Have you ever copblocked? Seriously, have you? It’s scary. At least it is to me. I’ve done it dozens of times now, and the fear is there every time. Copblocking is filming the police–making your presence known–in any situation where you see police attempting to talk to, harass, kidnap or cage anyone. Basically, if the wig-wags are flashing, that’s the time for copblocking. And it scares me every time.

How could it not? I help edit submissions for CopBlock.org periodically, which means that in addition to my own encounters with the terrorists who call themselves “police,” I also read the true stories of others. I watch their videos. I know that costumed terrorists lurk within almost every square mile of urban America, and whether or not they’ll admit it aloud, they are, in fact, out to get me. It’s their job.

Today my partner and I were walking to McDonald’s to get some sweet WiFi. “Looks like we’ve got some road pirate activity here,” he said. I looked up from the dead grass that had been holding my attention, and sure enough, a road pirate vehicle was parked directly in the middle of the McDonald’s parking lot. Two (black) (male) teenagers were locked in the back of it. The vehicle that the teenagers had presumably been in was parked with its doors swung wide open.

My partner and I both carry cameras for this very reason. He also edits submissions for CopBlock.org, and is even more acutely aware than I of the extent of the American police state. The kind you don’t hear about on the mainstream news (or any news, really) because the victims are so fucking poor and disenfranchised that few people even know that they’re rotting in a cage unless someone submits a story about it.

We walked around the road pirate vehicle, keeping our distance, and filmed. The road pirate saw us, took out his phone, and called what turned out to be his friends. Within ten minutes, not one, but two more road pirate vehicles rolled into the parking lot, blocking in parked cars of McDonalds’ patrons.

The teenagers in the back of the road pirate vehicle looked at me. That look–the look of someone who knows they’re being recorded while held against their will–makes me feel bad. Because frequently, they look almost embarrassed. Embarrassed for being victims–it makes me feel like shit to see the embarrassment. So I gave them a peace sign and a small smile, as if to say, “I am here for you. I’m not filming you for kicks, but in case you need this footage. These guys are bastards, I know.”

The first road pirate got out of his vehicle, looked at us with an unfathomable face, and walked back to talk to the second road pirate. I heard him. He told his friend, “Yeah, these two people showed up, and they walked around the car, and they’re filming me.”

The second road pirate gave him a “Yeah, they’re uppity little slaves” look and shook his buddy’s hand. They smirked at each other in the fraternity that is the “thin blue line.” The first road pirate went back to his car to continue writing ransom notes for the two teenagers.

My heart was pounding the whole time. People get kidnapped and caged for filming police frequently, in case you didn’t know. And that demeanor you’re supposed to take with cops? The one where you don’t answer questions, or you just answer questions with more questions? I don’t have that demeanor perfected. Not even close. When an order is given to me, I still have to fight my instinct to obey. I hate it. I’m terrible with cops.

There was no way I was going to stand as close to the cops as my partner was. He seems to have no fear of terrorists and their cages. So I stayed back. During the hour that I filmed, I babbled to everyone who walked by, because I desperately wanted someone to stand by me and talk to me. To make it look to the cops like I wasn’t alone, so they’d be less likely to approach me. Loners are easy targets.

Two men took my babbling bait. Each of them stopped and talked to me for about 20 minutes. That really helped. And it just so happened that one of them had just spent four years in a cage for a victimless crime. No doubt the two teenagers were also being held hostage and were about to have their vehicle stolen for a victimless crime. Because I saw no body, no stolen property and no plaintiff claiming damages of any kind.

Eventually the teenagers’ mother or aunt or someone came and they were released to leave in her car. The teenagers’ vehicle was then delivered into the all-too-glad hands of a local towtruck driver, whose best customers are no doubt the police.

The point is, the scarier the situation is, the more need there is to film it. It’s scary because the actors involved are so rarely held accountable. It’s scary because this unaccountability gives them such immense power–fire power, caging power, court power, taxing power, spying power, and–remarkably–public approval power. It is this kind of perfect storm that brews the assaults and murders on peaceful people that happen literally every single day.

It is my selfish request that more people film the police. Because I am so intimidated during the experience. The more people stand near you, the less your heart pounds and the less your hands shake. And it makes for better footage not to have shaking hands. And the police may start to get used to it, and perhaps reconsider their career choice. And best case scenario? Your presence prevents a beating or even saves a life.

And those teenagers? As they sat in the back of their mom’s/aunt’s/guardian’s car, before driving away, one of them looked at me and gave me a thumbs-up.