The Austin Police Department’s blatant disregard for safety and human dignity was, once again, on display during an incident recorded on 6th Street in downtown Austin, Texas. Around 2:35 a.m. on Sunday, August 7th, 2016, the Peaceful Streets Project continued to document APD’s weekend ritual of clearing drunken, wayward pedestrians from the street using horse mounted officers. Peaceful Streets Project members have documented numerous instances of the Austin Police Mounted Patrol using their horses to “push” people out of the street, and even push them off of sidewalks. This has resulted in people being needlessly injured, trampled, and knocked to the ground. People who have attempted to pet the horses have been assaulted and charged with interference with a public service animal. People who have attempted to avoid being assaulted by the horse mounted cops have also been assaulted and charged.
In this particular instance, an apparently inebriated woman wanders across the mounted patrol’s path, and nearly makes it to the curb, when Austin Police Officer Michael Wade #6699 decides to kick her as he passes. The blatant disregard for the woman’s safety and dignity publicly showcased by Officer Wade is profoundly appalling. The woman was within inches of the curb and posed neither threat nor obstacle to the passing patrol. She is simply kicked like she was some stray dog (as if kicking a dog could have any desirable effect). She may or may not be a tourist, a coworker, a friend, or a family member, and yet, that should have absolutely no bearing on the reaction of a reasonable viewer. She is, above all, a human being. The utter contempt and disdain shown to a member of our community by Austin Police Officer Michael Wade is deplorable. That this is what passes for professional “policing” in the city of Austin, should outrage even the most cynical sensibilities. If this is how an officer treats a weekend reveler of the Austin club scene, then it should come as no surprise when an officer decides to skip the less-than-lethal options and shoot dead a naked, unarmed, teenager with neither restraint nor due process.
When Austin police officers are captured on bystander or dash-cam video abusing their authority, joking about rape, or generally blurring the line between law enforcer and law breaker, Police Chief “Art” Acevedo is quick to remind us not to judge his officers before we have all of the facts. He will speak to his officer’s impeccable record while reminding us of their past professionalism. Yet, Chief Acevedo has, at times, rushed to slander victims and trot out criminal records, as if it somehow justifies trampling civil rights when his officers run amok. Ignoring any possible deep-seated issues pertaining to professionalism, race, class, or misogyny, this video makes crystal clear that Officer Wade’s wanton actions are both demeaning and reprehensible. At no point in this video, does a reasonable viewer connote any “prior convictions” nor witness any “professionalism”. A human being was needlessly kicked with sheer contempt by a fellow member of our community; a public servant, no less.
The Peaceful Streets Project implores Austin’s local media and the public to contact the Austin Police Department, Office of Police Monitor, and Mayor Steven Adler to inquire as to whether they find this behavior appropriate. More importantly, ask our elected officials what they will do to hold this officer accountable and ensure this never again happens in our community. Do not settle for promises of “more training” and be sure to ask, “How much training do officers require to understand that this is just wrong?” If we refuse to demand any semblance of basic human decency, we can only be complicit in our silence. If these actions, by those sworn to protect and serve, in any way, reflect the mood or general attitude of the media, the public, or our leaders, then we should all be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. The people deserve answers, the people deserve better, and this young lady deserves an apology.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Those who showed up for the Class C Misdemeanor trial against Antonio Buehler on Monday were expecting to hear closing arguments and receive a jury verdict before lunch, but they were surprised to find that the case would not end by lunch. A juror walked in about an hour before the trial was expected to resume and asked the Judge to be excused from duty. The Defense and the Prosecution were both willing to allow the juror to leave for personal reasons; however, the subsequent move for a mistrial by City Prosecutor Matthew McCabe left many scratching their heads as to why the City of Austin was so eager to prevent a jury from making a decision in what has now become a four-day trial (over a seven day period).
