Jan 31, 2011
Residents Attend Rights Seminar
Crown Heights residents attended a 'Know Your Rights' seminar with Attorney Norman Siegel, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and Senator Eric Adams Sunday. COLlive presents full video of the event.
By: Yosef Bergovoy
Yesterday was a historic day in Crown Heights. I donít think our founding fathers would have fathomed it. There was a hall full of Lubavitchers, as well as African-Americans. The panel consisted of a Lubavitch Juris Doctor, an acclaimed Jewish civil rights lawyer, and several elected African American officials. We are all so used to arguments, politics and strife. It is about time, and it was definitely a breath of fresh air to take preventative steps; steps that would allocate knowledge to the people, which means giving power to the people. When we know what our rights are, there is no gray area when it comes to being controlled and abused by the authorities. If we donít know what we can and should know, then there is a lot of room for trouble.
If I would have known what I know now after todayís seminar, then perhaps I would have not received my wrongfully issued summons. After today I am aware of what my rights are, and how to exercise them. The people who were on the panel at the event have extensive experience working with police misconduct and protecting innocent civilians. Attorney Norman Siegel actually founded the CCRB (civilian complaint review board), which is a very important tool in fighting civilians from being abused and disrespected by the police. State Senator Eric Adams passed a legislation that protects innocent people who were stopped by the police from having their information stored in a database, which later on could possibly be used to incriminate someone who never did anything wrong or illegal. The legislation was sponsored by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who was also on the panel. The victimsí rights issues were addressed in the Q&A of the seminar, and the D.A.ís office was represented by their council Lance Ogiste, giving the panel a more balanced perspective from both an effective policing as well as citizensí rights point of view.
The video is posted here on COLlive.com, but Iíd like to reiterate a couple of key points, which I thought would be very useful for the future:
Donít make any statements about the case, as it can be held against you.
Write down everything you remember as soon as possible after the incident.
You should always be respectful of the officer. Getting upset or cursing will never help. It will just make the situation worse.
Remember the officerís badge number and name. However, do not make a point of doing it loudly and having it noticed. Again, that will make things worse. Make a mental note, or write it down discreetly if possible.
You are allowed to photograph or videotape officers, as they are public servants. Make sure however, that you are not being disruptive to the police doing their job.
Try to find witnesses and their names and numbers.
Those were some of the topics covered. You should definitely watch the video of the event, as it will assist you and your family with future interactions with the police.
Many people who I have met in the past several months have said: why are you pursuing this? It happens so seldom, and is not that important. There are others who take another approach: Why say anything about it? It is wrong to let anyone know about it. Saying anything bad about the police will just hurt us in the end. Those people could not be more wrong. When you allow an issue to dwell and exist, it will grow. If you let the problem be, and think that it is a onetime occurrence, when realistically it is an ongoing and systematic issue, one day the problem will be much, much worse.
Throughout history, when a nation or a group of people were passive about laws being passed or anything of the sort, that only lead to destruction and travesties. When people group together and unite for one cause and without any agendas, there is nothing more powerful. Whatever the issue might be in a community, the differences need to be put aside, and our spiritual and physical safety need to be put on the proverbial front burner. Yesterdayday was an excellent example of that. The event went beyond our perceived differences, and the only race that mattered was the human race. I am happy that Eli Federman and I put in the effort to have this take place.
That first week after my incident with the summons, I would have never imagined that this event would have taken place as an outcome of the story. That week in October, I was doing research and I was thinking to myself, what can I do to make sure other people donít have to go through the same thing? But that attitude was met with a lot of skepticism and pessimism, whether it was friends or people who heard about the story. It seems like an insignificant story, but it really shines a light upon the bigger picture, and with the proper effort things started clicking. I got in touch with attorney Gerald Cohen, who helped me out tremendously. I was put in touch with Attorney Norman Siegel, who gave us the idea to make the ďKnow your rightsĒ seminar in Crown Heights, and has been the greatest resource and help since the first day I called him.
What it boils down to is this: Donít keep quiet. Donít keep yourself and everyone else in the dark. Educate yourself and the people you know. Letís not allow ourselves to be taken advantage of. There are people out there who care, and are willing and able to help. Senator Eric Adams told us yesterday that you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he reads all of the emails. There are ways to go about things. There are ways that we can help ourselves. Letís unify and use the power we have as a whole and as a people, and many good things will happen.
Eli and I will be working on other educational seminars in the future. We were very happy with todayís event and it was definitely a big Kiddush Hashem. A very big thank you goes to Ben Federman, CEO of 1saleaday.com for sponsoring the event. Thank you Mendy Geisinsky of Uptown Productions for a job well done orchestrating the event. I would also like to acknowledge and thank Eli Federman for the tireless effort he put into organizing the event.
Know your rights: Part 1
Know your rights: Part 2: