The Baltimore People’s Power Assembly held a People’s Tribunal Against Police Terror on June 6 that brought many members of oppressed communities out to testify about their experiences with the police. One of the resolutions adopted by that tribunal was to launch a campaign to teach people in the oppressed communities of Baltimore about their legal rights with regards to the police, as well as to set up “Cop Watch” teams to film the police on the job.
On July 13, the first training session in the “Know Your Rights” campaign was held. The room was packed as a video was shown giving a basic rundown of how to conduct oneself when confronted by the police and what one’s legal rights are in that situation.
Activists then came up with a plan to bring the program to the communities themselves. Instead of holding meetings that community members have to travel to to attend, the People’s Power Assembly has planned to set up educational programs on street corners inside oppressed communities themselves. In this way, the most exploited people, who may not usually come out to a political meeting, can be reached directly.
The importance and impact of this campaign is twofold. Firstly, the “Know Your Rights” portion of the campaign will give people some improvement in their individual legal circumstances. When a person refuses an unlawful search that would have incriminated them, or knows that they do not have to speak with the police, this can potentially lead to a more favorable conclusion to their legal situation. Beyond the immediate individual legal outcomes, when people collectively begin to know their legal rights within bourgeois law, they will start to discover just how much of what the police do is actually illegal, even in their system. This will show more and more clearly the necessity of changing the entire system.
The “Cop Watch” portion of the campaign, then, is an extension of that raised consciousness. In this modern period, cameras capable of recording video have become ubiquitous. In the hands of politically conscious people, these can be used to expose the brutality that the police commit on oppressed people every day. These videos will further increase the level of resistance to police terror by exposing the police for the lying terrorists that they are and drawing more and more people into the struggle.
These impacts ultimately reduce the morale and political power of the police. If the police know that they are dealing with an educated and organized group of people, and that they are being recorded, it could cause them to think twice about their actions. With each beating and murder committed by the police that is exposed, their support will continue to plummet.
In the end, however, this campaign will only make serious change as part of a broader struggle against police terror. That is why, in Baltimore, the People’s Power Assembly has raised the demand of placing the police under full democratic community control. Only then, in conjunction with the education and politicization of the people, will we be able to defeat police terror.