Press Release: PSP co-founder, Antonio Buehler no-billed on felony charge!
April 3rd, 2013
Four weeks after convening, the Travis County Grand Jury chose not to issue any felony indictments against Antonio Buehler or Austin Police Department (APD) Officer Patrick Oborski related to their New Year’s Day 2012 incident.
On New Year’s Day 2012, Oborski observed a car that was being driven without its headlights on West 6th street in downtown Austin, and pulled the car over at the 7-11 on N. Lamar and W. 10th Street. While Oborski was conducting a field sobriety test behind the vehicle, Norma Pizana who was a passenger in the vehicle, yelled from the passenger seat to the driver that the driver did not have to submit to a sobriety test. Oborski walked up to the car, leaned in and told Pizana not to “interfere” with his investigation, and then returned to the driver to continue the field sobriety test. However, according to the Penal Code, speech is not sufficient to “interfere” with an investigation, and Pizana was never charged with such a crime. After Pizana was told to stop attempting to communicate with the driver of the vehicle, APD Officer Robert Snider arrived on the scene and began to speak to Pizana.
Antonio Buehler, who was a designated driver that night, pulled into the same 7-11 as he was driving a friend home, in order to refuel the truck he was driving. When he finished fueling up, Buehler and his passenger, Ben Munoz, began to get back into their truck when they heard Pizana scream violently. They turned and saw Snider violently pulling Pizana out of the vehicle, and then throwing her down on the ground. As Pizana continued to cry out in pain, Oborski joined in and they began to apply continued upward pressure on her arms in what is considered a torture move by the U.S. Military and Federal Government. At that moment, Buehler tried to take pictures of what he believed was a violent assault. When Pizana noticed him taking pictures, she begged him to record the incident, and Buehler then began to demand that the cops stop abusing Pizana. Although Pizana was seated in her car, was not a threat to herself or the public, and her driver had not yet been arrested, she was arrested for Public Intoxication, a Class C misdemeanor.
After Snider and Oborski handcuffed Pizana and began escorting her to a squad car, Oborski turned and walked aggressively toward Buehler, got in Buehler’s face, and asked “who do you think you are?” Video shows that Buehler put his arms down by his side, with his palms forward in a non-threatening manner as he took a couple steps back, while Oborski continued to step toward Antonio and into his personal space. Video then shows Oborski violently thrusting his hands into the chest of Buehler a few times, pushing Buehler back until he was trapped between the bed of the truck he had been driving and Officer Oborski. After repeatedly and forcefully pushing Buehler in the chest, while Buehler kept his arms raised with palms facing forward, Oborski then attempted to arrest Buehler.
After Buehler was taken to the BAT Mobile and coerced into blowing into a breathalyzer machine, and being told by the technician that Buehler “broke” the machine by “blowing too hard”, he was then escorted to a transport vehicle where Oborski allegedly told Buehler that “you don’t f*** with police, you f***d with the wrong cop this time and now you’re going to f***ng pay”, after which he was transferred to Travis County Jail where he was charged with Felony Harassment of a Public Official, a 3rd Degree Felony, and Resisting Arrest, a Class A misdemeanor.
When Buehler was released from prison the next day, he was told by Ben Munoz that witnesses were present at the scene of the arrest, although the police prevented the witnesses from sharing their contact information with Munoz. Buehler immediately began to post fliers around the 7-11 location, and use social media to implore witnesses to step forward. Several witnesses did step forward, to include one who took cell phone video of the incident which proves that Oborski lied in his affidavit (Buehler never spit on Oborski; Oborski never wiped his face).
Despite about a half dozen witnesses that stepped forward willing to swear under oath that Pizana did not assault Snider and that Buehler did not spit in Oborski’s face, the cell phone video, the 7-11 surveillance video, audio from both Oborski and Snider, and self-incriminating lies written up in the affidavits of Oborski and Snider, the Austin Police Department and the District Attorney continued to press forward with the charges against Buehler and Pizana. In addition, 11 days after the initial arrests, and after Pizana shared her story of abuse with the media, the Austin Police Department filed two new charges against Pizana for resisting arrest and failure to obey a lawful order.
The Grand Jury did not indict Buehler for either the felony harassment of a public official charge or the resisting arrest charge. Instead they indicted him for failure to obey a lawful order, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. The Grand Jury did not indict Pizana for public intoxication or failure to obey a lawful order. They did, however, indict her for resisting arrest, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in the Travis County Jail.
In the 15 months since the New Year’s Day incident, Buehler and other Austin activists launched the Peaceful Streets Project to fight back against police abuse, corruption and misconduct. They have held over a dozen Know Your Rights Trainings, a summit where they handed out 100 video cameras to needy residents of Austin, dozens of Police Abuse Complaint Departments and scores of cop watch events.
