Know Your Civil Rights Re: Police

Posted on June 17, 2020


One of the most important lessons we can teach our children is the concept of civil rights.

Early in my teaching career, an excellent tool for civil rights lessons appeared on the scene, when the Midnight Special Law Collective put out a 16-page comic book called, Know Your Rights, in which “Marquis and Josh are picked up by the cops, and must decide what to do next. The comic explains how to deal with questioning and searches by police. The information is geared toward youth of color but is good for everybody.”

The Midnight Special Law Collective is “people sharing anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian revolutionary politics who are committed to providing relevant, useful legal information and accessible and accountable legal support to those targeted by government oppression.”

20200616_122530As a high school teacher, I found Know Your Rights to be a tremendously useful introduction to the subject of civil rights in a format that is relevant and accessible to high school students.

Now, more than ever, it is important that teens have this information, since many schools now have police officers in the building.

Many young people are taking to the streets these days to protest police brutality, and to call for change on many important issues. The Midnight Special Law collective has many other helpful resources on their site for protesters, legal observers, legal action teams, and others who work on issues of civil rights, student rights, and immigrant rights. Check it out! Send the link to activist teens. Share it with a parent, teacher, youth leader, coach.

Know Your Rights. Knowledge is power.

Another resource that is crucial for protecting our rights is the ubiquitous celly. One way we can protect one another’s civil rights, or at least pursue justice if they are violated, is to record police on the job. ACLU has an app to download that goes beyond simply recording. They remind us that:

Taking photographs and video of things that are plainly visible in public spaces is a constitutional right—and that includes police and other government officials carrying out their duties.

With the ACLU Mobile Justice MI app, people can not only record police, but as soon as they hit “stop recording,” the video is instantly uploaded to the ACLU, so it can’t disappear, even if a phone goes missing or gets damaged. Other features allow  people to submit incident reports after a video upload; monitor police and receive alerts of nearby police stops, so that people can witness and/or record police; and get local and statewide news updates.

If you’re hitting the streets, consider downloading the ACLU Mobile Justice MI app, and join the network of citizens policing the police.

From the ACLU

Rules of Engagement: How to Conduct Yourself When Filming a Police Encounter

When interacting with law enforcement, exercise caution when attempting to use the app to document your exchange. Your safety depends on your ability to clearly communicate your actions and to remain calm.

  • Announce that you are reaching for your phone.
  • Announce that you are attempting to access the app to record the exchange.
  • If the officer forbids or prevents you from doing so, do not argue or resist. Follow the officer’s instructions. If your rights have been violated, your attorney will argue your case later.
  • If the officer attempts to touch your screen in an effort to destroy the evidence you’ve captured, don’t worry. The moment the recording is stopped it will automatically be sent to the ACLU of Michigan.

lisa eddy is a writer, researcher, educator, advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

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