by Brendan Maslauskas Dunn / Love and Rage
On Monday, June 25 I looked out the window of my Waterford, NY apartment and saw the flashing lights of a police car. I opened the curtains and saw that a swarm of New York State Police cars had pulled over a Black driver in my predominantly white working class town. It is a scene that is all too common in this country.
I went outside with my iPhone to start filming to ensure the safety of the man they were arresting. I have filmed the police before on many occasions in different towns and cities to document what transpires, to ensure that people’s rights are not violated, or, to capture any police brutality. I know far too many people who have been brutalized by the police, wrongfully arrested or who even lost loved ones at the hands of the police.
When I have filmed in the past, sometimes the police ignore me, on some occasions they leave the scene once they notice the camera. This night turned out differently.
You can see in the video that the officers immediately started harassing me when they noticed I was there. I introduced myself as a member of the National Lawyers Guild and informed them I was documenting for the NLG and ACLU.
Initially they threatened to subpoena my phone and demanded I get really close to film what they were doing. Within the span of a few minutes, one cop in particular, who knew I was filming and even said so himself, suddenly suggested I was holding a “cellphone gun” and pointing it at him. As he raised his voice and became more belligerent, saying he felt that he was in danger, I put my hands up and complied with his orders. He was lying, combative, and trying to intimidate me. I knew that if he wanted to he could escalate things pretty quickly.
I continued to hold my hands up and started walking away from the police. My gut told me to run away from danger but I knew that the police could use that as justification to attack me. It was a terrifying experience and my girlfriend and I hid out of sight, in our apartment, waiting for these armed, dangerous men to leave our neighborhood.
They left along with the man they pulled over, adding one more number to the world’s largest prison population. His car was towed and impounded. One thought crossed my mind at the end of the night: if the police were so terrified of someone practicing their Constitutionally protected right by filming the police in public, to the point of threatening him, what were they trying to hide? What were they actually doing?
The video speaks for itself. Watch it, share it. But most importantly, know your rights, especially when it comes to interactions with the police and filming the police. Get out in the streets and start policing the police, one video at a time.