ChrisWeigant.com

If You See Something, Video It

[ Posted Wednesday, April 21st, 2021 – 16:42 UTC ]

Yesterday, America largely breathed a giant sigh of relief. For once, a jury had found a police officer guilty of murder for what was obviously criminal and deadly force. For once, the "blue wall of silence" had cracked, and police officers (including high-ranking officials) testified for the prosecution instead of closing ranks to protect one of their own at all costs. For once, justice was served.

The reason Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd was that there were multiple videos of him doing so, all of which were publicly available. The evidence was incontrovertible. For nine and a half minutes, Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck, choking his body of the oxygen it needed to live. He ignored the dozens of times Floyd pleaded: "I can breathe!" and just pressed the life out of his body. Which we could all clearly see, from multiple angles.

And so America was spared an outpouring of rage from citizens upset at cops walking free, since for once one of them didn't. This is such an exception to the normal outcome that people will be talking about it for years to come, I would venture to predict. Something has indeed changed, and George Floyd did not die in vain.

I, of course, cannot comment on the rage Black citizens feel at their routine treatment by police across the country. Being White precludes me from even having a valid opinion on it, really. I realize this, which is why I haven't written about the trial before -- I have nothing relevant to add, really. So I let others who do speak instead.

But after the verdicts were read yesterday, I realized one thing that I've been pointing out for a while. We live in a very different world than we did a few decades ago. Everyone has a cell phone now, and they're all fully capable of taking video at the drop of a hat. Or the drop of a knee, for that matter.

I first wrote about this emerging phenomenon ten years ago. I pointed out we now lived in a world that Orwell might have at first recognized, but which had upended his "Big Brother" concept in one very important way:

But there's been a balancing revolution in surveillance as well -- which is more and more apparent in the recent news. I'm going to call this effect "Little Brother" -- citizens watching, filming, and reporting on governmental activities to a rapt worldwide audience.

. . .

Digital cameras became cheaper and cheaper, and more accessible. Cell phones became tiny, and affordable. Then cell phones merged with both the computer and the digital camera (still and movie), until you can now fit more technological power in the palm of your hand than was even available twenty-five years ago. What's more -- pretty much everyone could afford it. Which meant everyone with such a video-ready cell phone in their pocket became their own sort of "check and balance" on governmental powers -- and governmental abuses.

Consider police brutality, as an easy example. First, there were no cameras (or only very rarely). Then, there were police cameras -- dashboard cameras in police cruisers, and mandatory videotaping of police interviews. Now, everyone has a camera, and they're ready to whip it out and point it at, for instance, a subway policeman shooting a suspect who is lying on the floor. The BART cop incident was horrific, of course, but it was also instructive, in a way. Not only was the entire incident caught on camera by innocent bystanders on a subway train, but it was caught from multiple angles. Lots of people had their cameras rolling, in other words.

In a police state, the citizens live in fear of the police monitoring them all the time. But what do you call it when the police themselves know damn well that at any time or any place while they are performing their duties that the citizens could be monitoring them -- with evidence that would stand up in court?

That is the world we now live in. Especially now that juries are taking such evidence a lot more seriously than whatever the police officer claims while on the witness stand. That's a big shift. I wrote this article right when the Arab Spring uprisings had begun to prove the value of Little Brother against even the most repressive regimes elsewhere, so I was making a larger point. But it is just as valid here at home, to keep those in power in check. I ended the column with:

But now even these Big Brother types have seen the power of Little Brother. They've seen the power of people communicating with each other to take to the streets, and they've seen world opinion changed in an eyeblink, all due to just a handful of videos shot at street-level. Videos of massacres of crowds of peaceful, unarmed citizens; videos of police and military savagery; videos of crowded hospital hallways filled with casualties; videos of women and children running for their lives from a hail of bullets; and (worst for them) videos of triumphant throngs in the streets celebrating their deliverance from tyranny. Big Brother still has a lot of power at his disposal, but Little Brother's cell phone video may prove to be a more powerful force, in the end. Because, now, surveillance works both ways.

Which is where I'm going to end today, too, while pointing out one crucial part of this equation. It is absolutely essential that when any of us sees police abuse happening that we immediately pull out our phones and start the tape rolling. Video the entire incident. And then either contact your local television news team or (if it's important and newsworthy enough) a national network. They will pay for such footage. This is a time-honored tradition -- even Zapruder got handsomely paid for the most infamous citizen film of modern time (the Kennedy assassination). You are nothing short of a freelance photojournalist or videographer, and news organizations have always paid for good results from such people.

Or if the money's not important to you, just post your video on social media and see what happens. Spread the word. Show everyone what happened. Bear witness.

Some might balk at the phrasing, but it does seem appropriate. After 9/11 this phrase became prevalent for everyone to be watchful and mindful of possible terrorist incidents. We were all told: "if you see something, say something." I would update this to: "If you see something, video it -- and then say something by making it public."

The more aware abusive cops realize the power of such videos, the more careful they will wind up being. When juries are willing to convict police officers of heinous crimes, when such punishment is visibly justified, then a whole lot of cops are going to think twice before doing anything like what Derek Chauvin did. Such incidents will no longer be at the mercy of whatever the cops decide to put down in their incident reports.