Buehler’s defense lawyer Millie Thompson responded by moving to allow five jurors to deliberate in order to prevent forcing multiple witnesses from out of town to attend another trial, and to save the taxpayers the expense of another three- to four-day trial over a Class C Misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a $500 fine.
Spectators who have been watching the jury trial keep questioning the motives and tactics of McCabe and the City Prosecutor’s Office. While Buehler has Thompson to defend him, the City has had six to eight members of the Prosecutor’s Office assisting McCabe throughout the trial. In addition to being filled with City prosecutors, the courtroom has also been filled with Austin Police Department officers. Throughout the trial, there have been at least six police officers in uniform and in plain clothes passing time in the gallery. One of the spectators has been Assistant Police Chief Jason Dusterhoft. In his previous role as the Commander of Highway Enforcement, Dusterhoft oversaw both Officer Patrick Oborski, who Buehler alleges illegally assaulted and illegally arrested him on New Year’s Day, 2012, and Sergeant Adam Johnson, who Buehler alleges illegally arrested him on September 21, 2012. Both Oborski and Johnson are being sued by Buehler.
McCabe’s antics during the trial have been as unnerving for some as has the show of force by the Austin Police Department. In addition to trying to shame Norma Pizana, the woman who was initially assaulted by Officers Robert Snider and Patrick Oborski, he often distracted witnesses and jurors with countless huffs, puffs and sarcastic laughs. At one point, while Buehler was explaining how the action that Snider and Oborski took against Pizana was a recognized torture move, McCabe began to laugh, and was rebuked by Buehler for making light of torture. McCabe has also consistently misstated the law regarding reasonable suspicion, probable cause and Terry stops, and he has allowed his witnesses to do the same. Despite frequent objections by Thompson, McCabe has continued to push forward in the apparent hopes of convincing the jury that the officers were acting under circumstances that they had never before alleged or testified to.
Additionally, spectators and legal observers were dumbfounded when they heard that prosecutors had withheld discovery from the defendant. The defense did not receive the dash cam videos until 2 years and nine months after the initial arrest! Additionally, the prosecution never acknowledged that they had the 7-Eleven surveillance video until they realized the defense had acquired it through other channels.
Buehler said he was concerned about his right to a fair trial. “We came into this trial hoping that the truth would win out. Unfortunately, it seems that the Prosecution’s bully tactics and misconduct have gone far beyond just misleading the jury about the events of New Year’s 2012, it has now encroached upon prosecutorial misconduct as they are deliberately misleading the jury on what the law states.”
Buehler’s attorney Millie Thompson had more to say. “The City’s conduct regarding Antonio Buehler is almost like a law school exam: ‘How many Constitutional Law violations can you spot?’
“First, his First Amendment rights were violated by APD when they attacked him for asking questions and taking pictures. Then, APD officers illegally detained and assaulted him in retaliation for that First Amendment protected speech. Third, they let felony harassment of a public servant charges stay pending for more than a year when – we now know – the officer didn’t think there was any intentional conduct. By leaving the charges pending without informing his chain of command that he didn’t believe the alleged spit was intentional, he violated Mr. Buehler’s rights to Due Process. Fourth, the City put this Class C ticket on the back-burner for 2 years and 10.5 months before taking it trial – a violation of the Speedy Trial Clause.
“And, now, the piece de resistance: The City wants to violate the Double Jeopardy Clause by asking for a mistrial so they can have a do-over.
“I was born in Austin and went to Reagan High School. My parents were born here; my grandparents were born here. My great grandfather Kenneth Threadgill, who founded Threadgills, was born here. Austinites expect more from their local government than what they’ve seen in this case.”
Day four of the Buehler trial begins at 8:30 a.m., on Wednesday, October 28th at Courtroom #2A of the Austin Municipal Courthouse.
