Tag Archives: police brutality

USA Protests by the Numbers

New Orleans     The New York Times print edition featured a two-page spread overlaying the map of the United States in a special Black Lives Matter section.  Across the map were the names of the 2000 cities and towns where there had been protests in a recent two-week period against racism and police brutality.  This was a powerful expression of this surge of Americans confronting this persistent disease in our country and demanding change.  Wow!

As impressive as the mapwork was, I was more intrigued about who or what was doing the counting.  The small print said, Count Love.  Ok, I’m game.  Let’s look under the hood.

Count Love turns out to be a website protest tracker working only in the US.  The creators are clear about their motivation:  relief from the election.  They are more measured, saying…

We are Tommy Leung and Nathan Perkins, engineers and scientists with a keen interest in civic responsibility and public policy. We started Count Love in catharsis to 2016, and we continue active development during our free time. We met during overlapping stints at MIT while working on our Masters in Technology and Policy.

Good for them.  And, for all of us.  Whenever you might feel we are somehow sucking all of the oppression down, you can click on the statistic link and bam, find that …

Since January 20th, 2017, we’ve learned about 19,326 protests with over 12,533,319 attendees—individuals demonstrating for inclusion, human rights and the environment.

Our fellow traveling brothers, Tommy and Nathan, don’t gild the lily on the numbers as the president is want to do.  Their rules for counting the love are pretty rigorous.  They use a crawl algorithm to scour newspapers and television news.  They don’t count fluff.  They round down on generalities:  about a dozen, they record as 10, dozens they record as 20, hundreds they list only as 100.  The rookie organizer’s attempt to count children as part of the crowd can’t make it past these guys.

Not only are they conservative in the counting house, but they also leave the windows wide open so that anyone can see what they are doing.  They encourage people to use their numbers.  They link you to explanations more MIT than me and you, but that’s OK, too.  Although transparent, some of their site is clunky.  Open the home page and you find yourself looking at a random district in some state like Washington or California.  I’m not sure why that is, but it’s offset by some good overall graphic representations and categorization of protests that not only include civil rights and the environment, but also collective bargaining, i.e. union work, and legislative protests.

They are missing community actions, but that can be fixed.  Maybe the best thing about their effort here is that they also have an anonymous way that you can submit your own protest to the mix and have it become a part of the data.  I like that.  It’s not the same as front page news, but I like the fact that your action is part of the collective force for change, more than simply a picture on Facebook.

Good work, guys!  Sending some love over to the Count Love crew!


Please enjoy Change is Gonna Come by Los Coast Feat Gary Clark JR.

Thanks to WAMF.


Say Their Names, Too

Pearl River      For years the tag line on my blogs and podcasts has been, “You take it from here to there.”  It’s time to raise up the names of some of the people who have done exactly that in trying to make sure there was justice when it came to police brutality and racism.  The crimes they witnessed were horrific, but their courage was heroic.  Their weapon of circumstance as much as choice has been the advancing features of video on cameras and smartphones.

We’ve talked about this before.  My advice has been simple.  Stay alert in your communities.  Make sure your camera is on the front face of your phone.  Practice with it.  Make sure your trigger finger is ready to hit that program feature so you can hold history in your hands.  Take the next step and protect what you have recorded and get it out to the public, either in your name or whatever way works for you, because we’re dealing with fear and potential retaliation.  However, you do it, get it done.

I’ve been wondering about this, but Joanna Stern, the personal tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal, did me and all of us the favor of reminding us about the people who have pressed the button so that justice might be done and police brutality could be witnessed by everyone, both believers and nonbelievers.  As her headline said, “They Used Smartphones to Record Police Brutality – and Change History.”  The old saying was always that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  The new slogan might be that “a video is worth a thousand lives.”

Let’s thank Darnella Frazier, as Stern tells her story…

…17-year-old Darnella Frazier found herself standing on a sidewalk in Minneapolis, swiping on her purple iPhone 11 lock screen to launch the video camera as fast as possible.  She hit the red circle and for the next 10 minutes and 9 seconds she held her phone as steady as she could, capturing George Floyd, a black man crying for his mother as his face was smashed into the pavement by white police officer Derek Chauvin. “I opened my phone and I started recording because I knew if I didn’t, no one would believe me,” Ms. Frazier said in a statement provided by her lawyer, Seth Cobin.  A day later, May 26, she opened up the Facebook app, and tapped the video of Mr. Floyd to upload it. The world now knows his name.

Let’s thank…

Karina Vargas, who had her Fujifilm Finepix digital camera the night of Jan. 1, 2009, when she witnessed officer Johannes Mehserle shooting 22-year-old Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale BART transit station in Oakland, Calif.  Ms. Vargas also had a Motorola Razr cellphone, but she turned on her 10-megapixel Fujifilm because it could record better quality video.  In a series of clips, many of them pixelated and shaky, she captured the officers surrounding Grant and eventually the sounds of the gunshots.

Let’s thank…

Ramsey Orta and his 2011 Samsung Galaxy phone [that] captured 720p high-definition video of Eric Garner, surrounded by New York City police officers [in 2014]. Mr. Orta filmed police wrestling Mr. Garner to the pavement and putting him in a chokehold. On the video, he said he couldn’t breathe 11 times before he died.  Mr. Orta originally shared the video with the New York Daily News, and it quickly spread across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The phrase “I can’t breathe” became a slogan of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Let’s thank…

Feidin Santana in North Charleston, S.C., [who] had just gotten a new one from a friend, a Samsung Galaxy S5 with a 16-megapixel camera. He happened to be walking to his job when he saw Mr. [Walter] Scott being chased by officer Michael Slager. Mr. Santana tapped the camera app and began recording for three minutes, capturing Slager shooting Mr. Scott five times as he tried to run.

Let’s not only thank Feidin Santana, Ramsey Orta, Karina Vargas, and Darnella Frazier, but also Brandon Brooks, and then the anonymous videographers who filmed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and let’s not foregt George Holliday for filming the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991.  Let’s thank all of them and many more who have stood up and done right by our people, our communities, and showed the courage and character that once was a hallmark of America.  Weep about these tragedies, but celebrate the young men and women who have taken it from here to there, and then be ready to join them and do likewise.