This post was originally made on CopBlock.org. I’m posting it here as well, as who knows what’s going to happen with that site:
Hi, I’m Ian Freeman. I’m one of the original Cop Blockers, which is why I possess badge number five. I’ve been a longtime Cop Blocker, financial supporter and occasional blogger here. Both of Cop Block’s founders, Pete Eyre and Ademo Freeman have lived with me in my home and they are great friends with whom I’ve had some amazing times.
I was alarmed this Summer when Ademo announced that he was putting CopBlock.org up for sale. I wasn’t surprised that he wanted out. Ademo has seen his share of burnout and has suffered greatly in his quest to hold police accountable. Ademo was a trailblazer in police accountability activism and deserves as much of a break as he wants. He’s currently describing himself as a “happily retired activist” and he should be. Our world is better off because Cop Block is in it.
What surprised me about his request to sell the site was the fact that Ademo felt he had to resort to a sale at all. Where were all the Cop Blockers who should have stepped up to take the reins? Ademo had asked the primary contributors to the site about taking over lead roles. Apparently no one stepped up, so Ademo decided to auction the site. When I found this out, I asked around and sure enough, while some people were willing to help, no one wanted to lead.
Ultimately someone made an offer on the site and Ademo accepted. He said the buyer did not want to be known and that the buyer was going to continue the site.
We’re now approximately a quarter-year from that purchase and you can see the posts on the site have dropped off a cliff. Regular posting halted at the end of July and nothing was posted until September 1st when an account with username “COPBLOCK” posted about the most-reported-on police abuse story of the year, the Utah nurse who was violently arrested by a hothead cop (who now thinks he should have his job back, by the way). The post has one sentence and video of the arrest. That’s it.
Gone are the obscure, outrageous stories of police abuse from around the US and globe.
Gone is the incisive libertarian commentary on the police state.
Gone are new videos from Cop Blockers in the streets.
I have no idea who the new owner is and while I am grateful for still being able to post here, I’ve lost my admin privileges and so I can’t look to see who else remains as a blogger. The site also needs some basic maintenance that appears to have been neglected thus far.
So what happened? How did Cop Block, the world’s most popular and effective police-accountability website and group of activists end up on life-support?
As someone who has been around Cop Block from before it began and who lives in the city where Cop Block was incubated, Keene, NH, I think I’m qualified to speak on the matter, so let’s start at the beginning.
Cop Block started after Pete and Ademo’s previous project, Motorhome Diaries. They were traveling the country, looking for freedom in America. Like many of us seeking freedom, it was ironically taken from them by men with uniforms and badges in a place called Jones County, Mississippi. Cop Block began as a result of Ademo and Pete’s desire to encourage people to use cameras to hold police accountable, to know and exercise their rights, and help our neighbors under police threat.
The same year as Cop Block’s founding the again set out on the road for Liberty on Tour and subsequent Cop Block tours. They’d travel from city to city, meeting with police accountability activists across the United States and hitting the streets in classic Cop Block style, inevitably getting charged and threatened by police in countless ridiculous circumstances.
Cop Block grew dramatically as a result. People were emboldened by the excellent examples set by the original Cop Blockers. Local chapters were formed around the globe. Many submitted their video and blog content to the site, and the number of contributors increased. It was with this growth that things started to go wrong.
Even among people who share similar views, groups that grow to a certain size have a tendency to schism. Cop Block was no exception. While the site started from a principled libertarian viewpoint as the contributors expanded people became involved who just hated police and didn’t necessarily share the pro-freedom views of the site’s founders. It’s good that the message of police accountability reaches a wider audience than just libertarians – that’s why Cop Block was far more successful than other libertarian efforts in its time. However, it was a major error to allow non-libertarians blogging ability on this site and Cop Block’s social media. It’s understandable why one would do it – to get more content from people willing to provide it. Unfortunately it ultimately undermined what was the principled pro-liberty message of the original Cop Blockers.
We all make mistakes in life and learn from them. It’s a constant growing process. Ademo realized his error a few years ago and came out of then-semi-retirement to once again take the reigns of control of the decentralized organization he’d created. I can hear some people reading this saying to themselves, “so much for decentralized, he kicked active contributors out!” To clarify, Cop Block was decentralized in that anyone could cop block or form a local group somewhere and the main organization wouldn’t say “you can’t do that”. It’s always been that way. However, running the main website always has to be centralized to some extent. Someone’s gotta be the administrator and make administrative decisions. In this case, Ademo removed a bunch of bloggers and brought it back to a solid core of principled Cop Blockers running things.
Activism is expensive and there’s not much money to be made. Cop Block has sold some killer gear in the website’s store and on their real-life tours. They were able to use the site’s immense popularity to pay their web hosting bills, but the amount coming in each month was paltry. Running Cop Block was a labor of love.
