Yesterday morning (around 10:45a), it was pouring down rain in Austin. I was driving north in bumper to bumper traffic on HWY 183 to get to City Hall, and I noticed cars around me swerving just before the bridge that crosses over the Colorado River. I saw the silhouette of a man standing in the middle of the road, facing traffic, moving from side to side. As I got closer I noticed him hitting cars as they passed by, and shouting at them. When he approached me I was pulling to the far right lane, he shouted something, threw up his hands, and then turned back around to shout at other drivers.
At that moment, I decided to stop the car. I rolled down my window and shouted at him to get in the car. He looked stunned, and walked over to my window, and just stood there. I told him to get in. He then ran over to the passenger side of the car, and jumped in.
I asked him where he needed to go. He said that he was just kicked out of his house by his partner, and that no one was willing to stop to help him out. I asked him again where he needed to go, and he said back to his house. I told him that would be a very bad idea, and that we needed to get him to a safe place where he could calm down and dry out. No more than 40 feet down the road, he shouted, “turn there!”
It was too late to turn so I kept going straight, but there we saw an Austin Police Department squad car slowly approaching the intersection. Another 50 feet down the road was another APD cruiser that had pulled to the side of the road driving southbound, with it’s emergency lights on (but not siren).
I asked the man if he realized that the police were about to taze or shoot him. He said no, and didn’t understand why the police would harm him, because all he needed was a ride after getting kicked out of his house. I explained to him that Austin Police beat, frame, rape, and murder people all the time. That they have particularly quick trigger fingers when it appears that someone is having a mental health episode. And that he needed to be very careful in Austin.
I dropped him off at a gas station, and gave him a $10 bill. I don’t know if he was able to calm down and fix his situation, but I do know that if I hadn’t stopped that the chances that he would have been seriously injured or killed by the police were much greater than the risks I faced in picking him up. And I know that the police would have been fully supported by the public if they executed a “crazy man who was attacking cars in the middle of Highway 183 during a rainstorm.”
There’s a difference between protecting & serving people and preying on people. The members of the Peaceful Streets Project seek to protect & serve the public. We have repeatedly come to the aid of people in need. The Austin Police Department, however, has repeatedly used threats of violence, actual violence, and arrests to harm people who are in need. We do not need violent, criminal cops. What we need is more community.
Over nearly four years of filming the police, we have found an undeniable pattern of selective policing in the City of Austin. While the City of Austin often claims to be progressive and compassionate, and that takes into account the dignity and rights of the homeless population, the reality is that the police force sees this populations as one to be bullied and beaten for sport.
We have observed and filmed numerous instances of the Austin Police Department harassing, abusing, and arresting the homeless for “crimes” that the rest of society (except people of color) does not get harassed for.
On the evening of December 3, 2015, independent photojournalist Julian Reyes filmed Austin Police Officers Corporal Quint Wayne Sebek #3454 and Officer Douglas Ellis #6966 assaulting a handcuffed, black, homeless woman in Caritas on 6th and Neches. Observing and then joining in on the assault is Officer Jeffery Aumada Rodriguez #6977. You’ll also see Officer Zachary Scott Baldridge #7042 and Sergeant Thomas Hugonnett #2568 standing around watching the woman being abused. SGT Hugonnett is the supervisor of the gang of thug cops.
According to the information we gathered the police claimed they had probable cause to arrest the woman because she allegedly littered near the Arch. While littering is a ticketable offense, SGT Hugonnett thought it would be more appropriate to arrest the woman and throw her in jail for the night than to ticket her. This is part of the city’s continued war on the homeless. While walking to Caritas, Officer Baldridge gave an illegal order telling the photojournalist that he had to stand back for no logical reason other than preventing him from effectively filming the situation.
And when the photojournalist filmed through the window of Caritas, it made sense why the cops wanted him to stand back. They don’t mind assaulting people on camera, but they prefer to do it off camera.
Cops are terrorist scum. The Austin Police in particular are terrorist scum who target people of color and the homeless. This woman was unfortunately both black and homeless. The City of Austin’s war on the homeless must end. If there were any “good” cops in Austin they’d be going after other cops before they went after those who are the weakest.
