Missouri’s 5 second rule allows law enforcement to arrest people who fail to disperse. However, this law is only supposedly to apply to unorganized riots, and not peaceful protests. A federal judge is expected to rule on Missouri’s “5 second rule” later this week. Contra got in touch with a live streamer in Ferguson who was arrested twice under this rule. The streamer, who wishes to remain anonymous due to legal complications, goes by the alias Anon CopWatch.
Contra: How long have you been live streaming protests in Ferguson?
AnonCopWatch: The day after the National Guard and all the major media left was when I first started.
Contra: What do you focus on in your streaming? What do you want the world to see?
ACP: When I go out there and live stream, it focuses on the police’s aggressive actions and what the protesters are doing in the context of it. I stream in the afternoon and in the evenings too. The afternoon is very calm its not like the evening protests. In the afternoon there are teachers and librarians and people like that out there and I try to highlight that in my stream’s because I want people to see that the situation is not all like what’s shown in the news.
Contra: What have your interactions with law enforcement been like?
ACP: On Friday the police came and raided one of the makeshift camps that protesters had set up and took everyone’s belongings. People were told that the police were going to put all the belongings in a safe spot and then word got out that all of people’s protest signs were in the police dumpster. I started live streaming then went with the crowd to the dumpster to start digging everything out. The police saw everyone digging in the dumpster but they didn’t say anything at first. We were eating lunch and a cop pulled up right next to us and it was right across from the police department, so three or four more came from over there and they told us we had to get off the parking lot. As soon as I saw them come over I kicked up my live stream and I started filming their antics.
Contra: Could you describe their antics a little bit?
ACP: They’ve been enforcing something out there called a “5 second rule” where you can’t stay standing longer than 5 seconds at a time.
Contra: They’ve been enforcing it, so if you stand in one spot for more than 5 seconds they have the grounds to arrest you?
ACP: That’s what the police are claiming but the ACLU (the American Civil Liberties Union) came out there and told people its basically a bullshit law that’s being fought in court. In the meantime, people can abide by it or be civilly disobedient and oppose it.
Contra: How have you reacted to this “law”?
ACP: I’ve been trying to get it on tape, and that’s pretty much what I was doing at the time of my arrest. We were on the sidewalk and I was standing there recording the police that were telling everyone to get moving. I started talking to an officer about the five second law, telling him the ACLU says it wasn’t legitimate. They asked me to get moving but I stayed, so they took me into custody. I was held without bail for 11 hours. There were 10 other protestors at the scene doing the same thing but I was the only one that was arrested.
Contra: Why do you feel like you were the one they arrested?
ACP: I was interacting with the police the most. I also had a camera. Anybody they feel is any kind of threat to what they’re trying to do out there they’re more prone to arrest. The leaders of the demonstrations who are getting everybody going or the live streamers who are getting the real story out there are usually these people.
Contra: How many other live streamers are out there right now?
ACP: I would say there were four of us out there and then when they pulled over Bassem they other day and tried to detain him then arrested me it seemed like after that it jumped to probably 15. Once we found out the police were arresting live streamers we tried to get everyone out there doing it too. All you got to do is download an app and you’re good to go.
Contra: What happened after you were arrested?
ACP: They took me to St. Ann’s jail because the one in Ferguson was under construction. St. Ann’s was about 20 minutes away.
Contra: How long were you there?
ACP: I was there for 11 hours.
Contra: Why’d they release you? Were there not any charges?
ACP: Jail support tried to get me out all day but at about midnight or so the police chief called to say and release me.
Contra: Have you been arrested any other times?
ACP: Yes there was another incident. The first time I was arrested by St. Louis County police and the second time it was by the Ferguson police.
Contra: What happened the first time?
ACP: Protestors wanted to shut down a highway for four and a half minutes to represent the four and a half hours that Mike Brown laid in the road, but the police had stopped everybody from doing that so it turned into a rally right there on Hanley road. I was there covering the event because all the other media was there too, and the other media groups were reporting that bottles were being thrown and stuff like that, but I wanted to do as much as I could on video to show that that not true.
Contra: Where were you when you were arrested, and why were you arrested?
ACP: The instructions from the police were that anyone blocking the road was subject to arrest. So all the media and the protestors went onto the center median of the street and I was up there. I was arrested because they claimed I was in the street too, but when they put my arm behind my back my camera pans across the ground and clearly shows that I was on the curb and not the street.
Contra: Where’d they take you after you were arrested and how long were you there?
ACP: They took me to St. Louis county jail and they let me go at about midnight. I got arrested around 3:30 with around 35 other people but out of the 35 other people everybody was in the street except for me and one other guy.
Contra: What was the charge they had you in on?
ACP: “Failure to disperse”, which is what the 5 second law, the same charge as the first time I was arrested.
Contra: What do you think the impact live streamliners in Ferguson have been?
ACP: Live streaming shows some of the aggressive tactics of the police department. They’re actually provoking the stuff that goes on.
Contra: How would you describe what they’re doing?
ACP: They advance on protestors and they use negotiation tactics. They pick 10 people out of the crowd who are people they recognize, like the leaders or the streamers, and they’ll use their arrests to negotiate everybody else to go home or calm down. On the night of the same night I was arrested a Darren Wilson supporter came out and assaulted a Mike Brown supporter and he was released after two hours. I was in for 11 for the 5 second rule.
You can find Anon CopWatch on ustream, youtube, and twitter.