With subsequent arrests, an aborted Cop Block tour, very low revenue for the Cop Block network (an interesting idea that with enough support could have helped people providing pro-level police accountability services to get paid for their efforts) and other parts of life calling out to him, Ademo finally threw in the towel after a final arrest for cannabis possession earlier this year.
What he created with Cop Block has done so much to educate and embolden people across the planet. I hope he enjoys his retirement. Being in the spotlight can be tiresome and I don’t blame anyone for wanting to move on to other things.
However, Ademo’s personal story and the rise and fall of CopBlock.org aren’t necessarily the reason why other Cop Block groups have died out. According to one NH Cop Blocker who audited the CopBlock.org list of local groups, most were completely dead and those that remained were only one or two people strong. Every group surely has its own story, but I’d be willing to bet personality conflicts played a role as well as activist burnout.
Burnout is a real thing. It’s common among all activists. It happens when people don’t get the results they imagined as quickly as they imagined. Being aware that burnout exists won’t necessarily save you from it. We see it all the time here in the libertarian activist center of the world, New Hampshire. Despite having the largest concentration of libertarian activists you can find anywhere, people still get burned out by the slow pace of change that we are successfully fomenting here. Some of them think they can come up here, do some activism and that the police state is just going to disappear.
It’s a big police state out there and they aren’t going to let go of power easily. I can relate to the burned out activists. Like Ademo, I’ve also been arrested more than half-a-dozen times for various civil disobedience. As “Victimless Crime Spree” star Derrick J Freeman and I discussed in our recent Q&A, civil disobedience, while personally empowering, is not a sustainable form of activism. I don’t regret my arrests, but with all of my other responsibilities I’ve had to mellow out over the years and make room for new activists to take the reigns. Unfortunately, the new activists coming to New Hampshire willing to take such risks has slowed to a trickle, and they were never that many to begin with. In the Victimless Crime Spree days five years ago, we truly had the perfect storm of activists in the same place.
Police accountability activism has died down here in New Hampshire, the place where some of the most epic cop blocking has happened, including dozens attending DUI checkpoints in Manchester, chalking arrests outside the Manch police station, smoking pot inside the Keene police department, and awesome civil disobedience in Keene. I could go on-and on. Sadly, a longtime Cop Blocker in Manchester told me today the turnout at a recent DUI checkpoint was dismal, despite dozens being made aware of the event just hours beforehand during a speaking event by Adam Kokesh.
Is your Cop Block group still alive? If so, tell us in the comments. If not, please post your comments about what happened and what went wrong.
One thing that definitely helps activists keep going and avoid burnout is for new blood and therefore new ideas to come into a group. Cop Block groups in most places were very small. Not many people have the courage to confront police in any way, so of course the pool of potential volunteers is quite thin. Of those who do step up, because they are frequently alone or only with a small group, arrests inevitably come, and then the burnout. It’s hard to make an impact with a small group, though you can certainly still help many individuals in the process of Cop Blocking, so it is rewarding. That said, social interaction with other activists helps stave off burnout, and many groups just didn’t have the numbers.
As we’ve learned here from some of the epic disobedience and police accountability work performed by the activists in Keene, NH – numbers matter. To anyone out there who feels alone in your police accountability activism: If you’re a libertarian-minded cop blocker, you really need to consider a move to New Hampshire. Here are 101 reasons why you’ll love it here.
Divided we will surely fall to the evil forces of the state. Staying where you are and standing alone or nearly alone is a recipe for failure. Joining together in the same geographic area with people who share your values and interest in police accountability is the solution to the problems this organization has been suffering.
Unfortunately, Pete and Ademo are both gone from New Hampshire, and we’re all worse off because of it. Pete’s somewhere out West and Ademo’s facing a trial in Ohio. Leaving New Hampshire made them both less-effective activists because they lacked their support network they had here. Their leaving made the movement in New Hampshire weaker, too. Nonetheless, some of us here in Keene are still pushing ahead without them including continued yearly know-your-rights outreach in the college neighborhood, DUI checkpoint interdiction, and old-school cop blocking.
Still, our numbers are small. We need more people to move here who care about actually being successful and increasing liberty in our lifetime as well as holding police accountable on video. You’re not going to end the police state by yourself. They’re just going to cut your head off if you pop it up. Come to New Hampshire and stand with others, peacefully, and use your cameras to shine light on the corruption and violence of the state.
Whatever becomes of CopBlock.org, know that your brothers and sisters are here in the Shire and we could use your help. Should you wish to connect with some of us online, please drop into our brand new NH Copblock forum here.
If you’d like to follow some of the other cool activism happening in NH, please subscribe to or bookmark my main blog site, Free Keene (where you’ll see that Cop Block founders Pete and Ademo are both bloggers – though not really active anymore).
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’ll continue to share my police accountability blogs here at CopBlock.org as long as the site stays online. If it doesn’t, you can find my posts over at Keene Cop Block, Steemit, and Free Keene.