Originally filmed by Lizzardo Giganticus. His YouTube channel can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC799Js51k__8lGA5WR1tdVw
PRESS RELEASE: Austin Police Illegally Arrest Peaceful Streets Project Organizer Joshua Pineda; Continues to Wage War Against First Amendment
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 10th, 2016
The Austin Police Department continued their practice of violating the First Amendment rights of police accountability activists on Sunday morning. At approximately 12:58 A.M., Joshua Pineda, a lead organizer with the Peaceful Streets Project, was arrested while filming police officers harassing a young black man.
While filming the police downtown, Joshua Pineda and a half dozen other Peaceful Streets Project copwatchers observed Austin Police repeatedly shoving a young black man near the northeast corner of Trinity & 6th Streets. The young black man did not appreciate being repeatedly shoved, and began to legally voice his displeasure to the police. While most of the police turned and walked away, Officer Cameron Staff #6830 decided that he would escalate the situation. Officer Staff apparently didn’t like the young man’s protest, and proceeded to follow the young man across the street. By doing so, Officer Staff highlighted APD’s tendency to needlessly escalate situations as opposed to mindfully deescalating them.
With the Peaceful Streets Project following behind to document the situation, various other APD officers followed. Joshua legally went to a knee to film Officer Staff bullying the young black man. While Joshua Pineda never interfered by any stretch of the imagination or the law (TX Penal Code 38.15), Corporal Richard Mears #3564 walked over to him and ordered him to move back. In doing so, Corporal Mears violated APD Policy 302.2(c)6. Given an illegal order, Joshua Pineda continued to exercise his First Amendment right to document government officials engaging in racist policing. Corporal Mears then illegally arrested Joshua Pineda.
The Peaceful Streets Project has had previous contact with both Officer Staff and Corporal Mears. On November 18, 2015, a Peaceful Streets Project volunteer filmed Staff refusing to identify himself in violation of APD Policy 900.4.4. And on March 20, 2016, a Peaceful Streets Project volunteer filmed Corporal Mears defending Officer Cameron Caldwell #7408 who illegally assaulted a handcuffed, detained, young black man during SXSW. In the video, you can hear CPL Mears claiming that Officer Caldwell was a “great guy” who “took care of business” and “took the fight out of [his handcuffed victim].”
We have no doubt that these two officers have been emboldened by the cowardice of the Chain of Command up to and including Chief Hubert Arturo “Art” Acevedo, city and county prosecutors, City Manager Marc Ott, Mayor Steve Adler, and the City Council who have repeatedly turned a blind eye to the repeated and endless train of criminal acts by the Austin Police Department against the people.
The Peaceful Streets Project dares the Austin Police Department to immediately release the videos that Joshua Pineda took of the incident, as well as the HALO videos and body camera videos that will prove Joshua Pineda’s innocence. We want the people of Austin to see for themselves that the only criminals in this incident were the Austin Police. Or does the Austin Police Department have something to hide? The answer to that question will lead you to the reason that the Austin Police Department continues to wage war against peaceful activists who dare to exercise their First Amendment right to film the police.
The Austin Police continue to bring violence to our streets; politicians and prosecutors need to stop sitting on the sidelines
“The protection of life is the primary core value and guiding principle of the Austin Police
Department.” –Austin Police 2015 Policy Manual
On Monday, February 8, 2016, Austin Police officer Geoffrey Freeman shot and killed 17-year old David Joseph. According to Asst. Chief Brian Manley, young Mr. Joseph was naked, running toward the officer, and refusing to obey the officer’s orders, causing Officer Freeman to shoot him, in spite of the fact that APD officers are usually issued Tasers, pepper-spray, and batons, and given training in hand-to-hand combat as part of their academy training.
We, in the Peaceful Streets Project remember the outcry after the 2013 APD shooting of Larry Jackson Jr., “Don’t run from the police, and you won’t get shot.” Apparently, running toward the police isn’t much better, or for that matter, and if the death of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo. is any indication, neither is kneeling down with your hands in the air.
