Tag Archives: Richmond Police Department

Why I want to protect First Fridays!

10 Aug

I have never been a regular attendee of Richmond’s First Fridays Art Walk. In fact, over the years I have been a major critic of the event and the concept of the event.

Richmond is by no means unique in having such an art walk. The tactic of using an art walk to push for the redevelopment or gentrification of an area (depending on your perspective) is not at a new concept. Richmond has had First Fridays for over a decade now. And while over that decade there have been major changes to the Jackson Ward/ Broad Street area, they have no occurred quite as  quickly as they might have were we not in an economic depression. I’m no expert, but the aspects of City Planning that I have studied and read about have lead me to take a position against Art Walks, Canal Walks, Convention Centers and other cookie cutter redevelopment schemes that fail to address the actual needs or wants of people living in a city.

Jackson Ward is a historically black working class neighborhood. The demographics of that neighborhood have been changing, particularly via VCU students moving in. First Fridays basically occurring in Jackson Ward was something I viewed as problematic- another major gentrifying move that had the potential to hurt that community and displace lower income people.

When I have gone to First Fridays in the past it was mostly to support friends who had art on display or who were performing. I even helped to organize some First Fridays events- like the Richmond Zine Fest at Gallery 5 in 2009. And what I saw was mostly white people.  And I saw a lot of white people who were more affluent. Which is definitely the type of crowd this sort of event is desinged to draw in.

I would acknowledge at this point that there have been organizers of First Fridays, Gallery owners and artists, who have all along worked to make this event inclusive and welcoming to pre-existing residents of Jackson Ward and the surrounding areas. I have just always been highly skeptical of their chances of success despite their good intentions.

So I mostly stopped going to First Fridays. I was not interested in participating in  a redevelopment strategy that seemingly reached out only to suburbanites and fearful west enders, adventuring into the heart of a city they really don’t understand. But then this year, we started to hear the rumblings of something else. I am a member of the non-hierarchical organization Richmond Copwatch. We listen to a digital scanner to hear what the Richmond Police are up to. This enables us to go out and observe and record the police, thereby helping to keep them accountable for their behavior. So through this and conversations with people we know who do attend First Fridays we began to hear that this year, the police were there in force, disrupting the crowd.

We heard that the police had maced the crowd a couple times, ridden their horses into the middle of crowds, and were trying to organize with Curated Culture (the non-profit that officially organizes First Fridays) to change the times of the event and potentially get rid of it altogether. We heard from many non-anarchists, respected community members about town, that the police were being very aggressive and that a lot of this aggressiveness seemed directed towards people of color. The media and others mostly spoke of the “youth”, but in this case the youth they meant was mostly youth of color.

Richmond Copwatch decided as a collective to go to the August First Fridays to observe and record the Richmond Police Department. I was still conflicted about how I felt about organizing to try and save something I have been avidly against in the past. For me, my motivations for going were mostly hearing from “youth” from my neighborhood (Southern Barton Heights on Northsiiiide) about the police presence. Regardless of the art, regardless of the suburbanites, I was interested in using Copwatch as a method to try and keep my friends and neighbors, as well as folks from neighboring communities like Gilpin Court a little bit safer from RPD.

We met at the Rite Aid parking lot for August First Fridays. Which was a bad idea, because of the whole private corporate property thing. But we met there, and then hung out in the parking lot waiting for one Copwatch member to go purchase some energy drinks from inside.  They came out and distributed the drinks to the caffeine fiends among us. We were just about to head out in smaller groups to patrol First Fridays for police, when lo and behold one came to us.  This RPO – Toney Waldorf- came speeding into the Rite Aid parking lot, parking at an angle, and got out of his car, basically yelling at me and my friend. He said something along the lines of “Hey you”. I asked if we were being detained (because if you are not being detained you do not have to talk to the police and can go on your merry way). He didn’t respond except to say he was not talking to me. He then crossed in front of me and unholstered his Tazer and held it about 2 feet from my friend’s face. Waldorf is a tall cop, and he positioned himself on a median above my friend, which made it so he would have been shooting my friend in the face had he fired his Tazer. That is the closest up I have ever seen a Tazer, and the fastest I have seen a Richmond  Cop freak out and pull a weapon. Tazers are less lethal weapons, just like if I shoot you in the foot with a .22 it is less lethal. They are still deadly and being shot with a Tazer can very easily end in death. Especially if someone has a heart problem, which my friend does.

Quickly other RPD arrived and kicked the rest of us (who were filming at this point) out of the parking lot. One of them, Stone, committed battery against me by shoving my arm while I was clearly backing out of the lot and not at all resisting. They eventually let my friend go, after we showed a commanding officer the picture of Waldorf with a Tazer in my friend’s face. He had no charges, had done nothing wrong, was simply wearing the same color shorts as a suspect in a call they had received.

So my first experience back with First Fridays is Toney Waldorf, Richmond Cop, freaking out, unholstering a weapon at an inappropriate time and in violation of protocol, and threatening to kill my friend.