This is why I say George Floyd did not die in vain. His death should serve as an inspiration to us all to document anything like this in the future. And, hopefully, that threat from Little Brother will actually prevent many such incidents from ever occurring in the first place.

If you see something, video it. Because it can mean all the difference in the world.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

21 Comments on “If You See Something, Video It”

  1. [1] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Good article. It's just a shame it took ten years to start being effective.

    But it shows that sometimes it takes a while to get things going.

    Of course, if you see something that is not able to be videoed you have to speak up about it using words in a social media setting to spread the word, show everyone what happened, bear witness and see what happens.

    Like exposing the cracks in the other "blue wall of silence" about the Deathocrats selling out to the big money interests and proposing something to stop them.

    It's been over five years here. Are you still afraid to look through the cracks in the other "blue wall of silence" and see what is on the other side and what might happen if you took a stand for democracy against the other "blue wall of silence"?

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    how could you possibly write a column about george floyd without mentioning pie?

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I, of course, cannot comment on the rage Black citizens feel at their routine treatment by police across the country. Being White precludes me from even having a valid opinion on it, really. I realize this, which is why I haven't written about the trial before -- I have nothing relevant to add, really. So I let others who do speak instead.

    Well, I won't let that stop me from commenting on the rage felt by Black citizens.

    Mostly, because I ALSO feel rage at the routine treatment Black citizens are subject to at the hands of too many police officers. This is a serious problem for ALL of us who believe in principles of justice, fairness and equality.

    I mean, this isn't a Black person's problem. It's on all of us. If we can't put ourselves in the shoes of George Floyd and all of our fellow Black citizens who are mistreated and unjustifiably killed by police, then what hope is there for progress on the issue of the use of excessive force by the police?

    Hopefully, the Chauvin trial and conviction will spur meaningful change within police departments with regard to how they use force. At the very least, the testimony in its entirety given by the pulmonologist, Dr. Martin Tobin, will become part of police training everywhere.

    That's why I felt like celebrating when I heard the jury's verdict in this case. It meant that there is hope for change.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Do police departments need Congressional action to make necessary changes to their policies and training programs?

  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    some do.

  7. [7] 
    andygaus wrote:

    There's an app--I don't remember the name or where to get it--that automatically sends your video to whatever email address you provide as soon as the video stops running--for whatever reason. In other words, it's useless for the police to grab your cellphone and smash it.

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Have the police actually done that?

  9. [9] 
    andygaus wrote:

    I found an app called Hands Up 4 Police that livestreams your video to a YouTube or Dropbox account that you created and also sends an email to a trusted friend to tell them that you're videotaping.

  10. [10] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Here's more information on the subject from Gizmodo:
    https://gizmodo.com/how-to-protect-your-phone-from-the-police-1460461081

  11. [11] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Marge Simpson anticipated the impact of civilian video taping on the U.S. justice system way back in 1994.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOn-MnSldFE

  12. [12] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Do the police grab cellphones and smash them? Are you kidding? Do bears defecate on protected parklands?

  13. [13] 
    TheStig wrote:

    What is the fascist Republican response the Floyd Verdict?.......

    G.O.P. Bills Target Protesters (and Absolve Motorists Who Hit Them)...NY Times.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/21/us/politics/republican-anti-protest-laws.html

  14. [14] 
    Bleyd wrote:

    "Bear Witness"
    Only you can prevent police misconduct!

    Yeah, I know that was terrible, and I don't care!

  15. [15] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Re "EVERYONE HAS A CELLPHONE NOW."

    Chris use to claim that he was "The last guy in the world not on Facebook".

    Well, I'm not only not on Facebook, but I DON'T have a cellphone!!

  16. [16] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    I must admit I would like to see more bare witness videos.

  17. [17] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @crs,
    pollsters must LOVE you.
    JL

  18. [18] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    CW

    You say that,

    For nine and a half minutes, Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck, choking his body of the oxygen it needed to live. He ignored the dozens of times Floyd pleaded: "I can breathe!" and just pressed the life out of his body. Which we could all clearly see, from multiple angles.

    Pretty sure Floyd was saying ”I cannot breathe!”, and not “I can breathe!”

    It’s just a typo, I realize.. but kinda a major one!

  19. [19] 
    Kick wrote:

    SPOT THE INADVERTENT ERROR

    He ignored the dozens of times Floyd pleaded: "I can breathe!" and just pressed the life out of his body.

    *
    Not just an inadvertent error... but one which completely changes the entire meaning of the sentence to the total opposite. I hate when that happens. ;)

  20. [20] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris
    1

    It's been over five years here.

    And you haven't learned a flipping thing. Perhaps it's time to face the fact you're a little slow on the uptake, and by "little," I mean "completely and totally."

    Are you still afraid...

    No one here is afraid of your repetitive bullshit spewage. Try to keep up.

  21. [21] 
    Kick wrote:

    ListenWhenYouHear
    18

    Pretty sure Floyd was saying ”I cannot breathe!”, and not “I can breathe!”

    It’s just a typo, I realize.. but kinda a major one!

    Russ, you and me are still peas and carrots. No, not carrots. We are peas and peas but not the ones with the little onions. :)

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