Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Interview for High School Political Science Student

I did this interview for a comrade's student who is in a High School Political Science Class

Joaquin Cienfuegos

• How long have you been involved with Cop Watch LA (CWLA)?

I have been involved in Cop Watch L.A. since its inception on November 2006

• What made you want to join CWLA?

Since I was 13 years old the police have harassed me, they've arrested me, and brutalized me. I saw that there was a need to organize ourselves and our community, to stop police brutality from happening, not just react to it. Especially after the cases of police murder in Los Angeles of young children Susie Lopez Pena who was 19 months and Devin Brown who was 13 years old.

• What makes CWLA different than other Cop Watch organizations in California?

Cop Watch L.A. is different because we are an all people of color organization, we felt it was necessary to organize our own communities, since we are the ones who are targeted by the police. We felt we needed to create our own structure/organization, vision, and model for not only fighting police terrorism, but creating a new world in general free of an oppressive state apparatus (which includes: the police, the military, the courts, even their schools). We hold a position that we don't patrol in an area we do not live in, or we're not invited to.

• Why is it called the Guerilla Chapter (GC)?

It is called the Guerrilla Chapter because this chapter is made up of people from different communities from throughout L.A., and because they felt it was necessary to continue to build a popular movement against the police state. Which means providing training, support, any resources, to individuals and communities who want to build this type organization and take this type of direct action. The main idea of the Guerrilla Chapter was the fact that, we would go out on scheduled patrols, but in general, we are always on patrol. If we saw the police harassing youth of color, we would stop and observe, talk to the community and encourage them to participate in observation and in being part of the organization.

• Does CWLA work with any other organizations? If so which ones?

We work with different organizations who are doing similar work against police brutality, in example the Black Riders Liberation Party (a new Black Panther Party Organization), the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, and others.

• What are some of the local, state, or national policies and laws that Cop Watch has supported or opposed?

I don't think as an organization we support government policies or mobilize to change policies in particular. We are a grassroots community organization, and real change comes from the self-organization of our communities. We fight to make conditions better today but in general we feel a systemic change needs to happen.

• How is CWLA structured and what is the decision making process?

We are a horizontal network of communities and individuals (we are not top down). We communicate with each other first with the members of our particular chapter and then the rest of the chapters online.

• How does CWLA benefit the community?

CWLA is one tactic in taking back our communities from people who patrol our streets but do not live in our communities, so do not know how to relate to us, so they treat us all like criminals. It builds the fighting capacity of our community, so we won't live in fear from those who are supposed to "protect and serve." It serves as a deterrent to police murder, because when we observe them with cameras, it puts them on the defensive and in a big way can hold them accountable. We are building power, not just reacting to the power structure.

• How has your involvement in CLWA affected you as an individual?

It has changed my life, and has taught so much about how we all have a collective responsibility to stand up and fight back. It has made me even more so, commit my life to fighting for justice.

• Where would you like to see CWLA going in the future? What projects or areas do you think need to be worked on?

What I want to see in the future is a culture of Cop-Watching, where everyone is observing the police from the windows of their homes, stopping their cars to observe the police and being more combative. Where the police and the state in general has to ask the community before entering it.

After that, I want to live in a world where we won't need Cop Watch anymore, where we won't have a police department anymore, where the people have complete control of the community, and can decide for ourselves what is in our best interest.

There is so much more work that needs to be done. I live in South Central Los Angeles, and we need food programs, we need more jobs, we need popular education programs, we need to resist all the unjust laws coming down on our brothers and sisters who are undocumented and everyone else coming under attack. We also need to work with the indigenous communities to take back the land that was stolen.

Thank you

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