As the name, “Peaceful Streets” would imply, we seek peaceful solutions to the problem of APD violence and brutality, but it seems to be of no avail. Several of us have trusted in the system, and spoken for our allotted three minutes to the Austin City Council, the Public Safety Commission, and the Citizens’ Review Panel, only to be ignored by the members of all three panels. Our members marched and protested in a Rally Against Police Brutality, only to be tackled, tased, pepper-sprayed, threatened with shotguns, and arrested by the Austin Police.
Needless to say, there will be protests and demonstrations over the coming days. The momentum is building, as every new APD shooting brings even more activists to the cause, and as the families of those killed in the past link up with the newest victims, to seek the justice that they have yet to find in our flawed court system. Knowing APD’s history of violent reaction to any criticism of APD violence, we fear that, in spite of our mission, the streets of Austin will be anything but peaceful over the coming days. We will be there, not only providing video documentation of APD’s actions, but first aid and support for the protesters, bringing antacids, baby shampoo, and water for pepper-spray victims, and ice and bandages for taser and baton injuries.
We do, in fact, seek a peaceful resolution to this situation, to avoid a violent resolution. We ask that the Austin Mayor and City Council step in and protect the safety of the public from their Public Safety department. We ask that APD’s policy actually be implemented as true policy instead of simply being a “guideline,” and we ask that the Travis County District Attorney investigate and prosecute this case vigorously, through the Grand Jury hearing, criminal trial, and any appeals.We fear that if APD officers continue to kill with impunity, sooner or later, a family member is going to seek justice outside of the court system.
We’re still trying to “trust the system.” We ask that the “system” validate that trust, instead of abusing it.
We Can Say Screw Daniel Holtzclaw and Still Advocate Abolishing Prison: To End the Police State We Must #AbolishPrison
The Peaceful Streets Project had long ago given up on trying to appeal to or appease the sensibilities of the average tough-on-crime, law and order, police-loving American. We toyed with the idea of appealing to the average person so that we didn’t offend or turn off large segments of society in our attempts to bring an end to institutional violence. But over the past several years it has become more than apparent that the average American is irrelevant to our efforts. Not because we would not appreciate their support, but because their support cannot efficiently be won, and because it is adds little to nothing to our efforts.
We live in a society that appreciates order, even if that order is oppressive and destroys the lives of millions. Our society is no different than any society that has preceded it. While there have been tiny flashes of revolution and progress over the centuries or millennia, even in those limited remarkable moments in time, the general populace has most often wanted to moderate the efforts of the tiny number of revolutionaries to limit the change so that daily life would not be disrupted too much.
Today, we see the pathetic racists and classists who support the police. These people claim that there is a “war on police” and that “Blue Lives Matter.” They reflexively defend cops who are caught murdering or raping people, while slandering their victims. And when we point out or mimic their hypocrisy, they whine and cry about how cold-hearted we are. These people are the obvious enemy of a freer society wherein terrorists could no longer pose as peace officers. However, another enemy of bringing an end to the police state are the many who believe they are advocates of progress and change. These are the “reformists.” The people who believe that we can alter the current system of tyranny and oppression that has destroyed or significantly harmed the lives of scores of millions of Americans by simply changing the incentives or policies of police, prosecutors, and politicians. They think they are helping, and many have wonderful intentions, but in reality, they are impediments to change.
The current system of policing was built to oppress and marginalize the marginalized and oppressed. It was built to murder indigenous peoples, to enslave and kill black people, and to crush labor movements. Trying to turn this system of policing into something that is socially beneficial is akin to what would have happened if the Nazis won World War II and people tried to argue that they later needed to simply alter the mission of the Schutzstaffel or SS so that they could promote peace in a more progressive society. Systems of oppression should be abolished, not reformed. This is why we advocate for the abolition of prison.
Prisons perpetuate injustice and they create more victims than they help. The overwhelming majority of people in prisons are there despite not having harmed anyone, or they have previously been victims themselves. When they are taken away from their friends, families, and communities, they are further traumatized and become more likely to harm others in the future (either inside or outside of prison). And when they are incarcerated, the friends, families, and communities they leave behind are being punished despite not being responsible for the alleged crimes that the incarcerated were imprisoned over.
