Capturing the Police

In late May, a police officer took the life of George Floyd — the killing captured on film and distributed wide and far on social media. It was another video in a long history of documenting police brutality, but the footage of Floyd’s death reignited Black Lives Matter protests around the country and inspired one of the largest movements in American history.

But collective action against police violence has itself led to police violence. In many US cities, law enforcement’s response to peaceful protests was harassment, assault, and tear gas. Smartphones continued to be the best defense against an aggressive, militarized police force, enabling people to film and upload footage of what was happening on the ground. But what does it mean when someone decides to hit the record button? And how does it affect the people behind the camera, physically and emotionally?

Capturing the Police is a project from The Verge about how people use technology to bring awareness of police brutality and racism — and what it costs them when they agitate for justice. These are stories about how people use technology to bring awareness to their communities and reshape what it means to have justice in this country. But these are also stories of what people sacrifice to enact that change.

The Peace Reporters

For the people shooting videos of protest and police brutality, using a camera and sharing a video isn’t passive — it is itself an act of protest. The Verge spoke to 11 people who’d filmed videos of police violence across the country, to understand how and why they’d pressed record, what happened afterwards, and whether they would do it again.

This project was edited by Bijan Stephen, produced by Mariya Abdulkaf, designed by William Joel, built by Miriam Nadler, photo-edited by Amelia Holowaty Krales, copy-edited by Kara Verlaney and Adia Watts, and distributed by Esther Cohen, Kaitlin Hatton, Dilpreet Kainth, and Ruben Salvadori.

Videos by Mariya Abdulkaf, Grayson Blackmon, Alix Diaconis, Eleanor Donovan, Phil Esposito, Andrew Marino, Alex Parkin, Vjeran Pavic, William Poor, Sarah Smithers, and Cory Zapatka.

Reporting by Mariya Abdulkaf, Russell Brandom, Justine Calma, Ashley Carman, Monica Chin, Megan Farokhmanesh, Cameron Faulkner, Loren Grush, Sarah Jeong, Andrew Hawkins, Kim Lyons, Adi Robertson, Nick Statt, Bijan Stephen, James Vincent, and Nicole Wetsman.

Additional editing by Mary Beth Griggs, Jake Kastrenakes, Elizabeth Lopatto, Kevin Nguyen, Nilay Patel, and T.C. Sottek. ■

Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images.

The headings in this feature use the Martin typeface from Vocal Type Co. Martin is a typeface inspired by the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968. As they marched, striking workers carried copies of a poster declaring “I AM A MAN,” which intentionally recalled a question abolitionists posed more than 100 years earlier: “Am I Not A Man and A Brother?”

Martin Luther King Jr. eventually joined the cause, and in one of his most famous speeches, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” King placed the strike in a larger context. “The masses of people are rising up,” he said. King was assassinated the next night.

Martin was designed by Tré Seals, the designer and creator of Vocal Type Co.