It is Peaceful Streets Project’s hope that Acevedo’s reaction of disgust at the slander rhetoric of a slain officer’s character will provide him with some insight into the injustice of a practice so commonplace in the news media, police press conference rhetoric, and bigoted minded individuals, that much of mainstream white America shows a selective impairment in the identification and expression of similar disdain when the equivalent practice is applied to victims of police abuse—particularly when those victims are black men and boys. Indeed, it is our hope that Acevedo might examine his reaction to this injustice and note that others, when faced with a parallel situation, might dare to feel the same way. Indeed, it is conceivable that just like him, others may likewise conclude, “This is how the mind of so-called Peace Officers work and why some members of our community don’t want officers inches from their face.”
The irony here is that Art Acevedo and his supporters are missing the point entirely, yet driving it home precisely: yes, it is offensive, hurtful, and callous to slander a slain victim irrespective of whatever preconceived notions or judgments a complete stranger has about his or her character. The disproportionate outcry when this happens to a slain officer relative to a slain black person is precisely why the specificity that black lives matter is important. The public already understands that officer’s lives matter—that is why these comments ignite such visceral anger. This reaction is all but absent from large segments of white America when the tables are turned, however, and a black person is slain at the hands of police. Indeed, this outrage and empathy gap betrays the ardent protests that “all lives matter.”
This was posted in response to the predictable outrage that resulted from us using the same rhetoric about a slain police officer that the police, their supporters, and the media use to dehumanize a person of color each time a cop kills one of them.
Last night a Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy was allegedly shot and killed execution style at a gas station. Like clockwork, while ignoring stories of Texas cops executing an unarmed man with his arms in the air and another who was a patient at a hospital, cops and cop supporters went to social media to declare the dead cop a hero while claiming that there is a “war on police.” Their response to a cop getting killed relative to a cop executing someone highlighted how much they believe cop lives matter, versus how much they believe everyone else’s lives matter.
The usual cop worship sickens those of us who have been struggling to try to get society to evolve to the point where they believe that just because you give a bully a badge, a gun, and qualified immunity, doesn’t mean that they should be celebrated for receiving tax dollars to beat, frame, rape, and murder without consequence. Therefore, we decided to post the story of the cop being killed on Facebook, with a comment that mirrored comments made each time a cop kills someone, especially a person of color.
As is common when a cop kills a young person of color, the cops and their supporters are often eager to claim that the victim was involved in criminal activity, and thus, you should then conclude that the extrajudicial killing of the victim was somehow warranted. When you point out that the police officer shouldn’t have executed the person even if they were involved in criminal activity, the cops and their supporters will quickly argue that the victim made bad decisions that put them in the unfortunate position of being executed by a cop. And particularly when the victim is black, you have the usual suspects quickly claiming that the cop murdering a young person can somehow be blamed on the bad or absent parenting the victim received.
Our Facebook post was meant to serve as a mirror for those who reflexively defend criminal cops while slandering their victims. Instead of helping people come to terms with their hypocritical view of crime and personal responsibility, all we got was a bunch of hysterical responses from the people who are so often eager to slander the dead.
Not surprising, the biggest critics were the police officers who make it standard operating procedure to attack the character, the life, and the families of the people they kill. One of the biggest hypocrite cops in America is Austin Police Chief Hubert “Art” Acevedo who quickly shared a screenshot of our post with the comment, “This is how mind of so-called peaceful activist works & why police officers don’t want him inches from their face.” We couldn’t have asked for a better example of a cowardly, criminal, terrorist cop to respond to our posting that that of Acevedo.
First, Acevedo is either stupid enough to not catch onto the fact that we were using the tactics of cops across America to make a point, or dishonest enough that he pretended to not notice it. Either way, that alone gives some indication to the degree to which he is unfit for his job. Second, the mind of a peaceful activist is obviously beyond the comprehension of a tax parasite violent terrorist cop. We endeavor to call out violence and to encourage people to find the courage within themselves to stand up to it. Acevedo and his fellow cops simply endeavor to dispense violence on the people and to promote the cowardice of the profession of policing (e.g., shooting every time they “fear for their lives”). Thirdly, claiming that his police officers don’t want [Peaceful Streets Project co-founder Antonio Buehler] “inches from their face [sic]” puts an exclamation point on how cowardly and corrupt Acevedo is.
The reason Acevedo references cameras a certain distance from one’s face stems from the illegal arrest of Antonio Buehler and Mike Bluehair Smith (or Film the Police Portland) by Austin Police on August 2nd, 2015. In the lie-filled affidavit written up by Austin Police Officer Aljoe Garibay, it is claimed that Buehler on multiple occasions held a camera within inches of various officers’ faces. That claim was the foundation for their ultimate claim that he was interfering with the public duties of the officers, who just happened to be doing nothing but standing around watching people film them.
The problem with Garibay and Acevedo’s claims are that they were definitively debunked by multiple videos of the arrest. In the videos, it is patently obvious that the only reason a camera was ever in any cop’s face was because the cops kept moving toward Buehler and placing their face in front of his camera. In not one sequence of shots did Buehler ever move his camera and body toward the face of a cop.
The fact that Acevedo would so blatantly lie about someone who was trying to hold his criminal cops accountable, while he has engaged in coverups of his cops illegally arresting cop watchers, highlights that Acevedo and the thin blue line is unconcerned about crime when it emanates from within the fraternity of law enforcement, but that they are all too eager to slander and attempt to dehumanize the victims of police abuse, corruption, and violence.
