Recently there has been renewed hubbub around CAPS in Richmond again. CAPS, for those (lucky enough to be unfamiliar with it), stands for Community Assisted Public Safety. It is a joining of efforts of Police, Code Enforcement, and citizens. Lately they have been keeping residents of Richmond  safe by hunting down house shows and punk venues and shutting them down, charging the owners/leasees/proprietors with a variety of misdemeanors and other charges according to news reports.

CAPS, just like Cops, serve a very specific function in our city and society. We can not reform CAPS just as we can not reform Cops.  We might be able to push back in terms of unconstitutional aspects of the overall CAPS program, including dipshit City Councilman Charles Samuels’ noise ordinances, but CAPS is not an abnormality or mistake.

A well written article by Carl Athey in RVA magazine ( called out the apparent hypocrisy in the City of Richmond proudly lauding its arts and music scenes, with the new Arts District and the simultaneous increased policing and harassment of the arts and music scenes, everything from a high admissions tax to police oppression of First Fridays. What I think is important is to realize that the city and powers that be are in fact NOT being hypocritical.

They want arts and music scenes, just not ones that are oppositional to the status quo. In fact, it might be a bad assumption on the part of Athey and others (or maybe they’ve been intentionally tricked) to believe that they are included in the art and music culture that the City wants to build here. 

So to answer Carl’s query to see if  the city will back up their rebranding image by backing down on CAPS- we think not. CAPS and the City are rebranding themselves as Carl mentions- it is highly unlikely that they will want to include broke, dirty, drunk punk kids in that image.

CAPS functions very deliberately.

CAPS uses existing regulations, from building codes to business laws, in order to shut down cultural events that either are not to the taste of the rich people and politicians, or which they are not able to properly profit off of.

CAPS, like City Code Enforcement, like Fire Marshalls, like Cops are used to serve the people in charge. They are a gang of enforcers, who make their decisions on how to enforce laws based on racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and other oppressive foundations they are coming from.

Richmond needs to stop CAPS from functioning as best we can, just as we need to stop Cops from functioning as best we can. We need people who have venues or house shows to get trained in Know Your Rights so they know when they can tell the Cops or CAPS “NO.” and refuse to let them into spaces. We need people who attend these events to all know how to assert their rights when dealing with Cops and CAPS. We need people to learn how to film the Cops and CAPS, and to get videos of all incidents online as quickly as possible. There are probably dozens of ways that people could think of to disrupt the functioning of CAPS- to make their job impossible to fulfill. Standing up to them will be vital. Talking to other people to coordinate that will also be important.Publically calling out the bad behavior of Richmond Police and selective enforcement through the CAPS programs in the media would also be a step in the right direction.

Carl also relates an account of the police intimidation that the manager of the venue The Hospital dealt with. When I read about that instance, it seemed familiar. That level of police harassment or intimidation is commonplace– especially if you are doing anything that pushes back. That the police are so ready to threaten people over essentially a zoning/business licensing dispute should reveal some of the connections between CAPS and Cops, as well as the underlying inherently shitty attitude of the police.

Further connections between the problems with CAPS and with Cops can be drawn from the past couple months of First Fridays Artwalks. We’ve posted numerous articles and accounts from these recent events. The Richmond police have been aggressively dealing with the crowd at First Fridays, specifically the hundreds of young people of color who have been coming out to the event this year. Why would the police mace or ride their horses into the crowd? Shouldn’t they be happy that the event is being such a success?

On the surface, maybe. But with a little understanding of urban re-gentrification schemes and how art walks fall into them, it is clear that young people of color are actually not at all what the organizers of First Fridays or the Richmond Police wanted. Sure it is an Arts District or whatever now- but only for certain types of art. Sure, Richmond prides itself on an awesome music scene, but spontaneous hip hop performances by people of color on a sidewalk get attacked by the police.The Richmond Police and CAPS are both working to, well, for lack of a better word, POLICE the types of music and art and culture that are safe in Richmond.

City Council, Charles Samuels, and all of those other douche bags who support noise ordinances, dance hall ordinances, admission taxes, etc. are not going to back down because punks start emailing them. And we are not saying that to belittle the punks. We are saying that to suggest that we avoid the useless step of liberal reform and move straight into direct action. Lets not ask for the right to have a show or play music or fucking dance. Lets do it and take the direct action necessary to maintain our ability to do it.

See you in the streets.


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