Cop-watching—the practice of observing and documenting police interactions to try to reduce brutality and civil-rights violations—was started by the Black Panther Party in Oakland in the 1960s. Panthers carrying shotguns or wearing pistols on their hips would hit the streets with law books and watch the police to demand accountability. The open carrying of guns was perfectly legal then, though laws were soon enacted to restrict the practice, due in large part to the Panthers’ enthusiastic exercising of their rights.
Today, cop-watching is back, mostly in response to killings of unarmed citizens by police and controversial policies like New York City’s stop-and-frisk. Many cop-watch organizations like to tout the Black Panthers’ origin story, but due to laws or common sense, no longer arm themselves. “Today, our cameras are our weapons,” New York City’s People’s Justice says on its site.
Not so much in Texas.
According to the Arlington Police Department, cop-watching has been going on in that city for about a year. Though early interactions were uneventful—Sgt. Jeffrey Houston told The Daily Beast both the filming of police and the open carry of firearms are “a constitutional right that the department supports”—recently, the cop-watches have been escalating in hostility and frequency and several members have been arrested.
My emphasis. It will be interesting to see how long the absurd open carry law lasts once everyone starts using it.