Yesterday morning (around 10:45a), it was pouring down rain in Austin. I was driving north in bumper to bumper traffic on HWY 183 to get to City Hall, and I noticed cars around me swerving just before the bridge that crosses over the Colorado River. I saw the silhouette of a man standing in the middle of the road, facing traffic, moving from side to side. As I got closer I noticed him hitting cars as they passed by, and shouting at them. When he approached me I was pulling to the far right lane, he shouted something, threw up his hands, and then turned back around to shout at other drivers.
At that moment, I decided to stop the car. I rolled down my window and shouted at him to get in the car. He looked stunned, and walked over to my window, and just stood there. I told him to get in. He then ran over to the passenger side of the car, and jumped in.
I asked him where he needed to go. He said that he was just kicked out of his house by his partner, and that no one was willing to stop to help him out. I asked him again where he needed to go, and he said back to his house. I told him that would be a very bad idea, and that we needed to get him to a safe place where he could calm down and dry out. No more than 40 feet down the road, he shouted, “turn there!”
It was too late to turn so I kept going straight, but there we saw an Austin Police Department squad car slowly approaching the intersection. Another 50 feet down the road was another APD cruiser that had pulled to the side of the road driving southbound, with it’s emergency lights on (but not siren).
I asked the man if he realized that the police were about to taze or shoot him. He said no, and didn’t understand why the police would harm him, because all he needed was a ride after getting kicked out of his house. I explained to him that Austin Police beat, frame, rape, and murder people all the time. That they have particularly quick trigger fingers when it appears that someone is having a mental health episode. And that he needed to be very careful in Austin.
I dropped him off at a gas station, and gave him a $10 bill. I don’t know if he was able to calm down and fix his situation, but I do know that if I hadn’t stopped that the chances that he would have been seriously injured or killed by the police were much greater than the risks I faced in picking him up. And I know that the police would have been fully supported by the public if they executed a “crazy man who was attacking cars in the middle of Highway 183 during a rainstorm.”
There’s a difference between protecting & serving people and preying on people. The members of the Peaceful Streets Project seek to protect & serve the public. We have repeatedly come to the aid of people in need. The Austin Police Department, however, has repeatedly used threats of violence, actual violence, and arrests to harm people who are in need. We do not need violent, criminal cops. What we need is more community.
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.
We have had a most remarkable several months to end 2015 and are thrilled to go into 2016 with tremendous momentum. This will be our best year ever – guaranteed.
To recap, we ratcheted up our cop watch actions in late summer. As we continued to legally cop watch to bear witness to police activity, deter police from abusing people, and to empower others to stand up for their community members, we found certain members of the Austin Police Department were eager to threaten us (e.g., SGT Randy Dear, SGT Adam Johnson, Ofc Dawn Leonard) or assault us (e.g., CPL Quint Sebek, Ofc Zachary Baldridge).
On August 2nd SGT Randy Dear, CPL Quint Sebek, and Ofc Aljoe Garibay assaulted and illegally arrested Antonio Buehler and Mike Bluehair (from Film The Police Portland) on Sixth Street in Austin. The arrest affidavits that were filed were filled with lies and were easily refuted by the numerous videos that the members of the Peaceful Streets Project took. Unsurprisingly, prosecutors dropped the charges against Buehler and Bluehair. The police have arrested Buehler and other members of the Peaceful Streets Project nearly a dozen times, but they have failed to secure a single conviction against us. Sadly, we will continue to get arrested because the police are never held accountable for their crimes. But this is a long fight, and we will eventually win. Until then, we will continue to shame these cops in the most public ways possible. We wrote up a detailed blog post detailing how the arrest affidavits were filled with lies, coupled with videos of the incident.
In November Playboy Magazine featured a story on copwatching, and Antonio Buehler and the Peaceful Streets Project opened and closed the story. The author Frank Owen beautifully laid out some of the various approaches to cop watch and gave context to the August 2nd arrest that local media is apparently afraid to touch upon. This, coupled with endless puff pieces for the Austin Police by local media, made us realize that there is potentially much more value to working with national media or outlets with broad reach outside of Austin than working with local stations who seem to take their marching orders from APD. Since then, we have worked with two documentary series that will feature Peaceful Streets Project in upcoming episodes, and we are working with a documentary crew that will be following us for at least the next year. Stay tuned for updates!
