Prompted by recent political protests and community involvement leading to police interaction, the Student Justice Resource Center (SJRC) and Office of Residential Life (ORL) recently held a workshop titled “Activism and Interactions with Law Enforcement: Know Your Rights.”
Due to the state of political upheaval regarding Ferguson and other issues of police brutality, SJRC and ORL wanted to educate their audience about legal rights and support avenues for anyone who might encounter law enforcement officers during protests. They emphasized during the event on Thurs., Feb. 26, that while dealing with police, it is vital to know one’s rights.
“Every time a cop is near, I have instant fear,” one member of the audience said. “It’s an immediate visceral response that makes me wonder, where does that come from?”
To begin to address dealing with law enforcement, Kat Kabick, who goes by they/them pronouns and a sophomore and Orchard Meadow resident assistant (RA), started their presentation, followed by live scenarios lead by the hosts — including Junior Margarita Sanchez, a Social Justice Peer Educator, and Seniors Akasha Fryman, Orchard Meadow RA, and Delma Villaseñor, Mary Morse RA — practicing how to deal with FBI and police in different situations.
The first slide, “Why Protest,” aimed to show why protesting is a legitimate political avenue for people to gather and communicate their messages.
According to the presentation, there are various precautions one can take in case police officers do not follow the law. In order to be prepared for any situation involving police activity, the hosts suggest knowing at least three contact numbers in case of arrest: a lawyer and two people who can pick you up from a police station, if necessary.
The hosts encouraged memorizing the number of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). This organization is dedicated to providing legal help for protesters who have been arrested. Members of the NLG are usually available during major protests. Other resources are available for aid, such as Copwatch and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Kabick also told the audience that one should always have a valid ID on them at all times, and medication if necessary. The information on an ID are the only things one is required to tell the police before a lawyer has been contacted.
The slide, “Observing the Police,” stated the legality of documenting police activity in order to better hold law enforcement officers responsible for their actions. In accordance with the first amendment, it is legal to record video in public spaces, but not audio. Kabick suggested taking video of police, noting their name and badge number, while being aware of one’s safety. Villaseñor reminded the audience to stop filming if they feel threatened by a police officer and to instead simply observe their behavior.
“It’s good to be repetitive and state your right to film,” Villaseñor said. “But if you feel in danger, put it away.”
Kabick next addressed the possibility of detainment in jail. The slides reminded the audience that being arrested does not automatically constitute jail time. However, if taken to jail, you are provided three calls.
The presentation informed the audience that everything said, from transport in a police vehicle to the holding cell, is recorded and may be used against you. If incriminating information is verbalized at any point, including in conversation with a holding mate, that information is valid in the court of law.
Also discussed that night was “white privilege,” which Kabick briefly addressed how being an ally at protests relates to one’s privilege.
“I just want to mention to also be aware of your identity and not to speak over people of color,” Kabick said.
After the presentation, the audience split into four groups to interact with the hosts, who role-played in scenarios involving a FBI agent, a police officer and bystander interference, in jail and in a police car.
While pretending to be a police officer, prying information from students detained in the back of an imaginary cop car, Fryman broke character to give a blunt piece of advice.
“It doesn’t matter about being nice,” Fryman said. “At the end of the day, they’re arresting you, and there are hard feelings.”