And that is why at the end of our Facebook post, we pointed out that perhaps the reason that every once in a blue moon someone decides to mimic the violent tactics of the police against the police may be because tens of thousands of people are victimized by police each month. Cops and their supporters love to dismiss the executions of young black men by using the twitter tag #thuglife. So we ended our post with the same. Sadly, the cops and their supporters can’t grasp the meaning of the term.
Tonight, August 14th, the Peaceful Streets Project will dedicate our effort and resources to holding Sgt. Randy Dear #4422 accountable. We will be shadowing his operations for the night with banners and fliers, stating his violations of our Constitutional right to film.
On the night of August 1st, Sgt. Dear illegally conspired with his subordinates to threaten and then arrest Peaceful Streets Project founder Antonio Buehler and Film The Police Portland founder Mike “Bluehair” Smith. While Buehler was filming from over 10 feet away, Sgt. Dear #4422 approached Buehler and told him that he would arrest the members of the Peaceful Streets Project the next time there was a “disturbance” and they got “in the way” that they would be arrested. Buehler questioned Dear how they could be interfering if they were just standing where hundreds of other people were also standing. Later, after Dear re-approached and moved within inches of Buehler, he gave Buehler an arbitrary order move claiming Buehler was now interfering with his duties. While Buehler was complying, and protesting the illegal order, Dear and five other paramilitary soldiers* jumped, assaulted, and arrested him, while Cpl. Quint Sebek #3454 turned and assaulted and arrested Mike “Bluehair” Smith. Ofc. Aljoe Garibay #6155 then submitted a lie filled affidavit to support the illegal arrests. The Peaceful Streets Project later released multiple videos of the incident in a public rebuttal, proving that APD lied in their attempts to justify an illegal arrest.
A few weeks prior to this incident, Dear gave an unlawful ultimatum to the members of Peaceful Streets Project requiring them to maintain an arbitrary distance from APD officers. In response to the quoted facts of the law regarding filming, and rulings by both the 5th Circuit and the Supreme Court, Dear stated, “This is not a judicial system. This is the law I’m telling you.”
It has become an obvious reality that there is a disconnect between the ruling of the courts and the actions of the Austin Police Department. If the constitutional right to film is no longer being respected, then we have no choice but to advance our tactics and strategies. We will exercise our constitutional and legal rights to the furthest extent possible to document the illegal actions of Sgt. Dear.
Sgt. Dear, Chief Art Acevedo, and the rest of the Austin Police Department, in three and a half years you have yet to beat us in court. We remain undefeated. You have attempted to murder, hospitalize, imprison and assault members of our community. Yet we remain ever strong, ever fearless. If you seek to end the existence and operations of the Peaceful Streets Project, the only way is to cease wrongfully abusing and murdering members of our community.
You WILL be filmed.
BREAKING VIDEOS: Austin Police Affidavit Proven False by Peaceful Streets Project Videos; Video Proves Illegal and Unconstitutional Arrests
In what many believe was a continued assault on the First Amendment rights of police accountability activists by the Austin Police Department, Antonio Buehler, founder of the Peaceful Streets Project, and Mike Bluehair Smith of Film the Police Portland were both arrested early Sunday morning, August 2nd, while filming police officers in downtown Austin during an organized “cop watch.” Fortunately for Buehler and Smith, the videos that members of the Peaceful Streets Project were taking proves that their arrests were illegal, unconstitutional, and that the Austin Police Department issued a fraudulent probable cause affidavit.
Austin Police Officer Aljoe Garibay #6155 was the author of the affidavit for the arrest of Buehler. The affidavit included a series of misleading and false statements. The misleading and false statements are listed below in bullet format, with an explanation of why the statement is misleading and/or false in the subsequent bullet:
- “Not only did responding officers have to move around crowds to get to the disturbance they also had to move around members of the Peaceful Streets running towards the scene attempting to get there before we could, this delayed our response time to help and assist breaking up the disturbance by adding to pedestrian traffic, blocking my path, at one point I had to move Buehler out of the way.” (Paragraph 3)
- First, the Peaceful Streets Project members are a part of the crowd, and should not be treated as a separate class of people who are expected to always be mindful of who may be behind them. To argue that only those with cameras have the responsibility of knowing if a police officer is behind them and wants to move in a straight line to an unknown point that would lead the police officer through that person with a camera else they be arrested for interference places a considerable burden on cop watchers. A burden that is a violation of their First Amendment rights.
- Second, the video of the incident shows that Garibay was in a hurry to get nowhere. Garibay went past the disturbance to push past Buehler, and then stopped and stood around doing nothing.
- Third, Garibay refers to the scene as a “disturbance” implying that a crime was in progress involving a crowd. The scene was merely a young woman vomiting. The police work performed was in the nature of a welfare check to make sure the young woman was OK and nothing further happened.
- “It was then that Antonio approached our perimeter and made contact with SGT. Randy Dear. Antonio was holding a video recording device in his hand and was holding it approximately 6 inches from SGT. Dears’ face nearly touching him.”
- First, the affidavit makes it appear that the police presence at this time was related to an ongoing crime scene incident or disturbance. In fact, there was no incident at this point at all. The incident with the sick young woman had been resolved, all parties including the police had dispersed, and all Peaceful Streets Project cameras turned off. There was no disturbance whatsoever.
