Know Your Rights

Photo courtesy of shareable.net

Photo courtesy of shareable.net

It is an unfortunate truth that there are still prevalent cases of police brutality, unlawful arrests, and your run-of-the-mill instances of abusing authority. In reality, most of us do not really know or understand our rights when stopped by the Police – but thankfully, community based organization Copwatch has created comprehensive guides outlining the laws in place to protect you if you’re ever in a sticky situation with the Cops (or you happen to witness an unlawful interaction!).

Some of the important points to know if you get stopped or arrested:

  • STAY CALM! Respectfully stand your ground if your rights are being violated, and be mindful of an officer’s attempts to escalate the situation as a means to arrest you. Never respond physically! It’s important to stress that you don’t handle all the problems in the moment. That’s what courts are for.
  • Upon contact with an officer, make a point to note their name and badge ID number. Try to retain any and all details of the incident including witnesses, location, date, and time. This also goes for instances when you see someone being stopped.
  • You are allowed to ask why you are being detained or stopped. There must be “reasonable suspicion” you are involved in a crime. If they don’t have reasonable suspicion, they are not legally allowed to keep you, and it should be treated as a “consensual stop.”
  • You are only required to give personal information (name, address) if being detained or arrested.
  • If detained, a cop can do a PAT search, which frisks over your clothing to search for weapons.  This does not mean they can go into your pockets or bags. As a female, you can usually request a female officers to search your person.
  • Without a warrant, a cop cannot search you, your house, or your car. Opening your trunk or door without them asking inadvertently gives them permission to search.
  • When being interviewed, police are allowed to lie and misrepresent as a means of coercion.
  • Exercise your right to remain silent! Do not say anything, regardless of how harmless you think it may be, until you have a lawyer present – this includes speaking to other people in jail.

For more information, and downloadable pamphlets to hand out (because knowledge is power) go to http://destructables.org/node/85. Since laws also vary state by state, it is best to look into your local Copwatch affiliate. Don’t have one? Organize your own!

By Angie Carpio

Glossary: Decriminalization

Sentencing Proj

The general concept behind decriminalization is simply to make a previously illegal act, legal. However, the actual practice of decriminalization is much more complex and involved. The term is often thrown around within the discourse of social control within our criminal justice system. Referencing the debate that outlawing vices is an outdated means of dictating “norms,” decriminalization is often looked at as an action that needs to be taken in order to properly reflect an evolving society.
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Central Park Five

educationstrenghtensouryouth

On the morning of April 19, 1989, five Black and Latino teens were arrested when the body of a White female, later identified as Trisha Melli, was found unconscious, beaten and raped in Central Park. Three youth were initially arrested: Salaam, 15, Santana, 14, and McCray, 15, interrogated and held at the Central Park Precinct for the night, without their parents or attorney. The two others Richardson, 14, and Wise, 16, were also later arrested, interrogated and coerced by the police officers into confessions. All of them were convicted with sentences which ranged from six and a half years for the juveniles for rape and robbery, to eleven and a half years for Wise, eldest at 16, who was convicted as an adult for sexual assault, first-degree assault, first-degree riot and sent to Riker’s Island to fulfill his sentence.
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The Debt Jubilee

jubilee

The Rolling Jubilee initiative was founded by Strike Debt, a debt resistance movement established after the rise of the Occupy Wall Street campaign. Strike Debt stood for the 99% and against the 1%. The Rolling Jubilee is here to help individuals get out of debt. Ironically, Rolling Jubilee incorporates Wall Street strategies into their own work: different types of debt is bought then sold on the secondary market for pennies on the dollar. The difference is, however, this bailout is for the people.
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STOP and FLY

St. Edmonds Tenants of Chicago Protesting for Better Housing Conditions. Image Courtesy of STOP.

St. Edmonds Tenants of Chicago Protesting for Better Housing Conditions. Image Courtesy of STOP.

STOP and FLY are two grassroots organizations bringing together residents from the Southside of Chicago to fight back against injustice. In an area that is known for its lower-income residents and higher crime rates, it is important for the community to empower themselves and demonstrate for their needs.

Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP) brings the community together and has two focuses: mental health and housing. STOP tries to erase the stigma of mental illness and mental health services. While doing so, the organization rallies for the right to healthcare. One example of the Southside residents’ effort was the continuous petitioning for a trauma center in their area so people could receive needed the medical care. Through cooperation with different tenant associations, STOP advocates to improve housing in the neighborhood. The Housing Justice Program also works with subsidized housing councils in order to liaise for their stakeholders’ rights.
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100 Days

Bill De Blasio and His Family. Image Courtesy of Reuters

Bill De Blasio and His Family. Image Courtesy of Reuters

For the first time in 20 years, New York City put a democrat in Gracie Mansion, and not just any democrat, but a democrat with a Black son and a Black daughter. Bill De Blasio, elected last fall, is married to Chirlane McCray, a Black woman who, as was often referenced during the campaign, “used to be a lesbian.” This was the most people heard about her.  As with any American political race, the personal life of De Blasio, which includes his interracial marriage and Black son and daughter, was front and center. De Blasio was even criticized by his predecessor Mike “moneybags” Bloomberg who claimed that he was using his family as a tool for the campaign. However, so what? So what if someone sensitive to issues of gender, class, and race is elected to a position of power? De Blasio’s appointment is not monumental because of his relationship. It is important because of his relation to the people who are so often mis-, under- or not represented in the realm of NYC politics.
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School Cops

Students from Sheepshead Bay High School at “My School has Rhythm Not Violence” rap contest auditions, presented by the NYPD School Safety Community Outreach Unit. Image Courtesy of Brooklyn Daily.

Students from Sheepshead Bay High School at “My School has Rhythm Not Violence” rap contest auditions, presented by the NYPD School Safety Community Outreach Unit. Image Courtesy of Brooklyn Daily.

Which came first, school cops or school violence? It can be argued that school cops are a response to student violence. However, it can also be argued that student violence is a result of school cop presence. This debate is a very controversial issue at the moment and is extremely relevant to our schools today.

One of the earliest records of a school shooting took place in the 1760’s in Pennsylvania. A group of four Native Americans shot their teacher and nine other classmates in their small schoolhouse. Only three children survived. Fast forward to the later-half of the 19th century. From 1900-1980, there were around 130 school shootings. However, during the 1980’s, Zero Tolerance policies were applied to student’s behavior after heightened concern over youth violence. The “school safety” division of many large cities’ police departments began to grow, creating a criminalization of student conduct. Since 1980-2014, there have been around 230 school shootings. This number has almost doubled from 130 shootings, but in less than half the time.
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Cheerios & Change

When I first saw the Cheerios commercial a few weeks ago, I immediately jumped off my couch and almost grabbed a napkin as my eyes started to tear, but why? Maybe it was because this was one of the first times America has seen an interracial family in a commercial during a nationally televised event. Most of you have seen the commercial and if you haven’t, check it out above. The reactions to the commercials have been from one extreme to the other – from enthusiastic and elated to downright racist.
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Hashtag Activism

jiatweetFor two weeks in August 2014, it seemed the entire country’s attention was turned toward an unknown suburb outside of St. Louis, Missouri: Ferguson. Even with serious competition for media headlines – from conflict in Israel, to the spread of Ebola, and the violence of ISIS – for a period of time, Ferguson was on the front page of what seemed like every news site, blog, and piece of print media in the US.
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