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COPWATCH

Answer to Osha Neuman's Anarchist Forum at Living Theater on January 31st

New York, February 1st, 2009 by mail

Sorry Osha Motherf***kers— Copwatch, did not start in the 30's in Berkley,- the name started in Berkeley in 1990- but the concept was born on the LES in 1988- although we did not use that name, and I certainly would never use that name-Copwatch- I never would- please, but the modern idea, the use of the handheld video camera to capture cops in wrong doing was born on the LES- it is the concept that is important not the name- and I am happy that the group was formed- but the first major national introduction of the handheld video camera- Little brother is Watching Big Brother- the equalizing of the rights between the people and the police in democracy with a handheld video started on the LES- What a name would make me legitimate? I am legitimate. My legitimacy and serious dedication to this subject is not based on a name it is based on a drive and a need to do this.

It is the idea of Cop Watch, as well as, actually getting the word out there and having real results that counts not a name. Copwatch is centered around the handheld video- a technology that changed everything- the handheld video camera is what freed up the video camera- from the weight of the recording device, then the camera, then the wires- then the external sound devices. But to step up as an individual and produce results with ones material is the next really important step-- otherwise it is all just no name documentation. Producing results is what counts and we produced lots of results- but you have to step up- or step off-

It is also a joke to me what you say about Copwatch and where it started-- for many years there is no question in the NYPD's mind who I am and what I did- I got the 1988 riot historically classified as a police riot- because of that 3"33" video tape- that is a much larger concept than catching one cop doing something wrong- then came the Rodney King video- now we have another form of technology- and, it took years, but the next major step forward in capturing the cops involved in wrong doing, took years, but it has been made- we have reached the next level-- and that was done by the SF person who captured with the palm-sized video recording the cop murdering that person on the train platform. One difference between myself and these people is that I stepped up and pushed all the buttons- and made my presence known- and made sure that the cops were held accountable- made CCRB complaints- against that liberal organizations advice- the ACLU- which Elsa and I called the ACL-WHO- I went to the police trials- took the stand- been to department trials- confronted cops on the street- I did the depositions in the lawsuits- I stepped up- and followed the process through to the end- yes I was an asshole- but that is what it took-= - went onto the media and pushed the fact of police brutality and wrong doing- got the ideas published in many places- gave talks--- and I paid a price for stepping up-- I could go anywhere in NYC and the cops would point out who I was- and I was easy to spot- the hat- the teeth which I got compliments of NYPD_ knock out my teeth and I got a golden smile- the facial hair- fuck them- I stepped up- and made the argument over the right to document the street in a free society. I do not need a group to stand with- I need the idea understood by people of interest- there are now 1000's of people videotaping protests- and I am partially responsible for this- because I, as an individual, stepped up. -

Another disagreement we have- like nothing happened on the LES since the 60's- fuck the 60's they are over- it is doing today that counts- if you read Resistance, which you are in, you would know that there were 4 solid years of serious activism, riots, and protest on the LES- hundreds of arrests between 1988-1992- which then, for a number of us, carried on up until this day- and this struggle still continues. And yes, this struggle was against gentrification- against the new wealth taking over the neighborhood, the influx of international corporations and so on. Yes, we are at a point that it may look like we lost, but then changes are once again coming. it is not the concentration on the police that is important- - it is what affects the community around me- it is something that I can see- smell- taste- feel- get the information first hand-- and all of this is hard- but it is local- otherwise I am following someone else's point of view- perception- ideas- political intelligence- the news- I want to be able to see the results from what I am doing- I do not want to be a faceless one in a large crowd lead by who really knows who- I get the message into a local newspaper- get it into the city media- and sometimes internationally- you were here when I was talking to a reporter from Al Jazeera - I ignited the news story process that got the Euro being so much more valuable than the dollar story featured around the world several times going- I help young journalist get stories- feed stories to friends in media- I help people with research- I have gotten the message out to hundreds of places- hundreds- it took me time but I got a tombstone for a friend who died- got her a plot in Queens where she was born, as well as, a funeral service- I am getting LA2 recognized as one of Keith Haring's major influence-- that is revolutionary- and it should change art history- and you can read about this struggle on the web- from new- stories- and he is Puerto Rican- which you are saying we should connect with- many of us are connected-

As far as another group keeping connected to the original faith, struggle, goals-- just take at look at 83 year old Judith and the Living Theater. She is 83 years old and still carrying the Living Theater (they gave you a reading) revolution down the road. Then more contemporary- we have Bluestockings (gave you a reading- wrote about you)- ABC No Rio- and so on- as Judith says the people involved in the struggle never left their own individual revolution- and for many of us it is the life we lead and how we lead it- the fight never stops- it is still going on- there are moments of calm and loss- but the struggle is never over-- Autonomedia was there @ the Living Theater Mother Fucker event- (they were going to publish your book) and they also disagree with your premise of the struggle has been given up or that the revolution is over--- or everyone has left the revolution- Autonomedia has published 100's of books and continue to publish books based on alternative thinkers- alternative points of views- yes the LES is leaving me- but I am still here struggling- got your book into print- published you in Resistance- - that is a revolutionary accomplishment. Keeping knowledge in existence is an important feat. After you Living Theater event I introduced Malav to Judith- that will help open up some much needed attention for the Living Theater- BTW- Jim Feast is another one who never left the struggle- he arranged for your events- he edited 100's of articles for me- he has been involved with the Unbearable revolution- he has been an intellectual activist his most of his life- he is one of our community intellectual warriors-