- Second, Buehler did not approach their perimeter. The police officers formed a huddle where they were all listening to SGT Dear, ostensibly preparing to orchestrate an illegal arrest of Buehler. Buehler was approached by SGT Dear, not the other way around. The video does not reveal any reason for the huddle.
- Third, the video clearly shows that SGT Dear moved from the huddle approximately 10-15 feet away to within inches of Buehler’s camera. At no point while Dear was approaching Buehler did Buehler advance his body or his arm holding the camera.
- “SGT Dear. Advised Antonio that he was on patrol and asked him to get back as he was in blocking his view, preventing him being able to have a clear line of sight of the large 6th street crowd. Antonio moved his recording device approximately 2 inches and began arguing with SGT. Dear.”
- First, the claim is an outright lie. SGT Dear said, “Hey, I’m going to let y’all know, the next time we go to a disturbance and you all get in the way … yes you were … the next time you’re interfering you’re going to be arrested. Alright, thank you. You’ve been warned Sir.” And then he walked away.
- Second, as previously proven through video, Buehler did not advance toward SGT Dear at all. Buehler’s “arguing” consisted of Buehler asking for clarification on how they could be interfering for standing somewhere.
- “A few minutes went by and I then asked Antonio to step back at least an arm’s length as he was now focused on recording CPL. Sebek. Antonio had his recording device approximately 6 inches away from CPL. Sebek face.”
- First, no more than thirty seconds went by from the time Dear walked away to the time Garibay told Buehler to stay an arm’s length away.
- Second, Buehler was at an arm’s length away from Sebek, and further for Garibay, the entire time. The video shows Sebek reaching his arm out ordering Buehler to be an arm’s length away without touching Buehler. Buehler never advances toward either of them.
- Third, Sebek was filming Buehler as Buehler was filming Sebek. They both had comparable filming positions, although Sebek initially placed his camera closer to Buehler’s face than Buehler did to Sebek’s face. At no point did Buehler stick the camera within six inches of Sebek’s face. The only time Buehler adjusted his filming position was when Sebek placed his camera directly in front of Buehler’s camera.
- “A few minutes went by again, and Antonio kept arguing with us getting closer and closer every time attempting to distract and engage in conversation. I … pointed exactly to him where he needed to be for a safe distance. Antonio kept getting closer and loser, rallying up his crew as he was being loud trying to get attention from the 6th street crowds and his crew quickly becoming a hostile situation.”
- First, only seconds elapsed.
- Second, the video shows that Buehler never advanced toward Garibay.
- Third, the video shows that Antonio did not say anything to anyone who he knew or motion to anyone who he knew in any way to get them to “rally” or to bring “attention from the 6th street crowds.”
- Fourth, the hostility came from Dear and Garibay issuing illegal orders to Buehler.
- “Antonio again refused to maintain a safe distance, again standing very close to officers placing camera phone into the faces of officers trying to watch the large 6th street crowd.”
- First, Buehler never advanced toward the police officers. The only reason Buehler was ever “very close to officers” was because the officers advanced toward Buehler.
- Second, Buehler never stuck a camera phone in the face of any officers trying to watch the crowd. The officers place their faces in Buehler’s largely stationary camera throughout the entire episode. The only time Buehler actively moves his camera is to be able to film Sebek who uses his camera to block Buehler’s. Sebek obviously was not watching the crowd; he was filming Buehler.
- “SGT. Dear approached Antonio and notified him to turn around he was under arrest for interference with public duties.”
- After SGT Dear approached Buehler and moved to within inches of him, Dear told Buehler that he had to move back because they were about to go on patrol. While protesting an illegal order, Buehler did step away from Dear and moved out of the space that he suggested he needed. Buehler was arrested, anyway. Buehler then turned around and tried to hand off his cameras to other Peaceful Streets Project members.
- “… he kept resisting by attempting to put his right arm under him.”
When compared to the multiple videos that the Peaceful Streets Project took of the arrest, it is clear that the affidavit written by Officer A. Garibay #6155 is one long string of misleading and fraudulent statements. At no point did Buehler advance toward the officers, at no point did the officers give Buehler any legal orders that would have required him to step back, and at no time did they have probable cause to arrest him. Further, Mike Bluehair Smith was illegally arrested for “interference with public duties” for simply trying to catch Buehler’s cameras as he tried to hand them off to Peaceful Streets Project members to prevent the police from confiscating them and suppressing the video evidence of the arrest.
Buehler said, “This arrest highlights how the Austin Police deliberately uses false arrests to trample on the Constitutional rights of those trying to hold the police accountable. By every measure, they were the only people who committed crimes on Sunday morning. They know that by the law, it is impossible to interfere with public duties simply by standing in a public space and filming cops standing around doing nothing. They also know that the Constitution trumps their belief that they can bark arbitrary orders at people with cameras to prevent them from filming their activities.”
In a follow up to statements made to the media on Sunday, Millie Thompson, Buehler’s defense attorney said, “I told you all that it was an illegal arrest. I told you so.”