The Grand Jury also returned indictments against Antonio Buehler for failure to obey a lawful order, a Class C misdemeanor, for filming police on August 24th, August 26th and September 21st, 2012. Sarah Dickerson was also indicted for failure to obey a lawful order while filming police during the September 21st, 2012 incident.
A City of Austin Municipal Ordinance requires a person to comply with an order of a peace officer and prohibits a person from obstructing or interfering with an officer engaged in his official duties. Violation of this ordinance is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. However, there was no evidence that either Buehler or Dickerson ever obstructed or interfered with an officer engaged in his official duties. Further, Austin Police Department policy (p. 106) clearly states that officers are not to “[i]n any way threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage an individual from recording officer’s enforcement activities”, which is exactly what APD did to Buehler and Dickerson in each one of the instances in which they were charged with “failure to obey a lawful order”.
In all, the Grand Jury met on six occasions and heard from 13 witnesses, including Antonio Buehler and Officer Patrick Oborski, although they did not hear from either Buehler or Dickerson regarding the post-New Year’s Day incidents, nor any of the Peaceful Streets Project volunteers who witnessed those incidents. The felony charges considered by the Grand Jury were tampering with a governmental record by Officer Oborski as well as harassment of a public servant by Antonio Buehler. The Grand Jury also considered whether Officer Oborski committed official oppression. However, the Grand Jury did not consider any charges against Officer Snider, nor did the Grand Jury did consider felony charges of Aggravated Perjury or Aggravated Assault against Oborski or Snider.
The Class A misdemeanor for Pizana will be transferred to County Court and will be handled by the County Attorney’s Office. The Class C misdemeanor cases for Buehler and Dickerson will be transferred to Municipal Court where they will be handled by Municipal Court prosecutors.
PSP-Austin Monthly Meeting 4/11: Get Involved!
Join the Austin PSP team! Volunteers are needed for community outreach, Police Complaint Departments, copwatch, and much much more…or, just stop by and get to know the team!
NOTE: General meetings now take place on the second Thursday of each month.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Brave New Books, 1904 Guadalupe (downstairs)
Join on Facebook!
Participants are reminded of the PSP mission: “Through community organizing, engaging in non-political and non-violent direct action tactics, and utilizing new technologies, the Peaceful Streets Project seeks to bring about a cultural shift where individuals understand their rights and hold law enforcement officials accountable, and communities protect and serve each other.”
Anyone advocating violence or threats of violence in any form will be asked to leave.
This is event is open to all PSP supporters, but closed to media. Thank you!
PSP Voted Best Grassroots Movement of 2012 by Austin Chronicle Readers
Thank you Austin! A huge shoutout to PSP founder Antonio Buehler, who was voted Best Activist of 2012!
APD Filming Policy Unconstitutional, National Press Photographers Ass’n Says
Following the third arrest this year of Peaceful Streets Project founder Antonio Buehler for legally filming police activity Friday, Sept. 21st, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has issued a statement calling the Austin Police Department’s policy on “interference with public duties” unconstitutional. The policy was issued August 28, immediately following Buehler’s second arrest.
On Monday, Sept. 24th, NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher wrote a letter to Austin Chief of Police Art Acevedo on this matter.
“Aside from being overly broad and vague the APD policy leaves far too much to the discretion of its officers, whereby they can construe almost anything as ‘interference,’” said Osterreicher in the statement. “Under these rules officers are free to create a chilling effect upon far more speech (photography/recording is deemed a form of speech for First Amendment protections) than is necessary to achieve a substantial government interest—that being actual interference with a police officer in the execution of his duties—and would thus be held to be unconstitutional.”
Buehler and Peaceful Streets volunteer Sarah Dickerson were arrested early Friday morning while videotaping a DUI stop in progress on West 6th Street and charged with interference with public duties. They were approximately 30 feet away from the officers and suspect when Officer Patrick Oborski, who arrested Buehler last New Year’s in the controversial incident that spearheaded the Peaceful Streets Project, shined a light in Buehler’s face and yelled at him to back up. Both Buehler and Dickerson moved backwards while Buehler repeatedly asked “how far?” receiving no reply. Sgt. Adam Johnson then illogically ordered them to walk to the rear of the parked police cars, meaning they would have to walk toward Oborski and the suspect rather than away from them. Buehler and Dickerson continued moving backwards while Buehler asked for clarification on where they could stand, until they were approximately 90 feet away from the suspect. Johnson told them to join the Peaceful Streets volunteers standing on the other side of Oborski and the suspect or leave, to which Buehler replied they were leaving when Johnson arrested both Buehler and Dickerson.