And aside from a sense of vengeance from a hateful populace who wants to see people they typically do not know punished for going against the social order, prisons do not benefit society in any appreciable way. The victims of crime rarely receive “justice” by having their perpetrators thrown in a cage. Prisons do not help make the victims whole. They do not reimburse the victims for their ordeals. They also do not provide the victims with trauma counseling. Prisons do not undo assaults, burglaries, rapes, or murders. All they do is take an alleged victimizer (or law breaker) off the streets and create more victims out of the people who care about the victimizer.
This past Thursday, January 21, 2016, serial rapist and Oklahoma City Officer Daniel Holtzclaw was sentenced to 263 years in prison for raping 13 black women in 2013 and 2014. We celebrated this rare conviction because hundreds of thousands of American police have beaten, framed, raped, and/or murdered people without consequence. We mocked him for crying like a little baby when he was convicted in part as a reaction to seeing far too many innocent people convicted for simply standing up to a cop, or for being black, or for being homeless, or for being mentally ill. And if prisons exist, we sure as hell want criminal cops to see the insides of them.
But we still demand an end to prisons. We still envision a future where prisons do not exist. We envision a future where society prioritizes helping the victims and their families via restitution, therapy, and compassion. We envision a future where offenders are treated, as well. Even rapists and murderers need help. They need treatment to deal with the factors that drove them to harm others. They do not need to merely be thrown in a cage to rot away for years or decades. We need to move beyond the focus on punishment and retribution, we need to move toward rehabilitation, restitution, and healing.
Many reform-minded people have attacked us recently for demanding an end to prisons even though Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted. They claim that this is a proper use of prisons. That finally, the system worked, and that that is somehow a reason to support prisons moving forward. But we can appreciate that the system has finally treated a cop like the system treats poor people or people of color, for a change, while still being offended at the notion of prisons.
Is one terrorist cop being thrown in a cage for the rest of his life sufficient to argue that prisons have some value? The answer is a resounding no. Daniel Holtzclaw is a scumbag of the highest order. He is the logical extension of the violence and corruption that is inherent in American policing. There should be severe consequences for these individuals who have the greatest power to use violence in our society, and who use it in the most horrific ways. However, arguing that this scum bag is an argument for prisons completely glosses over his many victims. How many of his victims were coerced precisely because of the power he had to send them to prison? And how many people has scum bag Holtzclaw sent to prison? Does sending one scum bag to prison for life make up for scores of millions of lives destroyed or damaged? Of course not.
Prisons simply do not belong in a civilized society. On death row alone, where (if you believe in the barbaric notion of state executions) the standard for a death penalty conviction should be nothing less 100% proof of guilt, the state exonerates one death row inmate for every ten it executes. Think about that for a moment. That is an error rate of 9% (assuming that trend continues for all the people still on death row). An error rate of 9% where the consequence of a mistake is an innocent person being murdered. If our society screws up to such a high degree on the most violent criminal cases with the most severe consequences, imagine how many more of the 2.2 million people in prison or jails are innocent? Is sending one filthy scum bag cop to prison for life worth so many innocent people behind bars? Is it even worth so many “guilty” people in prison or jail?
We as a society must evolve. We must seek to become a civilized society. Societies with prisons and jails are the opposite of civilized. We must seek nothing less than the abolition of police, jails, and prisons.
However, until that moment we are willing to compromise with the state and with the reformists. Empty the prisons and fill them with police.
The Peaceful Streets Project has decided to update our Cop Watch Code of Conduct. We are fully committed to anti-oppression in principle and practice. As such, we commit to being vocally anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobia, anti-xenophobia, and anti other forms of oppression. We commit to distancing ourselves from police accountability activists who choose to continue to engage in oppressive language and acts. And, knowing that we are imperfect and always need to improve ourselves, we commit to continued internal discussions, trainings, and actions to combat our own biases and shortcomings.
The newest addition to our Cop Watch Code of Conduct is “PSP participants will be committed to anti-oppression in our dealings with each other and the community. We do not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, or other forms of oppression.”
The Peaceful Streets Project and her members have long been targets of the criminal cops of the Austin Police Department. Ever since the illegal arrest of founder Antonio Buehler on New Year’s Day 2012, the Austin Police Department, with the help and support of prosecutors, have attempted to bring Buehler and the Peaceful Streets Project down. Buehler has been arrested a half dozen times, while other members of the Peaceful Streets Project have been arrested an additional half dozen times — all for daring to try to hold the police accountable. Fortunately for the Peaceful Streets Project, we have had good representation for each bogus charge brought forth, and we have been cleared of all charges.