DEFENDANT’S MEMORANDUM OF LAW OPPOSING THE STATE’S MOTION FOR MISTRIAL: Opposition to Mistrial
BREAKING: Surveillance Video from Controversial New Year’s Day Arrest of Antonio Buehler Released for Public Viewing
For the first time, the public is able to view the 7-Eleven surveillance video that captured the controversial arrest of Antonio Buehler on January 1, 2012.
Buehler made headlines after he photographed and called out two Austin police officers for assaulting an innocent woman in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, 2012. After threatening Buehler with the words, “Worry about yourself!” Officer Patrick Oborski assaulted Buehler, and filed a Felony 3 – Harassment of a Public Servant charge against him for allegedly spitting in the officer’s face – a charge that carries a two to ten year prison sentence.
Facing felony charges, Buehler went to the public to ask for witnesses to step forward, and multiple witnesses did. A local entrepreneur and a local academician who were both in the 7-Eleven parking lot shared their stories with the local media, and a gentleman across the street took cell phone video of the incident. With witnesses and the video, coupled with Buehler’s background which included degrees from West Point and Stanford, prior service as an Airborne Ranger qualified Army officer, extensive volunteering and education work with children, his role as a designated driver that night, and no previous run-ins with law enforcement, the incident garnered significant media attention and forced the Austin Police Department to resort to a slander campaign against Buehler and the woman who were assaulted. Additionally, despite countless requests from concerned citizens and the media, APD refused to release any audio or video from the incident.
Buehler leveraged his diverse following of supporters to launch the Peaceful Streets Project to encourage people to know their rights, stand up for the rights of one another and to hold police accountable for their actions. The Peaceful Streets Project handed out 100 free video cameras to residents of Austin to document police action, they organized hundreds of cop watch events, they hosted over a dozen Know Your Rights training sessions, and they organized two police accountability summits.
With the rise of the success of the Peaceful Streets Project, the Austin Police Department increased their harassment of Buehler and his supporters. APD arrested several Peaceful Streets Project volunteers for filming, including Buehler who they arrested three more times.
Buehler’s charges remained outstanding for 15 months before a Grand Jury finally no-billed Buehler. However, in a stark departure from traditional Grand Jury practices, they indicted him on four Class C Misdemeanors that he was never charged with. With Class C Misdemeanor indictments, Buehler was handicapped in his ability to file a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against the City of Austin and the police officers who illegally arrested him. He ultimately retained Daphne Silverman and filed suit against APD officers Patrick Oborski, Robert Snider, Adam Johnson, Justin Berry, Chief of Police Art Acevedo and the City of Austin just before the two year anniversary of his controversial arrest.
Nearly three years after his arrest, this Thursday, October 23rd, Buehler is finally going to get his day in court. At the Austin Municipal Court courtroom #2A, at 8:30 a.m., Buehler will defend himself against a charge of Disregarding the Order of a Police Officer for not putting his arms behind his back after Oborski illegally and without probable cause assaulted Buehler for exercising his First Amendment rights. The outcome of this case will help determine whether or not the City of Austin moves forward with the other three Class C Misdemeanor charges against Buehler, and it will influence the direction of Buehler’s civil suit against the police officers and the City of Austin.
Buehler said he is looking forward to Thursday. “For nearly three years, the Austin Police Department has been slandering me, harassing me, and targeting me for illegal arrests. Since day one, I wanted to share my story and all available evidence with the public to prove my innocence and to put a spotlight on the conduct of Patrick Oborski and the other officers within the Austin Police Department. Meanwhile, the Austin Police Department has suppressed all evidence related to my arrests while intentionally feeding lies about me and their other victims to the media. I’m glad the 7-Eleven surveillance video that shows that Oborski was the aggressor and that he lied about me spitting in his face is finally being released. Further, through the trial on the 23rd, Austin will finally be able to hear from witnesses who were at the scene, see the dash cams, and listen to the audio that further exposes the lies of Patrick Oborski and the subsequent cover up by the Austin Police Department.”
7-Eleven surveillance video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3kvi0Oyo0U