Buehler originally made news on January 1, 2012, when he was arrested on the charge of Harassment of a Public Official, a 3rd degree felony, for allegedly spitting in Austin (TX) Police Officer Patrick Oborski’s face. Buehler was ultimately cleared of all charges from that arrest due to multiple witnesses stepping forward to testify that Oborski lied about Buehler spitting in his face, as well as multiple videos and audio files that proved that Oborski lied. In the fall of 2012, the Austin Police Department trained their officers how to illegally go about arresting Buehler and other members of the Peaceful Streets Project for filming them using the “interference with public duties” statute. Over the past three and a half years, Buehler has been arrested five times, has had ten charges levied in the courts against him, and has had dozens of criminal investigations launched against him (including at least three felony investigations by the Austin Police Department). Buehler has beaten every charge. No police officers have been disciplined or arrested for their illegal arrests.
The Peaceful Streets Project and Film The Police Portland are independent grassroots organizations that attempt to promote police accountability through cop watching (filming the police in public), in addition to other forms of direct action such as Know Your Rights trainings, protests against police brutality, and police accountability summits.
Antonio Buehler’s video: https://youtu.be/7ktkUingcOs
Steve D’s video: https://youtu.be/qIFItJeCM5c
Julian Reyes’ video: http://youtu.be/kvE8qGIUPm0
Richard B’s video: http://youtu.be/e4mziCp43VI
Lynn F’s video: http://youtu.be/ES04LtfEMCQ
Here are the first four videos synced highlighting how everything APD claims is a lie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiwtuBP7SXw
Antonio Buehler’s video of “disturbance” before the arrest: http://youtu.be/tCGPt0VvZg4
The suspicious death of Sandra Bland three days after an unnecessary, illegal, and violent arrest has reminded tens of millions of people that while national awareness of the problems of endemic societal racism and rampant police abuse may have risen in the year since Michael Brown was murdered, the police have not been deterred in their application of crimes and violence against the public–particularly against people of color, the mentally ill, the very poor, and the homeless. In today’s environment where more and more people are pulling out their cameras to film the police because they expect that the police may violate someone’s rights, it should be unfathomable that police would continue to brazenly commit crimes against the public during a period of increased scrutiny, but as civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson likes to remind people, the police will continue to abuse and kill people.
I once asked an elder, "How do we keep the movement alive?" to which the elder replied, "The police will do it for you."
— deray mckesson (@deray) April 28, 2015
Police get away with their crimes for a multitude of complicated, and often intertwined, reasons. Racism. Classism. Corporations that profit off of incarceration. Corporations that profit off of prohibition. Politicians who are bought by those corporations and by police unions. Expectations of revenue generation by municipal governments. Qualified immunity for cops who commit crimes. Internal Affairs departments that are expected to clear cops of criminal wrongdoing. Chain of commands who believe it is their responsibility to clear cops of wrongdoing. Prosecutors who are eager to paper over cop crimes so that they can continue their symbiotic relationship with the police. Judges who overlook rampant police corruption as they eye higher benches or reelection campaigns where they will be attacked if they don’t come across as tough on (non-cop) crime. These are just some of the reasons, and these reasons give many people comfort in believing that they don’t directly contribute to the problem because they are not members of any of the aforementioned groups. However, one reason that we can directly attribute blame to the general public for is its desire to make excuses for criminal cops by blaming the victim.
In the Sandra Bland case, no reasonable person who believes in basic civil liberties could side with Officer Brian Encinia. Sandra Bland was unnecessarily stopped for a minor traffic infraction that would only result in a ticket in jurisdictions where revenue generation or harassment of a particular community (e.g., the Black community) is a priority. At the conclusion of the stop she was unnecessarily and illegally ordered to put out her cigarette in her own car. She legally (and righteously) refused to put out the cigarette, as is her right. For that, Encinia threatened her with arrest, pointed his taser (a deadly weapon) at her face, and proceeded to assault her. She was ultimately unjustly arrested for assault on a public servant, despite being the victim of assault. She then spent three days in prison because she dared to flex her basic Constitutional and human rights. On the third day the state alleges that she committed suicide.
~ Assata Shakur, 1987
In the Sandra Bland case, there are millions of people who blame Sandra Bland for her own arrest and death. For example, there are overtly racist people like Heather Martin of Allen, TX who sing the praises of Jesus and limited government but who will eagerly back an officer “every time” they commit crimes against any “uppity, mouthy, and criminal [Black people].” Backed by a Confederate flag, she proclaims that #PoliceLivesMatter, making it clear that Black lives do not matter to her.
There are also overtly racist people like retired NYPD Detective Harry Houck who argue that nothing bad would have happened during the stop had Sandra Bland dispensed with her “arrogant attitude” and simply been respectful to Officer Encinia.
They talk about how people (and they mean Black people) should simply shut up, treat the police officer with respect, and comply with all of his commands if they want to get through a stop without any problems (e.g., being arrested, assaulted, or killed). They shift the burden from the police, to not commit crimes, to the victim, to not question or talk back to police officers. Therein lies a problem that highlights our society’s failure to acknowledge its racist history, its racist present, its fixation on power and authority, and its failure to place civil liberties (the thing that many believe makes America great) above a cop’s expectation of being respected by the public.
But the Confederate flag waiving, bootlicking, cop apologizing, #PoliceLivesMatter crowd does make one point that is worth listening to–Black people sometimes should choose to comply instead of die. They get it right for the wrong reasons; they believe that Black people are inferior human beings, and that people in blue uniforms should be allowed to dispose of them if they don’t “act right.” But as most Black people will tell you, they’ve essentially been told the same thing by their parents, stemming from their parents’ desire to see their children survive to old age.
