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Berkeley Copwatch: Make the police obsolete

December 16, 2014

by Ann Garrison

KPFA Weekend News broadcast Dec. 13, 2014

Berkeley Copwatch co-founder Andrea Prichett spoke to KPFA about justice for Kayla Moore and organizing for the long haul, to make police obsolete.

Transcript

KPFA Saturday News Anchor: Berkeley Copwatch has been taking action against police violence in Berkeley since 1990. The Copwatch organizing model and investigative techniques have spread across the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.

Berkeley Copwatch still seeks justice for the 2013 death in police custody of Kayla Moore. She is shown here with a friend’s baby, Bella.

Berkeley Copwatch still seeks justice for the 2013 death in police custody of Kayla Moore. She is shown here with a friend’s baby, Bella.

This week Berkeley Copwatch posted a list of local campaigns to create real change in Berkeley on its website, berkeleycopwatch.org. KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Berkeley Copwatch co-founder Andrea Prichett.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Andrea, Berkeley Copwatch has a list of issues it’s encouraging people to organize around locally, including demilitarization of the police, decriminalization of mental ill health, holding Berkeley police, including Chief Michael Meehan, accountable and justice for Kayla Moore, the Black transgendered woman who died in Berkeley police custody in 2013. Could you speak particularly to justice for Kayla Moore?

Andrea Prichett: We’re still interested in getting justice for Kayla Moore. And it is a travesty that the officers who were involved in Kayla Moore’s death are still not only on the police force, but they’ve never been held to account. They’ve never lost a day’s pay behind their reckless and cruel actions on the night that Kayla Moore died.

Those officers, using their full body weight and their full strength, were sitting on top of a 300-pound transgender woman who is face down on a futon – and clearly that is against what any health professional would recommend. And they watched her die. And they did not provide medical care to her.

And to think that those were the officers who currently serve on the Berkeley Police Department is frightening. So, in solidarity with Eric Garner and Mike Brown, we’re calling for justice for Kayla Moore.

KPFA: And if people listening want to get involved with any of these efforts, what can they do to hook up with Berkeley Copwatch?

Andrea Prichett: Well, we have meetings on Mondays at 7 o’clock. People can go to our website. They can contact us at berkeleycopwatch@yahoo.com. We’re also going to be having a rally. We’re working with the NAACP and with the Black Student Union from Cal to have a rally on Tuesday at 5:30 at Civic Center and Park, prior to the City Council meeting.

Kayla Moore’s sister, Maria, and father, Arthur, protest at a rally before the Berkeley City Council meeting on April 30, 2013, where they were attacked by BPD. The pain of police murders – the sense of betrayal by those we pay to protect us – runs so deep that loved ones never forget. – Photo: Emilie Raguso, Berkeleyside

Kayla Moore’s sister, Maria, and father, Arthur, protest at a rally before the Berkeley City Council meeting on April 30, 2013, where they were attacked by BPD. The pain of police murders – the sense of betrayal by those we pay to protect us – runs so deep that loved ones never forget. – Photo: Emilie Raguso, Berkeleyside

We’re going to invite people to speak out about their experiences with the Berkeley police, and we’re going to take our demands directly to the city councilors. And hopefully this national spotlight will help us to get some justice here in Berkeley.

KPFA: And what about people facing similar issues in other municipalities around the Bay?

Andrea Prichett: We have a lot of materials on our website that can help people get Copwatch groups started. And the basis of Copwatch is that you be involved in directly observing police and that you be committed to nonviolence in doing so. And if you’re doing both of those things, then you are definitely a Copwatch-style organization.

So we are encouraging people to form groups locally, affinity groups and support groups. As you try to take on the police and as you try to take on justice issues in your own town, you have to get organized – and you have to not be the Lone Ranger. You’ve got to be part of a group that has your back and that can mobilize locally.

KPFA: OK, and I imagine there are already Copwatch organizations in several of the other cities around the Bay, no?

Andrea Prichett: Oh yeah, there’s Copwatch groups all around. There’s a Mission Copwatch in San Francisco, there’s a variety of folks who are doing Copwatch in Oakland. Yeah, Copwatch groups, they come and go, to be honest, because they’re all volunteer and they really depend on the good will and the initiative and the energy of the local people.

Copwatch graphicAnd as we see this surge happening, yes, we want people to go to the marches, yes, we want people to go to the demonstrations, but we also want people to prepare themselves to be in this struggle for the long haul because it’s not going away anytime soon.

We’re winning this week. Yes, we have lots of people mobilized. The question is, “Can we organize them?” And I think the bigger question is, “Can we move from protest into governance?”

The message that we’re getting from this whole movement is twofold. One is that Black lives do matter and we’re not going to continue to allow the devaluation of Black lives. So hopefully people of color, as they mobilize, will be supported by white allies to really make changes in that area.

But we are also faced with the realization that we do not have a justice system. We have a punishment system in America. We have a mass incarceration system, but we don’t have a system that actually provides justice to our people. And people have to function with an understanding that wrongs will be righted, that justice will happen.

We do not have a justice system. We have a punishment system in America. We have a mass incarceration system, but we don’t have a system that actually provides justice to our people.

And so, alternative justice forms. Restorative justice councils, neighborhood assemblies, are being formed, and these forms are being explored and we have to figure out how to move from protest to governing our own neighborhoods in a just and righteous manner.

And in this way, we make police obsolete. And we need to make their so-called justice system obsolete.

We have to figure out how to move from protest to governing our own neighborhoods in a just and righteous manner. And in this way, we make police obsolete.

KPFA: And that was Andrea Prichett, co-founder of Berkeley Copwatch, berkeleycopwatch.org. For Pacifica, KPFA Radio, I’m Ann Garrison.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch, Colored Opinions and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at ann@afrobeatradio.com. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.

8 thoughts on “Berkeley Copwatch: Make the police obsolete

  1. John Brown

    So, for starters, what will society do with sociopaths who prefer mugging people to working 9-5 and/or enjoy raping, beating and/or killing people if we don’t have police, detectives and prisons to find, capture and lock them up to protect the rest of us? It might be a very long time before we can actually change people’s brains to turn sociopaths into socially acceptable and empathic citizens.

    If we move to neighborhood’s controlling their own, what happens if a neighborhood doesn’t have the resources to deal with bad guys, what happens when one neighborhood doesn’t care what its bad people do to other neighborhoods, how will society make sure that the civil rights of suspects and victims are respected across the board?

    Reply
  2. Jennifer Redwine (@pookietooth)

    Sociopaths generally find better ways of making money than mugging – and most of them don’t get caught as the things they do give them high enough status and money to either give them impunity or pay off those who would try to turn them in. The justice system attacks the poor almost exclusively.

    Reply

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