Cop Watch

Monday, March 07, 2005

‘Copwatch’ Activists Arrested

New York City , Mar 3 - It was the kind of scene that would draw a crowd -- not because it was unusual, but because it was so common. In early February, police were wrapping up a routine arrest in the largely black Bedford-Stuyvesant area of New York City, which has been the focus of recent crime sweeps. Three members of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement’s (MXGM) Cop Watch project happened upon the scene as they made their weekly rounds in the neighborhood, video camera in tow, patrolling the streets for suspicious activity.

When the three began filming the police, and continued to do so after being told to move, they knew their presence was unwelcome. But what happened next was unanticipated: officers arrested two members, Djibril Toure and Lumumba Akinwole-Bandele. A struggle ensued, according to the group’s account, and an officer threw group member Dasaw Floyd, and the camera he was holding, to the ground. The camera swiftly disappeared into police custody.

Perhaps more than ever, police are a fixture of urban community life. A 1999 survey by the Department of Justice found that about one in five Americans had an encounter with police that year, and post-9/11 national security tensions have likely promoted greater police presence in communities.