Unfortunately for us, the police have gone much further than just arresting us on the streets. For example, they had previously tried to have us labeled as domestic extremist threats, they have lobbied the District Attorney to attempt to indict us on trumped up felony charges, and they continue to slander us in the media. And these actions haven’t been led by a few “bad apples” in the department–they have been directed and led by the Hubert Arturo “Art” Acevedo, the Chief of Police.
Most recently, after the illegal arrest of Antonio Buehler and Mike Smith on August 2, 2015, Hubert Acevedo and his minions floated the lie that Buehler had gotten in the officers’ faces which would supposedly give the cops enough probable cause to arrest Buehler for Interference with Public Duties.
However, there are two problems with such an assertion. First, all the video evidence that exists proves that the cops lied. Buehler never got in the cops’ faces. Instead, Buehler stood still as the police officers repeatedly approached him, violating his space, and intimidating and threatening him for exercising his First Amendment rights. In all, there are a half dozen videos that were taken by the Peaceful Streets Project, and HALO video and cell video taken by the Austin Police Department that proves that the cops lied.
Second, irrespective of guilt or innocence, the Chief of Police nor any other police officer should never comment publicly in a manner which could suggest guilt against a criminal defendant. On August 29, 2015, Hubert Acevedo violated basic decency and professional standards in sending out a tweet which suggested that Buehler gets in the faces of police officers when filming them. Through his unprofessional actions, Hubert Acevedo brought discredit to an already corrupt department and profession.
Buehler filed the official complaint with the Office of the Police Monitor (OPM) on January 20, 2016. As with all complaints, we fully expect this one to be papered over. We post the contents of the complaint below, publicly, as a service to the people who the system does not represent. We will provide an update when Hubert Acevedo or one of his minions determines that he did not violate policy.
Narrative-description of what happened:
I am a member of the Peaceful Streets Project. We are a grassroots community activist organization that attempts to change culture so that police do not abuse people or commit crimes, and so that members of the public will hold the police accountable. One of our primary activities as an organization is filming the police (“cop watch”) while they are performing their duties in public. On the night of August 1, 2015, I joined a group of Peaceful Streets Project volunteers downtown to cop watch in the Sixth Street area. During that cop watch, I was harassed on multiple occasions for filming the police, and ultimately illegally arrested for exercising my First Amendment rights.
More specifically, I was arrested by SGT Randy Dear, Officer Aljoe Garibay, and other police officers for Interference with Public Duties while I legally stood in a public street filming the police. SGT Dear had approached me in the moments leading up to the arrest, and at previous times in the night, getting so close that he placed his face in front of my camera. At no point in any of my interactions with SGT Dear did I ever move my body or my arm toward him to place a camera in his face. Every single time that my camera was in close proximity to his face he had moved his body and face toward my stationary or retreating camera.
In the days following the arrest we released multiple videos that proved that the claims made by Officer Aljoe Garibay in the probable cause affidavit, and by the other officers in their supplementary reports, were abject lies. It is apparent to even the most inattentive person that the only reason why a camera was ever in close proximity to SGT Dear or any other police officer’s face was because they approached me and stuck their face in my camera. I will be able to transfer those videos to a hard drive during my interview with IA/OPM. Furthermore, the HALO cameras that the Austin Police operates and controls also showed that the only time that my camera ever got close to any police officer’s face was when the police officer approached me while I stood my ground.
Despite having irrefutable evidence that I was not guilty of any crime, that the arrest was illegal, and that the affidavits and statements written against me were filled with lies, Hubert Acevedo chose to use his position as Chief of Police to mischaracterize my actions while there were pending criminal charges against me. On August 29, 2015, he reposted on Twitter a screenshot of a Peaceful Streets Project Facebook post I had authored. My initial post was intended to highlight the manner in which police and their supporters often slander the dead immediately after an officer involved shooting, and it also highlighted the hypocrisy of many police officers and their supporters who get offended at public information office tactics when used against police officers. In his tweet, Hubert Acevedo added, “This is how mind of so-called peaceful activist works & why police officers don’t want him inches from their face.”
