A group of us were on the porch of the Wingnut when we saw a RPD cruiser stop to pull over a young man of color who was walking down Barton Avenue. They stopped him with the excuse that he was walking in the street, but this was a very clear use of racial profiling and “stop and frisk” type policing. We grabbed our Copwatch video camera, and walked down the block to film the incident. We did not have the camera recording our full approach, and were unable to get video of the police frisking the man, though some of us did witness it.
One officer, M Godwin, was fairly aggressive about not allowing Copwatcher Mo to stand on the public sidewalk. A car pulled up Home St. while the RPD cops had their cruiser parked in the middle of Barton Avenue, completely obstructing the road. The folks in the car asked very politely if the police could move the cruiser so they could get by, since Barton is a one way street and they couldn’t turn the other way. The police ignored them.
When the police were done harassing our neighbor, they drove off. We started to head back to the house, when someone noticed they had gone down a few blocks and stopped another young man of color. We did not witness the initial stop, so can’t say for sure what excuse they used for detaining him while they ran his ID.
The person they detained said this was the 3rd time he has been randomly stopped by the cops this week. If you listen carefully you can hear him say this in the video. The amount of police and police harassment in Southern Barton Heights is why we started Copwatch 2 years ago. Unfortunately the cops still engage in racial profiling, harassment, brutality, and many other behaviors which hurt the community.
Again, we approached the scene to film and observe. Both times we were not asked to leave the scene, or even to step back from the scene. During the second incident, Officer Godwin again approached Mo and told her that she couldn’t stand on the sidewalk. He did not say anything about people standing on the grass just as close, or anything about his scene, officer safety etc. He was very clearly just trying to harass Mo.
At one point Mo tried to walk past the RPD Cops who were very clearly blocking the sidewalk. The cops stopped Mo and refused to let her go by. Later, a woman and a child walked up the sidewalk, easily past Mo who was allegedly obstructing the sidewalk, and through the scene without a problem.
Officer Godwin told Mo to move off of the sidewalk repeatedly. Mo told him repeatedly that she was legally allowed to be on the public sidewalk. He eventually demanded Mo’s ID and stomped off to write a citation. Officer Godwin was not stopping anyone from standing in the grass next to the sidewalk, or just as close to the scene as Mo was. After he wrote Mo the citation she walked back to where they had been standing before on the sidewalk. (The young man the RPD had detained was STILL at this point being held by the police, so there was more copwatching to do).
Officer Godwin then threatened to give Mo 5 seconds to get off the sidewalk or else he would take Mo to lockup. However, when Mo answered a phone call he walked off.
Mo’s summons says it is for violation of Law Section 18.2-404 102.2 and the charge is described as “Obstructing Free Passage”. This is a criminal charge- a first degree misdemeanor.
Mo’s court date is Thursday May 31st at 9am at the Manchester general district court at 920 Hull St. on Richmond’s southside. Supporters are encouraged to come out on the 31st to support Mo, and Richmond Copwatch, as well as the right of people to stand on the sidewalk.
If you are interested in learning how to do Copwatch, we can teach you! We also do Know Your Rights trainings, which we recomend to eveyone. Fortunately the majority of the time Copwatchers do not get threatened with arrest, and risk levels to be taken are up to every individual copwatcher and copwatching group. Feel free to get in touch if you are interested in learning how to copwatch, know your rights trainings, our copwatch First Fridays Patrols, or anything else copwatch related. firstname.lastname@example.org or 804 303 5449 or come by 2005 Barton Avenue on the 4th Tuesday of each month at 7pm for the Copwatch Meeting!