At the Peaceful Streets Project, we go into the streets to document interactions between the police and members of the public, and when we see police violating people’s rights, we challenge them. When they violate our rights, we challenge them. In the attached video, we challenged them quite vocally, with plenty of expletives, when they illegally detained and searched us for documenting their actions during a copwatch in the Rundberg region of Austin, TX. Compare and contrast our behavior to the so-called “arrogant” behavior that resulted in Sandra Bland being illegally arrested and assaulted.
Why did a Black man come up to us at the end of that incident and ask, “how the fuck do you talk to them goddam laws like that?” The answer is because he was amazed that we weren’t beaten and arrested for what we said to the police. Not everyone has the same ability to stand up for their rights or the rights of others. If you are homeless or extremely poor, you are less likely to be able to stand up for your rights without being abused, arrested, or killed. If you are mentally ill, you are less likely to be able to stand up for your rights without being abused, arrested, or killed. If you are Latino or Arab, you are less likely to be able to stand up for your rights without being abused, arrested, or killed. And if you are Black, you are less likely to be able to stand up for your rights without being abused, arrested, or killed. Sandra Bland is just one of tens of thousands of examples of that unfair and unfortunate reality.
It is for the aforementioned reasons that cops should NOT be respected by society. That they are so eager to use violence and commit crimes against people means that they are not productive members of society who deserve our respect. That they are even more likely to use violence and commit crimes against the most disadvantaged members of society means that they are bullies on top of being non-productive members of society. But just because they shouldn’t be respected doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be feared. When we stand up to the police, we fear for our lives and liberty. We understand that we are often dealing with violent thugs who have no qualms about committing crimes against us. But we also acknowledge that we have strength in numbers, we have cameras rolling, and most of us aren’t Black, Latino, Arab, homeless, extremely poor, or mentally ill. We are far more likely to survive a police encounter than Sandra Bland or someone who looks like her. That is privilege, and we will use our privilege to push back against police.
Disorderly Conduct Charge Against Peaceful Streets Project Founder Antonio Buehler Dropped After Second Mistrial; No More Criminal Charges Outstanding
Yesterday afternoon, Gonzales County (TX) Attorney Paul Watkins moved to dismiss a Class C Misdemeanor charge of Disorderly Conduct against Peaceful Streets Project founder Antonio Buehler. With the dismissal, Buehler has now been cleared of every criminal charge levied against him since his initial high profile arrest in Austin, TX on January 1, 2012.
On March 13th, 2013, Buehler was at the municipal courthouse to observe court proceedings when he observed Judge Deidre Voigt verbally abusing adolescents who had received Class C misdemeanor charges for tardiness, truancy, and classroom disruptions at the local high school. When she found that he was recording her behavior, she confiscated his camera, searched it without a warrant, and then demanded that he delete the footage he had taken of her. As Buehler left the courthouse, Captain Gayle Autry told him to never return, and Buehler shortly thereafter told Autry to “go f— yourself.” Buehler was then arrested and charged with Disorderly Conduct.
After being denied a continuance so he could obtain legal counsel, Buehler defended himself in the same court, presided over by Judge Voigt, on June 5, 2013, and was found guilty after a 7-hour trial, and assessed a $1 fine. Buehler immediately appealed the decision and was provided a trial de novo. Buehler went back to Gonzales for a trial on February 23, 2015 with Chevo Pastrano and Millie Thompson as his legal representatives, however, the trial was declared a mistrial due to an error made by County Judge David Bird. The trial date set for March 30, 2015, was cancelled the day before the trial when the county prosecutor claimed that he needed to deal with a family emergency. The trial date set for May 20, 2015, was cancelled days before the trial when the county court claimed to have discovered that they didn’t send out jury questionnaires.
On June 25th, 2015, Buehler went to court, again. The prosecution only called Captain Autry, while the defense called Buehler, and six other witnesses to testify. The prosecution argued that the mere utterance of the words “go f— yourself” tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace, while the defense argued that the arrest was illegal, that a police officer cannot arrest people because they are offended by free speech, and that Autry was never moved to violence. The six-person jury (two of who admitted during voir dire that they were friends or acquaintances with the prosecutor and the police that were present at the scene) deadlocked at 3-3, and the trial was declared a mistrial.
Watkins indicated that he chose to dismiss the charges after hearing the testimony at trial and concluding that he could not in good conscience try the case again. In response, Buehler said, “I appreciate that the prosecutor recognized that the testimony that was provided by Captain Autry during the trial proved that I did not commit any crime by exercising my First Amendment rights after I had my Constitutional right to be free from illegal search and seizure violated by Judge Deidre Voigt.” He continued, “I am also extremely grateful for the witnesses who were willing to travel to Gonzales multiple times to testify on my behalf, for the three members of the jury who refused to be pressured into declaring me guilty for a crime that was never committed, and for my hard working and principled lawyers Chevo Pastrano and Millie Thompson.” Buehler has already initiated a lawsuit against the City of Gonzales and Captain Gayle Autry for violations of his civil rights.
Buehler originally made news on January 1, 2012, when he was arrested on the charge of Harassment of a Public Official, a 3rd degree felony, for allegedly spitting in Austin (TX) Police Officer Patrick Oborski’s face. In the aftermath of that first arrest, Buehler launched the Peaceful Streets Project to educate the public on their rights, empower them to stand up for their rights and to stand up for the rights of one another, and come together to form communities to hold police accountable.
