Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Responsibility of the Citizen.


This may seem like ancient history but hey, history matters, especially local punk history. Let’s call it our “Punkstory.” O.K. maybe not. Anyway, the following account was posted on My Space in January of 02006. I’m reprinting it here In Bold with my running commentary. The only changes I made were to add punctuation. This is a part of our local Punk History and should be remembered, commented on, and shared. Pedro


“So last night Yah Mos Def played a show in Williamstown NJ. The show was put on by this dude Alan who has been putting on great all-ages shows in the area for a long time.
This was at a new venue that was owned by some other older dude. So during the course of the night some kid stole a sign from the bathroom. This was fucked up, because anyone knows we have to respect these places if we want to be able to use them as show spaces. But this was not Alan's fault, just some stupid kid being funny. But the guy who owned the place flipped out and called the cops.” Alan comes in and says “one more song.” I guess the cops told him to wrap it up, and Alan came in to do so.

So Amateur Party starts to playing the shows last song and, and one of the cops says, "No, no more music". It is a confused situation. So Alan kind of just stands there and does not say anything, not knowing how to react. Captured in this picture.

The photo is a great one because it does more then capture Alan’s confused expression. It captures a group of folks at a crossroads.

On the left hand side of the photo there are two women who seem to be smiling.
At the center is a police officer with his right hand on his night stick, and on the right another young women with her arms up against her chest as if she were shielding herself, and to her left, a young man gnawing on the wrong end of a plastic water bottle like some disoriented hamster.
Anything can happen at this point!

“So from here on out I have it on video.”

I’ve seen the video several times. I suspect the guy who wrote this had watched the video before posting this account because the quotes are accurate, word for word.

“Since Alan does not respond, the cops says "that's it you're under arrest and grabs Alan. He (Alan) says something like "fuck you" cause the cop just grabbed him so hard by the neck, but did not resist or anything. All the sudden 2 other cops run and, and they all jump on the kid. It was fucking insane.”

From what I saw on the video the word I would use is “tackle” instead
of “jump.”

“People start taking out their phones and cameras and taking pictures. One of the cops starts yelling "put away your phones", and a kid in the crowd says "This is America" and the cop responds "I don't care, you're in my town now.” W. T. F!”

The cop quoted said other things. But it was when he said, “This is my town.“ that he truly lost respect from the kids. He also repeated “I told you nicely, put the camera away.” over and over. I thought that was interesting. The cop doesn’t realize that what he is saying sounds like. “I’m censoring you but I’m doing it nicely.”

“He gets in my face and starts telling me to put away my camera or I will get locked up. I tell him to F' off, and that I work for a Law Firm (which I of course don't), but that I know my rights. The kid next to me, who I don't know, spits out the amazing line "I don't mean to be disrespectful, but we have the responsibility as citizens to record this". I love that kid.”

In the video the cop upon hearing
"I don't mean to be disrespectful, but we have the responsibility as citizens to record this." said nothing. But the expression on his face suddenly changed. The anger melted away like a puddle after a summer thunder storm.
What replaced it I can’t say; Shame? Embarrassment? He then quickly turned and walked away.

“Anyhow, if anyone has pictures of info from last night please put them in a file and hold on to them. Even if you have memories you should jot them down in a word document in case Alan wants to sue those fucks.
Man, Jersey Cops.”

It’s that last line in his post “Man, Jersey cops.” that was used as the subject line. Before re-posting it on My Space I changed the subject line to read, “The Responsibility of a Citizen.” Every response to my re-post were angry. “Sue em, sue, em, sue em.” It’s possible that I’m not wired in the head quite right. But I wasn’t angry after reading it. I felt pride. And it was with a sense of pride that I re-posted the story over the net.

I was proud of those kids and proud to be associated with a scene that has that kind of mind set. Those kids knew instinctively that they had some kind of duty to perform. They automatically it seemed, took out there cameras to well...police the police. A lot of people know that respect is something you give with out any regard as to who the other person is so as to receive respect in return.
Other people know that respect is only acquired through force.
The events at that show demonstrate that a gun and a badge will only give you so much respect for so long. If you blow it, then it’s going to be very hard to inspire confidence from others again. By confidence I mean a sense of trust; Confidence that you are going to use the power folks give you in a responsible way. That’s what most people want. They want to trust the people that our system puts in authority over us. But we can’t always have what we want. When that happens we have to step up and accept the responsibility that a liberal society imposes; to have liberty means having to defend it. I don’t know at this writing weather shows are still happening at that venue in NJ but the event that took place there in January of 02006 could be a contribution to developing a wisdom of our own, one that we can share with others.

“Even the smallest victory is never to be taken for granted. Each victory must be applauded…”

Audre Lorde


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