My complaint(s) is/are:
1. Hubert Acevedo violated APD Policies 301.1, 301.2 by using his position and reach to perpetuate false criminal allegations against me. This was discriminatory in nature because he does not use social media to suggest other criminal defendants are guilty of the crimes they are charged with, but has repeatedly targeted me in his social media posts.
2. Through his actions, Hubert Acevedo violated APD Policy 301.3, further eroding APD’s standing with the community.
3. Hubert Acevedo violated APD Policy 455.5(b)1 by using Twitter to make comments suggesting that I was guilty of the fraudulent charges levied against me on August 2, 2015. At the time he made these comments, the charges were still pending against me.
4. Hubert Acevedo violated APD Policy 900.3.1 by perpetuating the lie that I get within inches of police officers’ faces. If Hubert claims that he was ignorant of the ample evidence that proves that I wasn’t getting within inches of officers’ faces then he is either lying or profoundly incompetent.
5. Hubert Acevedo also violated APD policy 900.3.2. Hubert’s position as Chief coupled with his misuse of social media to attack the character of someone who was wrongfully arrested by his police officers is in every way a despicable act. Even if I were legally arrested, which I wasn’t, it would have still been improper for him to mischaracterize my actions in a way that could potentially influence a jury pool.
This is a formal complaint. This incident presents policy violations that warrant closer examination to identify, address and correct officer conduct. I request that Anthony Hipolito not be staffed on this complaint given his prior role misleading the media regarding my now infamous New Year’s Day 2012 arrest.
We have had a most remarkable several months to end 2015 and are thrilled to go into 2016 with tremendous momentum. This will be our best year ever – guaranteed.
To recap, we ratcheted up our cop watch actions in late summer. As we continued to legally cop watch to bear witness to police activity, deter police from abusing people, and to empower others to stand up for their community members, we found certain members of the Austin Police Department were eager to threaten us (e.g., SGT Randy Dear, SGT Adam Johnson, Ofc Dawn Leonard) or assault us (e.g., CPL Quint Sebek, Ofc Zachary Baldridge).
On August 2nd SGT Randy Dear, CPL Quint Sebek, and Ofc Aljoe Garibay assaulted and illegally arrested Antonio Buehler and Mike Bluehair (from Film The Police Portland) on Sixth Street in Austin. The arrest affidavits that were filed were filled with lies and were easily refuted by the numerous videos that the members of the Peaceful Streets Project took. Unsurprisingly, prosecutors dropped the charges against Buehler and Bluehair. The police have arrested Buehler and other members of the Peaceful Streets Project nearly a dozen times, but they have failed to secure a single conviction against us. Sadly, we will continue to get arrested because the police are never held accountable for their crimes. But this is a long fight, and we will eventually win. Until then, we will continue to shame these cops in the most public ways possible. We wrote up a detailed blog post detailing how the arrest affidavits were filled with lies, coupled with videos of the incident.
In November Playboy Magazine featured a story on copwatching, and Antonio Buehler and the Peaceful Streets Project opened and closed the story. The author Frank Owen beautifully laid out some of the various approaches to cop watch and gave context to the August 2nd arrest that local media is apparently afraid to touch upon. This, coupled with endless puff pieces for the Austin Police by local media, made us realize that there is potentially much more value to working with national media or outlets with broad reach outside of Austin than working with local stations who seem to take their marching orders from APD. Since then, we have worked with two documentary series that will feature Peaceful Streets Project in upcoming episodes, and we are working with a documentary crew that will be following us for at least the next year. Stay tuned for updates!
With our increased actions we have also received support from donors to upgrade our cop watch capabilities. Thanks to generous donations we have been able to purchase 8 camcorders, 3 actions cameras, a livestream camera, a professional still camera, and a quadcopter, along with various other technologies that assist us in our work. The quality of our cop watch videos has really shot up, and we have already been able to provide high quality raw video to several victims of Austin Police so they can use it in their criminal defense and potentially in any future civil suits against the City of Austin and the criminal cops. We could certainly use more donations as we have some exciting plans for 2016, so please consider donating if you have the capacity and interest in doing so. We have a rally campaign set up, and you can find additional ways to donate on our webpage. Additionally, you can always purchase us something off of our Amazon.com wish list.