Over the next year and a half, Austin Police Officers arrested Buehler three more times for filming them while on duty. Two years and nine months after the New Year’s Day arrest, Buehler was found not guilty of any charges stemming from that incident at a four-day trial. Despite half a dozen witnesses, four videos, and two audio files that showed that Buehler did not spit on Oborski and that Oborski had lied in his arrest affidavit against Buehler, he was never disciplined or arrested.
In total, over the past three and a half years, Buehler has been arrested five times, has had ten charges levied in the courts against him, and has had dozens of criminal investigations launched against him (including at least three felony investigations by the Austin Police Department). With this dismissal, Buehler has now been cleared of every charge. Buehler is also currently suing the City of Austin, Chief Art Acevedo, Sergeant Adam Johnson, and Officers Patrick Oborski, Robert Snider, and Justin Berry.
The Gonzales Dismissal order is public record.
Press Release: Antonio Buehler Goes to Court in Gonzales (TX) for Final Criminal Charge This Thursday and Friday
This Thursday, June 25th, and Friday, June 26th, police accountability activist and Peaceful Streets Project founder Antonio Buehler will go to trial in Gonzales, TX for the final criminal charge pending against him after three and a half years of activism against what he claims are corrupt and criminal cops. Despite being arrested five times, having ten charges levied in the courts against him, and having dozens of criminal investigations launched against him (including at least three felony investigations by the Austin Police Department), if Buehler is acquitted this week the police will have failed to have secured a single conviction against him.
On March 13th, 2013, Buehler had attempted to openly record what he claims was unprofessional behavior by Judge Deidre Voigt at the Gonzales Municipal Courthouse. Buehler claims Voigt was unnecessarily berating several adolescents who were in her court for Class C misdemeanor charges related to missing or being tardy to classes at the local public high school. When the city prosecutor noticed Buehler recording the judge, Voigt commanded Buehler to allow her to see his phone. Voigt then took the phone into her private chambers for approximately two hours while Buehler and his associates demanded that the police officers in the courtroom, including Captain Gayle Autry, retrieve the phone that they had considered stolen.
After going through Buehler’s phone and viewing the video he took, and despite no signage indicating that video recording was not permitted in the courtroom, Voigt gave Buehler the option of deleting the video or being arrested for Contempt of Court. Not wanting to spend a night in jail, Buehler opted to delete the video. On his way out of the courthouse, Captain Autry told Buehler, “Never come back to my courthouse, again.” Buehler then pulled out his phone and began filming Autry, asking him to repeat what Buehler perceived as a threat. As the two were separating in front of the courthouse, a sarcastic “have a nice day” was exchanged between Autry and another one of Buehler’s associates. After Buehler responded with “go f— yourself” as he was walking away, Autry turned around and arrested Buehler for disorderly conduct.
Judge Voigt later denied Buehler’s motion to recuse herself from presiding over the subsequent trial given her involvement leading up to his arrest. Buehler defended himself in court on June 5, 2013, and was found guilty after a 7-hour trial, and assessed a $1 fine. Buehler immediately appealed the decision and was provided a trial de novo.
Buehler went back to Gonzales for a trial on February 23, 2015 with Chevo Pastrano and Millie Thompson as his legal representatives, however, the trial was declared a mistrial due to an error made by the county judge. The trial date set for March 30, 2015, was cancelled the day before the trial when the county prosecutor claimed that he needed to deal with a family emergency. The trial date set for May 20, 2015, was cancelled days before the trial when the county court claimed to have discovered that they didn’t send out jury questionnaires. Buehler’s lawyers have repeatedly asserted his right to a speedy trial, and it seems as though Gonzales prosecutors will be hard-pressed to delay the trial, again.
Buehler originally made news on January 1, 2012, when he was arrested on the felony charge of Harassment of a Public Official, a 3rd degree felony for allegedly spitting in Officer Patrick Oborski’s face. In the aftermath of that first arrest, Buehler launched he Peaceful Streets Project to educate the public on their rights, empower them to stand up for their rights and to stand up for the rights of one another, and come together to form communities to hold police accountable.
Over the next year and a half, Austin Police Officers arrested Buehler three more times for filming them while on duty. Two years and nine months after the New Year’s Day arrest, Buehler was found not guilty of any charges stemming from that incident at a four-day trial. Despite half a dozen witnesses, four videos, and two audio files that showed that Buehler did not spit on Oborski and that Oborski had grossly misrepresented the incident in his arrest affidavit against Buehler, he was never disciplined or arrested. Austin city prosecutors later dropped all of the outstanding charges against Buehler.
Cop Block is a largely libertarian police accountability organization that was an initial supporter of the Peaceful Streets Project. From the beginning, many members of Cop Block (especially Pete Eyre) supported the Peaceful Streets Project. Their initial support was very helpful in allowing us to spread awareness of our efforts to take on police abuse, corruption, crime, and misconduct in Austin and in select other cities. However, in the past few years both the Peaceful Streets Project and Cop Block have changed in some pretty remarkable ways.
