal-force-offers-no-real-solutions/

IV. The State solutions offered by those close with establishment

  • Don’t run from the cops
  • Use the police monitors office
  • Have faith in the internal affairs process
  • Vote
  • Lobby local, state, and federal officials
  • Have faith in the District Attorney’s Office
  • Lobby the City Council

All of these solutions have one thing in common, they all rely on the state to hold itself accountable!

V. Peaceful Streets Project recommended solutions

To fulfill our mission, the Peaceful Streets Project is undertaking the following actions:

  • Know Your Rights Trainings
  • Police Abuse Complaint Department
  • Cop Watch
  • Annual Police Accountability Summit

Other solutions discussed

  • Legal action; sue the city, APD, Chief in personal capacity
  • Oathkeepers style outreach to APD
  • Know Your Rights and Police Abuse Complain Department outreach to homeless communityTarget the chief as he is responsible for discipline in APD to have him fired
  • Spread Know Your Rights DVDs throughout the community
  • Peaceful Streets Dove Springs initiative
  • Find attorneys to help activists and people standing up for their rights

VII. Takeaways

If people want to volunteer for any PSP actions, like organizing know your rights trainings, copwatch, police abuse complaint dept, or general outreach, email us at peacefulstreets@gmail.com

Link up with us to get involved in doing outreach to APD

Help us find attorneys that will help with the cause and provide pro-bono or inexpensive support!

Abel Gomez is organizing Peaceful Streets Dove Springs and will be doing community outreach and organizing in order to create safer streets free of institutional violence. Marita Heyden also lives in Dove Springs and will be assisting along with many others who indicated they wanted to help at the meeting.

CopWatch Scheduled for Sat October 5th to be led by Stephen Sheftall
Know Your Rights Training at Brave New Books October 9th 6:30 – 8:30
Police Abuse Complaint Department being organized by Richard Boland to possibly be set outside of Del Valle Jail.

Help John Bush organize a PSP Community Meeting in the next month on the East Side of Austin.