Occupy Safely: Jail

The Occupy Movement has spread now to over 100 countries, and the total number jailed has now surpassed 3500. There are a few safety tips I guess we should discuss. One thing we all have to remember is this: Some of us are going to get hurt. It is tragic, but it is true. However, there are ways we can reduce the risks. I’ll be dividing this into four main sections: Jail, Police Brutality, Weather Exposure, and Tear Gas. Today let’s talk about jail.

For those of you who have never been to jail: It sucks. You will be cold. You will sit on “benches” made of concrete or cinder block or metal – for hours. You may sit in a police transport vehicle for hours before being booked into a jail. You will be bored, uncomfortable, and quite possibly scared. It may be more than 12 hours between your arrest and your next opportunity to have food, water, or a visit to the bathroom, much less your phone call. (So eat before the raid.)

“Food” will also be the most cost-effective substandard fare your area’s for-profit prison system can legally get away with serving. Your dietary restrictions – including legitimate fatal food allergies – may very well be ignored. There is no vegan alternative, so don’t expect it.

You will almost certainly not have access to your prescription medications, no matter how vital it is you take them at a certain time. This is incredibly important. If you need medication to maintain healthy body functioning, jail may be a potentially fatal risk for you.

You may be vaccinated against your will. In Florida, for example, all inmates are required to receive a Tuberculosis vaccine. Exemptions for health conditions that result in lowered immunity are not provided. If you refuse the vaccination, you will be placed in solitary confinement until you are released from jail. So again, if you have lowered immunity or cannot receive a jail-administered vaccination for other health reasons (like you’re on the organ transplant waiting list) try not to get arrested.

If you are female, you will likely be subjected to a urine test (possibly while someone watches you pee: more on this later) to determine if you are pregnant. If you are pregnant, you may be moved to another jail or to another section within the jail. The urine test may also be used to determine if you are guilty of “internal possession” (having evidence of prior drug use in your urine) which is a crime in some states like Hawaii.  Please be aware many perfectly legal substances such as poppy seed muffins and Ibuprofin can result in false positives for drug use (heroin and marijuana, respectively) so check to see if there are internal possession laws in your state. If you are falsely accused of a drug possession charge, get an attorney not a public defender.

Back to people watching you pee though: It’s going to happen. There is no such thing as “privacy” in jail. Your body will be examined and touched by strangers (guards) and there are no guarantees your cell mate or mates will be fellow protesters. If you’re there long enough, eventually you’ll need to defecate and for that as well you will not have privacy. If this is something you don’t think you’ll be able to handle for any reason, you may want to also consider avoiding arrest.

If you’ve decided you can be arrested in defense of your encampment (or for “failing to disperse” or whatever charge they come up with) plan ahead.

  • Eat and use the bathroom before an expected raid or camp eviction.
  • Leave your cell phone with a trusted fellow Occupier or someone who won’t be present when the police arrive. Alternatively, make sure you put a passcode on your phone so the police can’t delete videos and photos of arrests or police brutality. (It happens.)
  • Write the phone number for the National Lawyers Guild office in your city on your arm in permanent marker.
  • Whenever possible, have a non-arrested Occupy member get a list of the names and birthdates of each arrested person, and keep your Facebook and Twitter pages updated with their status. (For this using simply numbers is fine like “12 arrested last night, 7 released already, 4 getting out on bail later today, but one being held on possession.”)
  • Leave non-emergency prescription medications at home or with a fellow Occupier and for everyone’s sake please keep illegal drugs out of the encampments.

All of these points are made to encourage you to Occupy Safely, not to discourage you from Occupying. Our first amendment rights to freedom of the press, of speech, of assembly and the right to bring grievances to our government are all clearly under attack and we will not ensure by failing to fight for them.

I Stream, UStream, We All Stream for Livestream

Today’s Occupy tips relate to livestreaming (and other video recording). Let’s start with the technical specs. I highly recommend playing with your camera settings before going to a camp, march or anticipated police crackdown. Practice recording and make sure you like how it looks and sounds. Here are some recommendations for improved picture quality and sound for livestreams. These work whether your camera is a stand-alone unit, part of a smartphone or the webcam on a laptop.

