Last weekend, Antonio Buehler was targeted and arrested a second time while filming police activity. This set in motion a storm that put APD on notice for their attempted curbing of a constitutionally-protected activity. The APD and APA retaliated by mischaracterizing what Peaceful Streets Project does.
"Antonio Buehler asserts that filming cops protects people from false arrest. For this, he was falsely arrested. We know he was falsely arrested because someone filmed it.” ~Sam Frank, filmmaker
The Peaceful Streets Project (PSP) is an all-volunteer, grassroots effort uniting Austinites in ending the institutional violence taking place on our streets. Through community organizing and direct action tactics, the Peaceful Streets Project seeks to support Austin communities in understanding, exercising, and standing up for our rights.
PSP works towards its mission through regular “cop-watching” (video-witnessing police activity to assist those who may have been the victim of police misconduct), training, education, coalition-building, solidarity with similar groups nationwide and through its ongoing “Police Complaint Department” (collecting stories of police abuse at events and set locations throughout the city – see example stories).
While many APD officers tolerate and even welcome PSP’s presence, APA’s Wayne Vincent’s allegations against PSP are baseless. There is no evidence of PSP negatively affecting the public safety, and his scurrilous charges against a group dedicated to peace of “inciting violence against police” smacks of the very problem PSP was formed to address.
"It's called PEACEFUL Streets Project for a reason...we don't engage in, or encourage, violence, disruption or intimidation. We keep a respectable distance and are not responsible for any officer’s engagement of us just because they don't like our witnessing their actions." – Monica Savant, PSP
In fact, while PSP’s sole tactic is passively observing via videotaping, some APD officers have engaged in: intimidation, yelling in close proximity to a PSP member, shining flashlights in member’s eyes, giving contradictory orders to create confusion, physically pushing members and on two occasions, using horses against members (a long-time tactic of APD, dating back to at least April, 2001, in which a lawsuit was won to curb this activity).
"Because recording police officers in the public discharge of their duties is protected by the First Amendment, policies should prohibit interference with recording of police activities except in narrowly circumscribed situations. ...Officers should be advised not to threaten, intimidate, or otherwise discourage an individual from recording police officer enforcement activities or intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices." - Department of Justice (DOJ)
PSP has never “interfered” in police activities and we know this because the law is clear.
"...speech is not protected by the First Amendment if it amounts to actual obstruction of a police officer’s investigation – for example, by tampering with a witness or persistently engaging an officer who is in the midst of his or her duties." – DOJ
There has been no “actual obstruction” of anything…no tampering or “persistently engaging an officer” by PSP. The only time a PSP member speaks to an officer engaged in a stop is when the officer has spoken to her/him first. There is no evidence of PSP obstructing police activity or threatening the safety of others.
APD will not, and can not, pass any law or policy that is both unconstitutional and unenforceable. Any rumored 50-60’ rule is just that, a rumor. It’s clear that some officers, certainly not all, need training and/or clarification; so if there is policy to be implemented, PSP’s coalition partners have an example policy they will bring before APD (attached).
PSP will move forward from these case-in-point injustices brought against them and engage in a mass cop-watching action tonight. Activists will meet at 10:00pm near 6th St., train/review as to our peaceful, observatory tactics, form affinity groups and venture out to protect the liberties of Austinites.