Why You Should Watch This: This video and the wider investigations and campaign by the American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU) demonstrate how the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) has been systematically abusing the rights of Puerto Ricans – an issue very much in the U.S.’ backyard, and one that has not received as much attention as it should.

 Video Facts:

  • Title of Video: “Police Abuse in Puerto Rico”
  • Date Created/Posted: June 2011
  • Length: 4:23
  • Who made it: American Civil Liberties Union
  • Location Puerto Rico
  • Human Rights Issue: Police brutality and abuse

Goal: This is an interesting example in which the video’s goal isn’t clear from the video alone, but rather from the contextual information in the spaces where the video is shared. The ACLU’s campaign focused on pushing the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the issue, and then later for the DOJ to conclude the investigation after it continued on for three years.

Last week, the DOJ released their report, which contained a strong condemnation of the PRPD and notes that there is reasonable cause to believe that the PRPD is breaking federal and Constitutional law by using excessive force where none was called for, along with using “unreasonable force and other misconduct designed to suppress the exercise of protected First Amendment rights.”

Primary Audience: The U.S. Department of Justice, Congress, and the general public (as pressure-makers). As part of the ACLU’s advocacy around the campaign, they showed this video during a Congressional briefing on the issue this past July.

Message: The message of the campaign is that this level of police violence, occurring as frequently and with as much impunity, would not be tolerated within the 50 states of the U.S. After all, Puerto Ricans are U.S. Citizens, protected by the Constitution – and the U.S. is also responsible for the oversight of the Puerto Rico Police Department.

Content/Style/Voices: The video combines news footage, citizen footage and photographs of violent police response to peaceful protests at the University of Puerto Rico and at the Capitol in San Juan. The style is simple – some photographs and footage are annotated with the dates and location, and one photograph is marked to show a police officer brandishing a pistol in the street. You see protestors being shoved, kicked, beaten, tear-gassed, tasered and even choked by the police force in the video.

Did you know? The original investigation into the Puerto Rico Police Department was initiated in part by the ACLU’s complaints about police abuse and brutality.

Suggested Resources: To learn more about the campaign, visit the “Police Brutality and Suppression of First Amendment Rights in Puerto Rico” page, and also check out coverage on the issue from the New York Times and NPR.  The ACLU also has a separate video that focuses specifically on the targeting of journalists by the PRPD.

Join the Conversation: This video from ACLU does a good job of simply combining footage and photographs to document how the PRPD is abusing citizens by using unnecessary force. But by itself it doesn’t give much context to the situation or offer ways for the viewer to take action (aside from the ACLU site link at the end).

What are some ways that this video could be done differently to reflect the campaign’s goals and have a clear advocacy message? How could this footage be re-purposed for advocacy around the likely next stage of work on this campaign – ensuring that the PRPD implements the recommendations in the DOJ report?

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