First, the Peaceful Streets Project was started with a vision of helping to bring about a society free of state-sponsored institutionalized violence. Never were we about making friends with the police, nor were we very concerned about non-state violence. Although some of the lead organizers wanted to, as an organization we deliberately shied away from many of the social factors that help feed aggressive and violent policing, as well as the social factors that helped feed violence in the streets. In particular, we avoided issues of race and gender. Our willingness to stand up to the police state while ignoring racism and misogyny allowed many unsavory people to rally around us. Many of those people; who were eager to focus on DUI checkpoints, marijuana laws, and SWAT raids; surprised us when they inexplicably but vigorously rallied behind white people who killed unarmed black people. This became most obvious in their rabid support of George Zimmerman who killed Trayvon Martin in 2012.
By 2013, Antonio Buehler began to acknowledge more and more what co-founders Harold Gray, John Bush, and especially Kaja Tretjak had been concerned about when it came to non-state forms of oppression. Buehler used his position of relative influence to begin speaking out about issues of race and gender, and soon found that many of the followers of Peaceful Streets Project were attacking him. Many supporters encouraged him to disregard these issues in order to keep harmony among police accountability activists, but Buehler had come to recognize that opposition to only state oppression, and not the social oppression that helps fuel the ability of the state to harm people, was a fool’s errand. The police are a problem only to the extent that the structures and hierarchies in our society allow them to be.
Things came to a head later in 2013 when Bush called out a homophobic facebook post, and then Buehler called out some racist and sexist facebook posts. This brought out vicious attacks from many who were at the intersection of some or all of the following groups: Cop Block, anarchocapitalists, Men’s Rights Movement, and Neoconfederates. One semi-popular libertarian blogger named Christopher Cantwell led the charge against the “White Knight,” “Social Justice Warriors” who dared to take offense at overt forms of bigotry. Soon, Buehler had hundreds of racist and sexist people attacking him for taking a stand against racism and sexism. Buehler responded by disassociating with everyone who was willing to associate with Cantwell, and this included Cop Block founder Ademo Freeman and many other members of Cop Block. Buehler was also forced to sever ties with people who had set up Peaceful Street Project facebook pages in various parts of the country.
Since then, the Peaceful Streets Project has gone to great lengths to acknowledge how bigotry helps fuel oppression, and how we (as a largely white male group) can use our privilege to help undermine that oppression. We have sought out other groups that better reflect the populations being most abused by police (such as the Austin Justice Coalition) so that we can ally with them and support them in the struggle. Further, we are much more proactive in calling out bigoted behavior within our group, as we recognize that wonderful contributors had left the Peaceful Streets Project in the early years because it had previously been an unsafe space for them.
Cop Block, however, seems to be going in the opposite direction. Instead of calling out bigotry in the ranks, they have tended to ignore it. While Cop Block claims that as a decentralized organization they cannot control the actions of their members, they do allow unilateral decisions if those decisions are made by the founder, Freeman. Further, while they claim they cannot do much of anything about the bigots in their ranks, as libertarians and anarchists they know very well the power of ostracism. Instead of ostracizing the bigots, they choose to embrace bigots such as Cantwell. And while they may try to claim that they don’t concern themselves with social oppression, and only state oppression, many members of Cop Block became silent when it came to the killings of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, and they instead focused all of their outrage on people who rioted or looted in response to police executing unarmed people.
In recent days it has come to our attention that Ademo Freeman has gone completely off the rails. There is plenty of information circulating on the web about some extraordinarily disgusting behavior that has personally harmed individuals who did not seek to harm him, that we will not rehash here. WeCopwatch and Anti-Media, both of who were collaborating with Cop Block, have publicly distanced themselves from the organization. We commend them for doing so. Fighting the police state and holding police accountable cannot be done if we don’t hold each other accountable, first. We hope that other groups will do the same, and that the many decent people in Cop Block will push the bigots out of the organization.
At Peaceful Streets Project we are less concerned about what happens on the internet than we are what happens in the street. We look forward to continuing to engage in direct action tactics that will help change the culture of society. We look forward to continuing to partner with organizations who want to end the police state – and who are willing to be smart enough to strike out against all forms of oppression that stand in the way.
And yes, we also distance ourselves from Cop Block.
WeCopwatch statement: http://wecopwatch.org/wecopwatch-cuts-ties-with-copblock-org/
Anti-Media statement: http://theantimedia.org/behind-our-decision-to-leave-cop-block/
Caroline Callaway sued Austin & Travis County for assaulting her during a DWI blood draw. Friday evening the jury found her NOT GUILTY of DWI.
Caroline Callaway’s father sat in the hallway of the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center all last week as his daughter stood trial for the offense of DWI. As Caroline’s father sat in the hallway, unable to watch, a representative from Mothers Against Drunk Driving watched the entire proceeding, front-row-center. Below, you’ll find a summary of the facts of the case, interesting aspects of the trial, and how Antonio Buehler was denied the opportunity to testify as to Patrick Oborski’s reputation for dishonesty.
Caroline was pulled over for running a red light, then arrested for DWI.
In the early morning hours of post-Superbowl Sunday – Monday, 2013, Callaway was pulled over by Austin Police Department Officer Patrick Oborski for allegedly running two red lights. The dash cam video of the stop and arrest do not clearly show that traffic violation. During the stop, Caroline is pleasant and cooperative and agrees to perform the field sobriety tests. During those tests, Caroline is balanced, follows directions, and is almost perfect on the one legged stand. Oborski’s interpretation of her performance, however, did not match what the video showed, and he decided Caroline had demonstrated enough clues in the field sobriety tests (“FST’s”) that he had probable cause to arrest her for DWI.
