On July 18, 2015 three Dallas area activists headed down south to Waller County Jail to conduct an independent investigation into the murder of #SandraBland. One of those activists was Stephen Benavides (@S_Benavides1 on Twitter), and the other activists were Shani Deason (@WickedBeaute) and Sunshine (@LOLatWhiteFear).
Afterwards, on the 4 hour drive back to Dallas, the group stopped in Madisonville, TX to use the restroom. Across the street, Madisonville Police had a Black man pulled over and out of his car. This prompted the group to begin filming the interaction (cop watching) to ensure the safety of the driver.
After the driver was let go, the group of activists decided to leave. The two Madisonville police officers decided instead to approach the group and began to question their decision to #FilmThePolice. When asked by the police why they “think that’s acceptable to come walking up like that,” Stephen clearly articulated that they have a Constitutional right to film the police so long as they did not interfere with the stop. On that point, he was completely right, and the police should have apologized for the misunderstanding and left them alone. However, the police officers decided to continue the discussion instead of disengaging.
Stephen told the police officer, “you walked toward us.” Again, Stephen was right. The activists clearly never interfered with the stop and there would not have been an interaction had the police not approached these law abiding activists. But instead, knowing the activists had not committed any crime, the police officer said, “if you wanna keep pushing the issue, what we can do is we’ll take you to jail and you can explain yourself to the judge.” The police officer at this point was making it very clear to the activists that the cops would be willing to illegally arrest the activists for what is commonly known as “contempt of cop,” or not bowing down before the police.
The activists then challenged the thuggish behavior of the police. Stephen specifically asked, “push what issue?” As the police tried to inform the activists where they would allow them stand if they wanted to film, Stephen asked multiple times, “push what issue?” He also reminded them that filming was a Constitutionally protected right. As the activists tried to educate the ignorant police officers as to what is illegal and what is not illegal, Stephen uttered the f-word. At that point the other officer told him, “if you say one more word you’re going to jail, one more cuss word.” The cop then continued, “you’re not going to cuss out here.”
Stephen then had a choice to make, as many cop watchers and activists do. Does he stand up for his rights, knowing that it is completely legal to curse at police, and let another f-word fly? Or does he go home so that he can see his family and sleep in his own bed at the end of the night? Stephen chose to flex his rights, and told the cop, “fuck you.” The police then illegally arrested him. He spent the night at the Madison County Jail on the charge of “Disorderly Conduct”.
For those who don’t understand how terrorism and white supremacy work, pay attention to the video. Even if the police believed that Stephen had broken the law, which he did not, once the cops arrested him they had no reason to reengage with the other activists. However, the cops felt it was more important to terrorize the other activists, so they turned around and came back to bully and threaten Shani (@WickedBeaute) and Sunshine (@LOLatWhiteFear). Kudos to these two activists for standing up to these bully cops after they saw their friend illegally arrested, despite the imminent threats to their lives and liberty.
The police have a saying for the type of illegal arrest they employed against Stephen, “you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride.” It means that they don’t really care if you are convicted or exonerated, the purpose of the arrest is to cause you the inconvenience of spending a night in jail, paying thousands of dollars to a lawyer, coming to court many times, and then often times having to go through a trial in the hope that a jury will recognize that the arrest was illegal.
Telling a cop, “fuck you” is not illegal. The courts have ruled time and time again that cops do not have the right to arrest you because they are offended by your words. The courts have ruled that you can wear clothing with the word “fuck” in public. They have ruled that you can flip off a cop. And, Stephen will eventually have the courts reaffirm that you can say “fuck you” to a cop. A member of the Peaceful Streets Project also has a pending lawsuit over an arrest for telling a cop to “go fuck yourself,” which will also go down as a case law win.
Stephen’s fight continues. Yesterday, Stephen was in court in Madisonville and had his next pretrial appearance set for September 24th. He is going to fight this illegal arrest, he is pushing for a speedy trial, and he needs your support to do so. When people stand up to the terrorist police they risk their most basic freedoms, their money, and sometimes their lives. When Stephen righteously told the cop, “fuck you,” he was speaking for all of us. Please help him beat these bogus charges by donating to his legal fund: https://rally.org/f/kUhNYaDBy0U.