“We need to ask ourselves if there is a better way to form our communities, to love our neighbors, and to care for the most vulnerable and suffering among us. When we are positive that those in power are accountable to The People, only then can we call them public servants,” said Sarah Dickerson in a statement reflecting upon her arrest. “The right to film the police is the least of what we could and should be asking for. There will never be justice on scene or in the media again if we are not free to document and film those in power and to hold them accountable. What we are doing in the Peaceful Streets Project has intersectional implications, all of which rely on our First Amendment rights to free speech and to freedom of the press. How our court cases play out will affect free speech and free press rights for all.”
Following Buehler’s second arrest, his attorney Joe James Sawyer called that arrest retaliation for his outspoken activism, a “deliberate action and part of a calculated effort to protect the officer who arrested him New Year’s Day”—Officer Oborski, who was also present at the third arrest.
The Austin Police Accountability Coalition has been calling on APD to implement a responsible and constitutional videorecording policy, modeled on Washington D.C.’s concise policy which notes that asking questions about the appropriate place to witness the stop–as Buehler was doing–is not a justification for arrest, in accordance with Supreme Court ruling. The D.C. policy provides that officers “are reminded that there is no justification for ordering a person to stop . . . unless the member reasonably suspects that a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit any crime.”
“APD is on the losing end of the wrong fight,” said Sawyer. “This is the beginning of a real war, and it’s one they are going to lose. The Supreme Court of the United States has spoken to this . . . the people have a right to watch.”
Austinites Stand Up for Constitutional Rights,
Against APA Lies: Over 50 Participate in Cop Watch
Over 50 volunteers gathered downtown last Thursday night, Aug. 30, at a mass cop watch action organized by the Peaceful Streets Project (PSP) in response to recent Austin Police Department attempts to curb filming police encounters,a constitutionally-protected activity.
After PSP founder Antonio Buehler was targeted and arrested a second time last weekend while peacefully and legally filming police, Austin Police Association’s Wayne Vincent reacted with slanderous, entirely unfounded accusations that PSP “incites violence” and has “threatened” officers.
In fact, during last night’s cop watch, Officer Sebek, badge #3454, ran full force into a Peaceful Streets volunteer in an attempt to knock him to the ground, pushing him into another volunteer, and when asked about the incident claimed it was “probably” an accident, refusing to give his name and badge number. The incident and Sebek’s response were recorded.
While PSP’s sole tactic is peacefully bearing witness via videotaping, some APD officers have, over the past several months, engaged in: intimidation, yelling in close proximity to a PSP member, shining flashlights in several members’ eyes, giving contradictory orders to create confusion, physically pushing members on now three occasions, and using horses against members (a longstanding APD practice dating back to at least April 2001, when a lawsuit was won to cease this activity).
Prior to hitting the streets, volunteers received a training and were familiarized with the PSP Cop Watch Code of Conduct, which prohibits violent activity, rhetoric, and threats, among other actions. Organized in small groups of five to six people, volunteers covered the entire downtown area until the early morning hours. Although the police presence was greater than usual and the district busier than on a typical Thursday night in light of returning students, PSP organizers believe that the combined efforts of filming and observing police encounters minimized police misconduct and prevented unnecessary arrests.
“The only reason that the scene ever becomes unsafe in any way is due to the unprofessional tactics of a limited subset of the Austin Police population,” said PSP volunteer Monica Savant at a press conference held early Thursday. “The Peaceful Streets Project has many examples of uneventful, lawful arrests. We have examples of Austin Police officers generously assisting with good deeds. The situations that APA/APD refer to as evidence that we incite violence are actually scenes where officers are themselves aggressive, rude and unruly.”
Over 200 Attend Police Accountability Summit –
100 Armed With Cameras!
The July 14 Summit brought together over 200 people from all parts of town and across political lines to change the culture of Austin from one of compliance to arming Austinites with the tools and resources to hold police accountable. At the event, Peaceful Streets placed 100 free videocameras in the hands of those without phones with recording capability, committed to monitoring police activity in their neighborhoods as part of the Peaceful Streets Community Response Team. See more, including photos and the full Summit program here.
Know Your Rights!
If your organization would like to host a free Know Your Rights Training Session for your community, please get in touch! Trainings cover your constitutional rights when dealing with police, conflict deescalation skills and tips for activists, as well as using audio/video technology to hold police accountable. Trainings range from 1 to 3 hours and can be tailored to your needs.
To help shape the direction of Austin’s police accountability efforts, get involved: call us at (512) 981-7675 or e-mail email@example.com.