Richmond Copwatch: Copwatch patrols First Fridays’ comeback

Richmond Copwatch members, like Stiofan Loughman, primarily focused on information distribution during this month's First Friday Art Walk but also consider themselves a deterrent for any potential incidents of police brutality.

Mason Brown
Staff Writer

Richmond Copwatch members, like Stiofan Loughman, primarily focused on information distribution during this month's First Friday Art Walk but also consider themselves a deterrent for any potential incidents of police brutality. Photo by Chris Conway.

Stiofan Loughman is a resident of the northside of Richmond. He is politically active with numerous organizations and is involved with helping the homeless and hungry of Richmond. He is also considered a terrorist.

Stiofan Loughman is an anarchist.

“I’m a terrorist. I’m on a list,” said Loughman while training fellow “copwatchers” in Monroe Park on Friday, Oct. 7.

“Copwatch is basically a tool to observe and report police activity for hopes of police accountability,” Loughman said. “The two major functions are a deterrent to police brutality or to catch them in the act and serve infractions upon them.”

Richmond Copwatch is an organization that meets during the First Fridays art walk and patrols for actions they consider heinous committed by police. The main goals of the group are to reduce police violence, empower and unite the community to resist police abuse, encourage problem-solving without the use of police and to encourage communities to exercise their rights to observe the police. Richmond Copwatch exists without leadership in order to follow the anarchist ideals in which the organization is based.

According to Richmond Copwatch members, in the past they have had tasers put into their face and been arrested on charges that later got dropped as they entered court.

Richmond Copwatch’s goals are not exclusively to observe and report police misconduct, but also to distribute information regarding rights people have with the police.

With the return of First Fridays this past weekend, Copwatch was present to lookout for police misconduct and to distribute information.

According to Loughman, the police presence was markedly lower compared to other recent events.

“We just want this to be a success,” Commander Michael Snawder of the Richmond Police Department said. “This is the return of First Fridays; we’re simply here to deter any actions that could happen.”

“I personally have never had issues with Copwatch,” Snawder said. “I’ve made it clear to them that if they want to show me anything, my doors are always open. I like the idea; I support the idea of having checks and balances. I don’t have a problem with a citizenry watching what we do … because if we’re not doing anything wrong there is nothing to hide. I don’t like when that good intention turns into distraction from my officers.”

According to Snawder, Copwatch sometimes forms a distraction to investigations.

This month’s Copwatch focused on information distribution.

Although the organization is open to anyone, many of the members of the Richmond Copwatch are also associated with the local anarchist collective, The Wingnut.

“They all kind of happen out of the Wingnut. It’s really just a shared membership thing. We’re all anarchist,” said Cameron Coleman, an 18-year-old member of the Wingnut.

“I moved into Richmond from the suburbs, and I started seeing cops perform a lot of f—ed up s— happening to young black people in our neighborhood. It’s one of those things you are taught not to believe, and you see it for real and it makes you really … angry.”

Christina Newton of Cultured Creations, the organizer of First Fridays, said she thinks the actions of Richmond Copwatch are good for the community and the message is important, but the methods by which they communicate their message are, at times, excessive.

“It seems like they aggravate the police just waiting for something to happen,” Newton said.

For more information on Richmond Copwatch visit wingnutrva.org.

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