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Black Panthers focus cameras on police abuse

The collective is using video

'You gotta have that tape on'

October 3, 1997
Web posted at: 10:35 p.m. EDT (0235 GMT)

From Correspondent Peg Tyre

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The Black Panthers, once known for their radical and sometimes belligerent black nationalist stance, have taken to the sidewalks of New York with video cameras. Their focus: abusive police.

Now known as the Black Panther Collective, they have formed a kind of civilian patrol to record arrests and document examples of police brutality against the African-American and Latino communities.

"The purpose is to deter police brutality and also to educate the community to their rights," says George Morrilla, a member of the collective.

The program owes much to the furor over Rodney King incident, in which a bystander in 1991 videotaped Los Angeles policemen beating King after he led them on a 100 mph chase and allegedly resisted arrest.

vxtreme CNN's Peg Tyre reports.

That tape and the recent alleged torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima by New York City police confirmed to Main Street what activists had been saying for years -- that too often police use brutality to enforce the law in minority communities.

The program harkens back to the grassroots activism once synonymous with the Black Panthers' black power movement of the 1960s. Lending a further nostalgic touch, the program is supported by an endowment funded by the late William Kuntsler, the lawyer famed for his involvement in activist causes.

'You gotta have that tape on'

the King beating

"The main idea is to keep the tape rolling," Morrilla said. "There's evidence there, you gotta have that tape on."

Police officials refused to comment on the program, but police on the beat say they don't like the idea. They say they hope the collective will find ways to work with police rather than against them.

Neighbors will say very little about the program, but the Black Panthers say they are exerting pressure on the police to force them to change.

"I want them to feel that they're watched," says Morrilla. "I want them to feel it, and then maybe, just maybe, we can deter some of that there."


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