In December, six members of the Peaceful Streets Project had the great privilege of going to St. Louis to train with WeCopwatch. WeCopwatch had been cop watching for years before PSP formed, and in the past year and a half they have helped set up cop watch organizations in several cities. Of note, they helped set up the Canfield Watchmen in Ferguson after the Michael Brown killing, and WeCopwatch Baltimore after the Freddie Gray killing. While in St. Louis we were able to engage in joint training and cop watch with WeCopwatch as their first official Cop Watch College class. We also had the opportunity to go into Ferguson to rebuild a memorial in the spot where Michael Brown was murdered by Officer Darren Wilson. Although the memorial was taken down the next day, the experience was sobering, humbling, and inspiring. The Canfield Watchmen kicked the police out of the Canfield Green Apartments, showing us it can be done, and now WeCopwatch is building a central training space down the road for cop watchers nationwide.
In the coming year we are elevating our direct actions to the next level. The frequency of our cop watching has already risen, and we will continue to put more cameras on the street on a weekly basis. We will be hosting several Know Your Rights trainings, and we are looking for more opportunities to do so. We will also be collecting and analyzing data to identify improved ways of exposing police crime. We will also continue to file police abuse complaints and file civil rights suits, although we recognize that the system is a woefully inept way of trying to achieve justice – we will do it for documentation and discovery purposes. Also, we plan to host WeCopwatch in Austin in return for their hosting us in St. Louis.
You can get involved with the Peaceful Streets Project! We are holding public monthly meetings at Bennu Cofffehouse in E. Austin at 8p on the first Wednesday of each month. Our first monthly meeting for 2016 was held this Wednesday. We are holding public cop watches on the fourth Saturday of each month, as well. Our public cop watch events will initially meet at Bennu Coffehouse, as well, but at 9p. We also have ample volunteer opportunities outside of cop watch for those who don’t want to risk getting arrested. Come to a meeting to discuss! And once again, you can always donate to help us empower our volunteers to drive change in the streets.
Peaceful Streets Project founder files complaint against cop who interfered with cop watch and assaulted him
The Peaceful Streets Project was founded by Antonio Buehler in response to the the Austin Police Department cover up of the crimes committed against him and another person by Officers Patrick Oborski #4736 and Robert Snider #6846 on January 1, 2012, as well as numerous other cases of police abuse, corruption, crime, and violence that were uncovered in the months following the New Year’s Day incident.
Buehler and several other members of the Peaceful Streets Project initially tried to use the avenues provided to them by the system to get justice through formal complaints, pleas for criminal charges, and civil suits. In each instance, despite PSP members’ innocence, compelling evidence of cop misconduct and crime, and evidence of lies and perjured documents by the offending police officers and their superiors, the cops were not only cleared of criminal wrongdoing, they were neither fired nor disciplined for their misdeeds. In fact, while politicians and the police used the media to slander PSP members, some of the cops were given awards in spite of their criminal conduct.
In the face of such gross injustice (not to diminish the even greater injustice of Austin cops raping and murdering people), which required not only the support of the entire police chain of command, but also the support of local politicians and prosecutors, the members of the Peaceful Streets Project quickly came to realize that the system would not and will never police itself. Nor does the system have any interest in reforming itself from violent institutions that expend enormous resources to prey upon the marginalized and oppressed into peaceful institutions that promote accountability and justice while also ensuring that their actions do not further harm the marginalized and oppressed.
The Peaceful Streets Project instead is focused on engaging in direct action tactics that will draw a dedicated cadre of activists who will ultimately empower communities to engage in larger scale, coordinated actions that will create alternatives to and ultimate make obsolete the violent status quo known as the criminal justice system.
While our focus is on imagining, planning and engaging in radical direct actions, some of us have decided that we will once again utilize certain establishment approved processes when appropriate. We do so knowing that these processes are meant to provide the veneer of accountability while fooling the populace into believing they have a say in how the system is operated. We do not expect our actions to actually result in police officers or other officials being disciplined, fired, arrested, or tried for their corruption and crimes. We simply plan to use these processes to highlight the absurdity that is the system by formally documented the efforts that police, prosecutors, judges, politicians, and the media will go through to prevent justice from prevailing. While the system may eventually sacrifice a cop to the process in order to make the public believe that sometimes the system works, those who are paying attention will recognize that far more often than not the worst criminal cops are the ones who are most protected by the system.