  • Turn down Gain. This is a volume setting and lowering it will help balance the sounds being recorded. It will also help prevent feedback squeals and volume spikes that are unpleasant or painful for listeners and viewers.
  • Lower Frame Rate. This will help prevent lag during livestreams and help ensure a continuous picture of the scene is being broadcast clearly.
  • Take @OccupyMARINES advice for how to station camera operators throughout your camp to best capture everything, which you can find here.
Now that you’ve got your camera settings right, you can start to worry about the act of filming itself. The general piece of advice for this is to remember that your eyes are much more effective than a camera, and work much faster. When you turn the camera, it will take it a few moments to “refocus” the picture. Slow turns when holding a camera FTW.
  • Capture the Action. If there is police brutality happening, film it. Try your best to focus the camera’s angle toward the protester being attacked; if you can’t get that close by the nature of the crowd at that moment, try to at least film footage of the police actions. (ie, I can’t see the protester getting beaten very well in this video, but I can see a cop repeatedly punching *someone* being held down by other police and I can see cops intentionally driving motorcycles into people.)
  •  Cover the Event. Commentary is a great way to fill in viewers from around the world about what’s going on at your Occupy camp. During non-violent moments of livestreaming, catch us up. Tell us how General Assemblies work in your group, or tell us which food and supplies you need. Show us your People’s Library or Kitchen and let us know what life is like in your camp. Let us know the status of your permit, or known eviction threats. We can best help each other when we’re best informed about what each of us has and needs.
Of course, for commentary I do have a few suggestsions as well.
  • Don’t Shout. I’m surprised I have to put this here, but between the panic of a police attack and the nature of the Human Microphone, a fair few number of livestreamers I’ve watched the past couple of weeks have shouted. Remember that there is a microphone very close to your head and we can hear you just fine at a normal speaking volume, so shouts are likely to be unpleasantly loud for viewers and listeners. Repeat what’s said on the Human Mic, but do it at your normal speaking voice to let the rest of us know what’s being said. You’ll have to rely on the rest of your camp to echo shout with enough volume for everyone present to hear.
  • Don’t Taunt Cops. If you’re the guy or gal holding the camera and you’ve got hundreds or even thousands of people watching your every single move and listening to your every single word…. You might wanna be on your best behavior. By that I mean, make sure your views are being expressed at least as clearly as your anger. If you find yourself in angry full-on rant mode, it’s probably time to hand the camera over to someone else, or pause the livestream, or try silent filming for awhile. We ALL look crazed and unsympathetic when our emotions are running hot. But we’re not all being simulcast across the globe. If you are being liveviewed remotely, be sure to keep that in mind.
And one final semi-technical detail for videographers.
  • Get a light or light-bearer. The majority of the violent crackdowns and arrests have taken place after sunset (though obviously not all of them. Here’s broad daylight police brutality from University of California PD at Berkeley yesterday afternoon.) If it’s possible for each livestreamer to have a technical assistant (ya know, somebody to shine the light in the right location) I think our chances of getting clear footage of police misconduct is much higher. You can’t always count on the police to bring them for you, like last night at OccupyCal. It was incredibly hard to see a clear picture on any of the three streams I was trying to watch of Sproul Plaza last night when suddenly the police turned on two super-bright floodlights and made the whole thing much easier to see for both human eyes and cameras.
And now we come to my advice for viewers. Did you think you were exempt me from my unsolicited tips just because you’re not camping out? Pffft!
  • Be supportive, not bossy. Remember that we’re there to support the people on the ground, and that we do actually owe them a modicum of respect. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen someone who was, like me, at home in a safe and comfortable place, start advising people on the ground (through chat room) of what they should do. Camps generally decide at their General Assembly how to handle a known police threat or eviction, so your recommendations shouted out at the last moment to someone who very well may not be able to view the comments while filming is unnecessary. Whether or not to sit, or stand, or sing, or be silent, or read MILK Jr’s 6 Principles of Non-Violence, or hold an immpromptu General Assembly while waiting for the batons to come out is a decision that isn’t the viewers to make. And it was probably made well in advance of the livestream starting. Alternatively, you may get to actually watch consensus voting in action as the people there – the people facing 100% of the consequences – decide what they will do next.
  • Get the word out. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Google +. You know the tools; you know how to use them; you know which ones you have influence on. On October 29, 2011 Occupy Denver was attacked by police using batons, rubber bullets and pepper spray in the middle of the afternoon. As the day wore on, more and more officers arrived and it looked certain there would be another assualt come nightfall. So we watched. Over 10,000 of us watched that night, on livestreams and the local news affiliate’s feed, and heck, I even spent three hours watching from the Department of Transportation traffic camera stationed on the corner.Why this was important comes int the next bullet point.
  • Don’t JUST Watch. As it looked certain that the Denver PD who had already assaulted the Occupy camp were going to do so again, we called the non-emergency line of the police department and told the dispatcher, “I live in ____. I’m watching your police right now on live camera.” People called from Nashville, Portland, Seattle, New York, Oakland, Tulsa, Tallahassee, and Belarus. Yes, there is an Occupy Belarus and someone from there watched the livestream and called the local PD to let them know, “The whole world is watching.” And then it happened. Every single police officer standing down the line blockading the park with their bodies suddenly turned around, and walked back to his car. (I can say his because there weren’t any female officers there.) There was no police brutality in Denver at Civic Center Park that night, not simply because we were watching but because the police knew we were watching.