Video activism demonstrates its power

IssueOctober 2008
News by Emily Johns , Milan Rai

From Afghanistan to Palestine to Minnesota, video activism has been proving its value over the past few months.
It was video shot on a local doctor’s mobile phone that forced the Pentagon to drop its claim that only seven civilians died in Nawabad.
The footage, viewable on the web (see p2), shows dozens of bodies lying in the local mosque the morning after the massacre.

In July, in Palestine, video recorded by Salam Kanaan, 17, showed the world a cuffed and blindfolded Palestinian being shot by an Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldier at point-blank range with a rubber-coated steel bullet
Ashraf Abu Rahma, 27, was demonstrating against the Israeli “separation wall” in the West Bank village of Nil’in, when was detained and beaten. He was then shot in the foot – in the presence of an IDF lieutenant colonel, who was holding Ashraf’s arm when the shot was fired.
The video camera was one of over 100 supplied to Palestinians in high-conflict areas by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem as part of the “Shooting Back” video advocacy project.


In St Paul, Minnesota, the police were so fearful of New York-based video activists i-Witness during the Republican National Convention (RNC) that they raided the group’s accommodation and office, detaining and threatening members. They even detained seven members before the RNC!
The police had reason to be worried. Hundreds of cases against people arrested during the 2004 RNC collapsed because videotape evidence completely or partially contradicted police accounts.
Video recently won 52 people $2m compensation for their mass arrest in New York in April 2003.