We will post some of those efforts on this webpage. The first attempt is a formal complaint that Antonio Buehler has filed against Officer Zachary Scott Baldridge #7042 for his actions on the night of June 13, 2015. Buehler was with a team of Peaceful Streets Project copwatchers that same evening in downtown Austin. When the Peaceful Streets Project team observed a disturbance and policing surrounding a young man, the PSP team moved in to film the incident. Baldridge zeroed in on Buehler and blocked his view. Each time Buehler tried to move to a different position to film the incident, Baldridge moved to place his head and body in front of Buehler’s camera. Eventually, Baldridge shoved Buehler when he allowed Baldridge to block his view, which constitutes assault.
The video to that incident is embedded in this post, and the formal complaint can be found here: 15.12.02 Baldridge Complaint Affidavit for upload. Consider this an evolution of our Police Abuse Complaint Department. Through the video and the complaint, it should become quite apparent that Baldridge (and probably SGT Randy Dear #4422) broke both Austin Police Department policy and Texas state law. We will provide you follow ups on the progress and outcomes of the so-called disciplinary and criminal processes that are supposed to take place in the aftermath of documenting these policy violations and cop crimes. Don’t hold your breath that justice will be served — for that we need you to get involved in Peaceful Streets Project actions.
UPDATE 1: On December 3, 2015, we were informed that no use of force report was filed. That means at a minimum that Officer Zachary Baldridge failed to file a required report, and the SGT Randy Dear failed in his duty to ensure the report was filed.
UPDATE 2: On February 4, 2016, we were informed that the case was not being submitted to SIU for an investigation into criminal action by Officer Zachary Baldridge. So that means that either cops are allowed to assault cop watchers, or that shoving someone in the chest in not assault. It would be interesting to find out if the Austin Police Department is willing to allow people to shove their coward cops in the chest.
The USA loves violence, especially when it is directed toward the poor and homeless, women, LGBTQ persons, the mentally ill, and people of color. Our police apparatus exists in order to defend hegemonic power and property. Police are given the power to beat, to invade, to rape, and to kill with impunity, and people love the police because they love violence, subjugation, and control.
One of the most popular and enduring TV shows of our time, Law and Order: SVU, consists of a never-ending sensationalist exhibition of the torture, rape, and murder of women. Its ostensible “feminist” purpose is to illustrate the problem of violence against women and the “heroic” efforts of the paternalistic police to combat it. The detectives decide who is a “good victim” and often engage in victim blaming, exploitation, and worse. It is a nasty, misogynistic, pornographic spectacle that perpetuates the basest attitudes and thoughts about women.
The idea of the good cop makes no epistemological sense. In service to an oppressive system that commits daily assaults, rapes, and murders, being a good cop is like being a good soldier in an immoral war which, like almost all wars, exists in order to abuse the vulnerable.
As a society, we have long ago decided to allow the state, through its policing apparatus, the authority to decide who has freedom and even life. But fascism needs more and more bodies to exploit and to destroy in order to fuel its growth. By definition, the police need the ability to beat, to rape, and to murder.
In this video, Officer Martin of the Austin Police Department publicly flaunts his entitlement to rape young women. He carries the smugness and the nonchalance of the serial rapist and abuser. With all the power of the state behind him, why should he expect any consequences this time? Indeed his own police chief became nationally notorious for minimizing rape by officers, and his fellow officers’ jokes about “un-raping” women were parodied on the international hit Orange is the New Black.
Notice, however, how his demeanor changes when he is held accountable by members of the Peaceful Streets Project. He can’t scurry away fast enough.
It would not be sufficient for Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo to take the badge away from this rapist and to put him in prison. The whole system is deeply diseased. The problems are so insidious and so overwhelming that it can be tempting for members of oppressed classes to turn away into depression, isolation, or escapism.
But social movements throughout history show us that they can beat us, rape us, even kill us, but that when we come together and expose the truth, we still have agency.