As the night carried on, it became quite clear that First Fridays had changed. I liked it better. There were kids from my neighborhood, and overall a lot of people of color seemed to be enjoying a public space. I am a huge proponent of public spaces and our ability to use them. It is the lack of public spaces in lower income neighborhoods that can make community development and organization more difficult. Downtown was packed, loud, and seemed to be full of people enjoying themselves.  These were not the people who might be likely to eat at some of the few new fancy restaurants on Broad Street, but they were people socializing in an area that could certainly benefit from development of community. Continue reading

RPD Backs Down from Legal Harassment, Anarchy Continues

11 Jan

The Richmond Police Department apparently told a reporter last night that they were dismissing their case against us in court. We have not yet received any official word regarding this- no papers or call or anything. (You never call, you never write). But if this is true it just means that the RPD and the City Attorney realized the HUGE publicity blunder they made in attempting to harass us via court complaints and emergencies orders over FOIA documents.

This does not mean they won’t try and file some other legal documents against us. And it doesn’t mean that the harassment is over. It only means that these particular documents that they filed might be retracted. Without an official apology or statement in regards to it being fucked up to harass us for being anarchists, and also illegal for them to ask for FOIA documents back, this does not mean much.

I appreciate the support legally and media wise from the ACLU.

I appreciate the media attention and coverage of anarchists that this whole tactical error on the part of the RPD and the City Attorney has given us. I also appreciate their direct involvement of my political beliefs in this case. They have made it exceedingly clear that we are enemies. The State and the police feel threatened by anarchists because we stand vehemently against their hierarchies and positions of power. I am anti-authoritarian. I am anti-hierarchy. I want the state and police to be destroyed. I don’t want reform, and I don’t think you can legislate or vote in real change. We need a revolution of the people. And it needs to start in all of our daily lives and communities. If we change our day to day, if we build our own alternatives to the state while resisting oppression, we might see a better world in our lifetimes.

The current system of capitalism and hierarchy CLEARLY does not work. Not for the jobless, the homeless, the hungry, the people without access to good education or healthcare. Not for the environment, future generations, animals, or indigenous people. We need to start trying new things. They won’t all work. But we will never progress into something better if we don’t start trying to find better ways of existing together.

 

 

Richmond Police Department Bringing Court Case Against Me?!? Who Me?

4 Jan

It is fairly common knowledge that being an anarchist is fairly criminalized in the United States. So it comes as no surprise when the State tries to use one’s anarchist belief against them.

In this case, the Richmond City Police Department is using court proceedings to try and ‘compel’ me to give back some of the documents that we got using the Freedom of Information Act. I am the person named in the documents, because someone has to make the FOIA request. But the documents being requested was an idea that came from Richmond Copwatch. We wanted to get copies of the police protocols so we could know when the police are breaking their own rules.

We submitted our request, were informed that there were many different sets of protocols, so we asked for a list. Then we chose from the list. We got that information right before Christmas. We then scanned and uploaded all of the information onto the internet- to save others the trouble and expense of a FOIA request.

Today someone came to the Wingnut and hand delivered a package from the Office of the City Attorney of the City of Richmond. I opened up the envelope to find just 2 documents full of lawyer speak. No cover letter, no explanation. Just 2 documents not even addressed to me, but about me. Apparently the CITY OF RICHMOND POLICE CHIEF BRYAN NORWOOD and the CITY OF RICHMOND, VIRGINIA are filing a complaint against me, the defendant Mo Karn (not even my legal name you sillies). They want some of their FOIA Documents back. Because they say they shouldn’t have given them to me, and importantly, I am a known and admitted anarchist.

So the first I hear of this is court documents. No email, no letter, no phone call asking for them back. Just a copy of a complaint they filed.

The second document they sent me today was an “EMERGENCY MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER AND TO COMPEL THE RETURN OF TACTICAL INFORMATION AND TO PREVENT THE DISCLOSURE OF SAID INFORMATION

Apparently they want their information back. I don’t think they understand the internet. You can’t really get that information back. We’ve got it, the internet has it, and hundreds of people have looked at it. The documents they specifically request back are Emergency Operations Plan Part 1 of 2 Emergency Operations Plan Part 2 of 2, Canine Unit Manual, Crowd Management Team, Focus Mission Team Property Crimes Detectives Operating Manual, Homeland Security Criminal Intelligence Unit, Mobile Command Center Operating Manual, Mounted Unit Operating Manual, Traffic Enforcement Unit, Police Cyclist Operating Manual, and Police Segway Operating Manual. These are just some of the almost 50 documents we have made available at http://www.wingnutrva.org under the tab Richmond Police Department Documents.

Who knows if these motions will be approved by a judge. They don’t have a case number on them, and they don’t have a court date or any useful information like that at all.

I don’t believe the information in these documents is classified or should be exempt from FOIA. Its not like it is manuals on how to drive their various vehicles or anything actually explicit. Beyond that I definitely believe this has a lot more to do with politics. Their FIRST point for their motion is that “1. Defendant Mo Karn is a known and admitted anarchist. See generally https://anarchymo.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/foia-rocks.”  Yup. And that has what to do with FOIA? Freedom of Information Act Except for Anarchists would be FOIAEFA. I didn’t request shit through FOIAEFA.

In the spirit of FOIA and making RPD documents available online, here are copies of the documents they sent me in the mail today.

Emergency Motion for Protective Order by Richmond Police Department V. Mo Karn

Complaint by Chief of Police Bryan Norwood And The City of Richmond V. Mo Karn