Oborski is a seasoned DWI squad officer, who has made thousands of DWI arrests in Austin, Texas. He also makes a fine living off the over-time pay associated with all the court hours he must log on those DWI’s.
As Caroline learns she’s to be arrested, a media reporter with a camera showed up on the scene. Caroline, believing she was on the TV show COPS, began to be verbally defiant, as she was upset at being arrested, having done well on the FST’s (contrary to Oborski’s conclusion).
Caroline refused a breath test, and because it was a No Refusal Weekend, Oborski sought a warrant to forcibly draw Caroline’s blood as evidence against her. At the jail, Caroline was yanked around by her handcuffs, causing bruising and other injuries. She was then strapped down to a restraint chair. Peace officers then hooded her with a bag to prevent her from spitting or biting. One of the officers put his dirty boot on her arm to keep her still. Caroline’s version of this process differed greatly at trial compared to the officers’.
Caroline explained to the jury that she was having an anxiety attack, and she was shaking all over. Because of the anxiety attack, she could not get a full breath of air. Some unidentified officer – who Caroline could not see because she was black-bagged – grabbed her by the throat and cut off her air. She could not breath.
Strapped to the chair, unable to see, and deprived of air, she thought she was going to die.
Officers, however, claimed that they would only ever use pressure points at the jaw/mandible to force compliance with a blood draw. Oborski admitted that this was the most violent blood draw he had seen.
Caroline’s pictures after her arrest show bruising on her throat & neck – not her mandible.
Officer Oborski testified that Caroline was not the “sweet young lady you see before you.” He also testified that “we’re a free society where videotaping happens everywhere.” He, therefore, didn’t have a problem with the media filming Caroline’s arrest. Those of you who kept up with the Antonio Buehler case know that Oborski was the one who arrested Antonio for challenging Oborski’s authority to assault a young woman passenger to a DWI stop, as Buehler exercised his First Amendment rights and took pictures of the assault. You can read more about that story here.
Antonio Buehler stood ready to testify that Oborski has a reputation in Austin for being dishonest. Buehler, after his wrongful arrest at the hands of Oborski, had been approached by hundreds of people, including those charged by Oborski, and many attorneys. All of these people had tales to tell about how dishonest Oborski is. Buehler, however, was not permitted to testify. In fact, many of the defense’s theories and proposed testimony never made it in front of the jury.
The jury was threatened with being investigated for jury misconduct if they did not follow the instructions in the jury charge. Had they believed that Caroline Callaway drove while intoxicated (and the blood result was over 0.13), they would have found her guilty of that offense. They acquitted her.
The jury rendered its verdict of acquittal the night before Clarence Darrow’s birthday.
Clarence Darrow epitomizes what many criminal defense lawyers aspire to be in their practice. Caroline’s lawyers Daphne Silverman and Norm Silverman would have made Darrow proud in their defense of Callaway. Callaway’s lawyer Daphne Silverman was forced to file the civil rights action in federal court before trying this misdemeanor. You can read about that civil suit here. Despite having most of the Travis County Attorney’s Office in the courtroom, supporting the State’s prosecutors, and despite being forced to move to recuse the judge mid-trial (arguing that the judge seemed affected by an extra-judicial bias against Caroline for exercising her civil right to sue the police), Silverman & Silverman persuaded the jury that Caroline was not intoxicated that night.
If you’re shopping for a defense attorney, the first question you must ask (and get a straight answer to) is how many times that lawyer has been to trial in the last year. If you have a case you want to fight, you’d be better off with trial by combat than a lawyer who pretends to be a trial lawyer but never tries a case.
It takes a big pair to move to recuse the judge mid-trial. It likewise takes quite a pair to see a high blood test result and say “No! My client wasn’t intoxicated.” Their strong advocacy meant the difference between a second conviction for DWI and an acquittal.
Caroline’s bravery is remarkable.
Most defendants just want to get the case over with. Prosecutors know this, and exploit it during the plea bargaining process. It took quite a pair of big brass ones for Caroline to in effect say, No! The world will not be this way within her reach. No other people should be strapped down, black-bagged, and choked in the name of crime prevention.
MADD: What are you doing?
Mothers Against Drunk Driving gave Oborski an award the same year he illegally arrested Antonio Buehler. A representative from MADD watched the entire Callaway trial. At what point, MADD, does your moral authority cease protecting the public and start hurting us? My daddy’s rule when I was a teen and in college was that if I got arrested, he wouldn’t post bail – I’d have to sit in jail. But, I think that if I was choked by people tasked with protecting and serving the community, Daddy would be sitting in that hallway, praying for justice, as he watched the men who hurt his daughter strut by and complain to each other about “those fucking defense attorneys.” (Yes, that’s an exact quote). And, that’s just what Caroline’s father did. Her father sat in the hallway, having seen his daughter’s bruises, and seen her suffer through PTSD, and he prayed for justice. MADD – you need to realize that Fathers have had Enough of Damned Unconscionable Police Practices – they’re FED UPP. MADD, if Caroline had died in the process, would you still feel your moral outrage at her alleged DWI? Because that jury must have heard her father’s prayers, and they said by their verdict, NOT GUILTY.
Reposted with permission from the MILLIE L. THOMPSON, ATTORNEY blog.
Original link: http://cw39.com/2015/04/09/grassroots-group-everyone-should-film-police-activity/