Who’s watching Copwatch?

George Crossley (who also was a friend of mine) was NEVER the “head” of Orlando Copwatch, although he certainly did everything humanly possible to foster that belief. (“Orlando’s Copwatch brought back to life by Libertarians,” Bloggytown, Oct. 20, 2010).

Mark Schmitter (a participant in the new “Orlando Copwatch”) is wrong when he says “that the old Copwatch leaders got ‘burned out.’” Orlando Copwatch didn’t have leaders (although it did have some participants who were more active than others, which may have created the impression they were “leaders”).

Our Copwatch was composed of more than “young leftists and [Orlando] Food not [sic] Bombs volunteers.” It also had some people of color who actually lived in the communities that Orlando Copwatch focused on when it was active. This is different from the new “Orlando Copwatch,” which seems to be completely white and primarily concerned about encounters between drunken yuppies and downtown police. It also engages in cheap, pointless publicity stunts (as can be seen on YouTube; for instance, Mr. Kurtz’s street theater protest against Orlando’s panhandling ordinance, which did nothing to help the homeless people targeted by that measure). For some reason, the new Copwatch seems oblivious to the racial profiling, harassment and excessive force that occur in Central Florida’s low-income and minority 

No one from our Copwatch, Orlando Food Not Bombs or any other left-wing activist group was formally invited to participate in Mr. Kurtz’s September demo outside of OPD headquarters. He did send an e-mail to one of the participants in our Copwatch that mentioned the event; however, even if all of us had been invited or had known about Mr. Kurtz’s event beforehand, I doubt that any of us would have participated in it out of disgust with people who seem to be using Copwatch as a vehicle to promote a right-wing Libertarian ideology that has absolutely nothing to do with the mission of such a group.

George may have fancied himself the leader of Orlando Copwatch, but George didn’t know how to organize a community group or how to do Copwatch, at least according to the protocols established by Berkeley Copwatch – founded in 1990 and the oldest Copwatch group in the U.S. Apparently, neither does Mr. Kurtz, as evidenced by his two recent arrests. If Mr. Kurtz did know what he was doing, he would have stuck to observing and documenting police behavior and wouldn’t have humped a police vehicle (November) and shoved a police officer (January). The Berkeley Copwatch protocols mandate non-interference with the police as they perform their duties and non-violence.

The Berkeley Copwatch protocols are the model for having a successful and productive group, and are used by other Copwatches around the country. Having a Copwatch on the streets of Orlando that is clueless and not representative of the political and racial diversity of our community is counterproductive and does a great disservice to the people and neighborhoods that Copwatch is supposed to be monitoring for police misconduct. When things go wrong because of incompetence and juvenile behavior, it undermines the credibility of Copwatch and compromises its ability to carry out its proper mission.

I realize that Mr. Kurtz has not yet been convicted of anything and may have good intentions, but I hope that in the interests of the greater good he will step aside from Orlando Copwatch before he does more damage to the concept of citizen oversight of law enforcement.

Ben Markeson

member, Orlando Copwatch

Orlando Food Not Bombs

The Black Manatee Collective

Befouled and blighted

Everyone wonders why Parramore has become such an undesirable neighborhood. I read it was once a successful black community but was destroyed due to discrimination. Stories like this one (“Poison in the well,” Upfront, Jan. 6) shed light on past injustices to the com-
munity. I remember there were issues with soil contamination found (and addressed) in the land where the new Amway Center and FAMU college have been built. I also recall other problem sites in Parramore that have begun to affect the water supply in the College Park/Lake Concord area.

I believe over time Parramore will become revitalized; the land is cheap and there’s nowhere else for the downtown core to expand but westward. But we’ll continuously have to rectify our past decisions along the way.



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