And I am sorry that you do not see the connection between art and life- and art and politics- for me- art is life- everything I do is art- and after spending my life working on this concept there is a place where it all unites- people connected to Ira Cohen where at the reading- Ira- his poetry- his life- are all one-- there are many creative people who have made this unity between self and their creative life- and their politics- certainly Judith is another example. It took me more years to make this unity than it does most people -- coming from bad schools in a tough working-class neighborhood, from an eccentric family out of sink with community made it was a difficult adjust to high-school- friends were going to jail- dropping out- then got into an art school which almost killed me if I did not have such internal drive- to eventually, although not qualified-- getting into university- yes it took me longer than most people- but the struggle made me stronger than most people- and I am here right now- 40 years later- still on the road- still in the fight- I do not make art that matches people furniture- so fuck that idea of the compromisers and fuck the quitters- all of us mentioned above are not the quitters- and there are plenty of us still around- and there are many new bloods coming up- and my goal is to change the world and in small areas I have done just that-

There is no utopia- no heaven on earth- there is just the struggle and the life we lead. My life is not based on what others think- or dependent on Martin Luther King- or Gandhi- or even eating spaghetti. My struggle is not to find some utopian idea and attach myself to someone else's ideology. It is not a final form- or some idealized state- or something out of my reach- it is the life I live- It is the fact that Autonomedia is still active- Living Theater is still going on- Bluestocking is still here as is ABC No Rio- Elsa and I have been fortunate up until now to be able to do almost anything we wanted to do- that for me is utopia- that is what freedom is- and I did find this freedom in America- in NYC- on the LES- Canada would have destroyed me- I am too weird for them- - I do not have to change the society for all of the people- I have to change it for the people I am associated with- for the people I love- for the people who are open to new ideas- for the people I admire- that is why I do the books, get them published, and attempt to save people who may not be mainstream- by putting them in books, shoulder to shoulder with the so called famous- it gives their ideas life and the possibility to be discovered in the future- it is the reason that I mentor people- and I do mentor people- this is why I get other people published in forms other than books- - and I do- why I give other people art shows and I do- there is a small group of people I am working to get discovered, because I think that they are important and overlooked- genius is never for the day at hand because those at hand do not comprehend the ideas being thrown out there- I have to govern myself- who I am- yes I am linked to community- but I am also an island who lives by my own set of rules-- yes there are things I cannot do- and there has been a price to pay for ones idea of freedom- arrested- teeth knocked out- knocked unconscious- never had kids- been called a scum-bag by people in power- been given fines- but I have absolutely glorious moments which have given me highs that reach the skies- And I have in the last few years been blessed- totally blessed- had some young people-0 Ben Solomon, Dan Levin, Jenner Furst make a movie about Elsa, myself and the archives- met a couple of young woman- Anne Apparu and her sister Agathe introduce me to the concept of using food and cooking as a revolutionary idea- different from Food Not Bombs- have an intern named Monica- doing her thing- Dave making Beyond Race magazine- Jim Feast editing my work- Dietmar Kirves, doing the NO!art Website and so many others-- so much love- so many blessings- so much freedom- yes for me freedom- I am doing what I want-

You say we need to incorporate the minorities into our existence- I have done that and you like As far as connecting to the minority community- I do not have to justify this fact- I have the proof- I have the faces and spirits of 1000's of Puerto Rican people from this community- I have given them a place of pride and honor and respect- doing a front door book right now- including 100's of minority people- had a magazine article that included many of these front door people- that magazine circulated through prisons- I heard about that later-

It seems you love the sound of breaking glass- If the purpose is to just hear glass break- what is the purpose of this?- Is there a goal or is it just pent up anger with no direction. If that is the case, then that is a dangerous proposition- it can lead young people to long prison terms- or it can be like Manson who believed that cause enough chaos and the revolution will arrive- well he was wrong and he destroyed a number of lives- and again to what purpose- is the idea just destructive? Where is the philosophical goal? On a much larger scale that is what Bush did in Iraq- broke lots of glass- destroyed all kinds of historic treasures- burn banks- palaces- destroyed a whole kingdom- killed thousands of people- got us hated around the world--what for? So it would bankrupt us? Or just to hear the glass break?

And yes like you say: my emails are too long and I know you do not read them, because you asked me questions-- I do not care if you read these or not- it does not matter- it is a document- it a way for me to help define ideas floating around my head- a moment for me- a chance to lay down an idea- character is built on who we are- what we do- how we conduct our lives-- not just by what we say- and yes- for you as you said my work, archives, and collections are just crap- one man"s garbage is another man's treasure- those 100o's of people and things connected to the LES I have documented and they are my treasure- so is my art--

I document the LES- which used to be an unconventional area of the world before gentrification and the yuppies almost killed it. It was a crucible of creativity- I have connected with about as wide a cross- section as there is in American society- numerous minorities from extremely religious people- from many groups- to a diverse group of creative people- intellectuals- to murders and criminals- to people who have cut off their fingers and toes- good guys, bad guys, in- between guys and woman of course- they are all a part of me and who I am- we are all equal- we all made up the LES. A place that I loved and gave up blood for- and am still here struggling to preserve the archives. The content of the archives is such that it has meant nothing to the establishment. The archives can easily become garbage- the one saving grace- out of all the people who talk about it- the “Boys” are the ones who really got the important of the material- for that I am grateful.

I got my friend Boris Lurie- No!art obit into the times- and here was my guest book entry- We will never give up, we will never give in, we will never quite- the struggle continues- our voices will eventually be heard and the message will be understood - you will be remembered- the struggle continues. we love you brother- R.I.P. — Clayton Patterson

see more info Who Is Copwatch?

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