With our increased actions we have also received support from donors to upgrade our cop watch capabilities. Thanks to generous donations we have been able to purchase 8 camcorders, 3 actions cameras, a livestream camera, a professional still camera, and a quadcopter, along with various other technologies that assist us in our work. The quality of our cop watch videos has really shot up, and we have already been able to provide high quality raw video to several victims of Austin Police so they can use it in their criminal defense and potentially in any future civil suits against the City of Austin and the criminal cops. We could certainly use more donations as we have some exciting plans for 2016, so please consider donating if you have the capacity and interest in doing so. We have a rally campaign set up, and you can find additional ways to donate on our webpage. Additionally, you can always purchase us something off of our Amazon.com wish list.
In December, six members of the Peaceful Streets Project had the great privilege of going to St. Louis to train with WeCopwatch. WeCopwatch had been cop watching for years before PSP formed, and in the past year and a half they have helped set up cop watch organizations in several cities. Of note, they helped set up the Canfield Watchmen in Ferguson after the Michael Brown killing, and WeCopwatch Baltimore after the Freddie Gray killing. While in St. Louis we were able to engage in joint training and cop watch with WeCopwatch as their first official Cop Watch College class. We also had the opportunity to go into Ferguson to rebuild a memorial in the spot where Michael Brown was murdered by Officer Darren Wilson. Although the memorial was taken down the next day, the experience was sobering, humbling, and inspiring. The Canfield Watchmen kicked the police out of the Canfield Green Apartments, showing us it can be done, and now WeCopwatch is building a central training space down the road for cop watchers nationwide.
In the coming year we are elevating our direct actions to the next level. The frequency of our cop watching has already risen, and we will continue to put more cameras on the street on a weekly basis. We will be hosting several Know Your Rights trainings, and we are looking for more opportunities to do so. We will also be collecting and analyzing data to identify improved ways of exposing police crime. We will also continue to file police abuse complaints and file civil rights suits, although we recognize that the system is a woefully inept way of trying to achieve justice – we will do it for documentation and discovery purposes. Also, we plan to host WeCopwatch in Austin in return for their hosting us in St. Louis.
You can get involved with the Peaceful Streets Project! We are holding public monthly meetings at Bennu Cofffehouse in E. Austin at 8p on the first Wednesday of each month. Our first monthly meeting for 2016 was held this Wednesday. We are holding public cop watches on the fourth Saturday of each month, as well. Our public cop watch events will initially meet at Bennu Coffehouse, as well, but at 9p. We also have ample volunteer opportunities outside of cop watch for those who don’t want to risk getting arrested. Come to a meeting to discuss! And once again, you can always donate to help us empower our volunteers to drive change in the streets.
Peaceful Streets Project founder files complaint against cop who interfered with cop watch and assaulted him
The Peaceful Streets Project was founded by Antonio Buehler in response to the the Austin Police Department cover up of the crimes committed against him and another person by Officers Patrick Oborski #4736 and Robert Snider #6846 on January 1, 2012, as well as numerous other cases of police abuse, corruption, crime, and violence that were uncovered in the months following the New Year’s Day incident.
Buehler and several other members of the Peaceful Streets Project initially tried to use the avenues provided to them by the system to get justice through formal complaints, pleas for criminal charges, and civil suits. In each instance, despite PSP members’ innocence, compelling evidence of cop misconduct and crime, and evidence of lies and perjured documents by the offending police officers and their superiors, the cops were not only cleared of criminal wrongdoing, they were neither fired nor disciplined for their misdeeds. In fact, while politicians and the police used the media to slander PSP members, some of the cops were given awards in spite of their criminal conduct.
In the face of such gross injustice (not to diminish the even greater injustice of Austin cops raping and murdering people), which required not only the support of the entire police chain of command, but also the support of local politicians and prosecutors, the members of the Peaceful Streets Project quickly came to realize that the system would not and will never police itself. Nor does the system have any interest in reforming itself from violent institutions that expend enormous resources to prey upon the marginalized and oppressed into peaceful institutions that promote accountability and justice while also ensuring that their actions do not further harm the marginalized and oppressed.
The Peaceful Streets Project instead is focused on engaging in direct action tactics that will draw a dedicated cadre of activists who will ultimately empower communities to engage in larger scale, coordinated actions that will create alternatives to and ultimate make obsolete the violent status quo known as the criminal justice system.
While our focus is on imagining, planning and engaging in radical direct actions, some of us have decided that we will once again utilize certain establishment approved processes when appropriate. We do so knowing that these processes are meant to provide the veneer of accountability while fooling the populace into believing they have a say in how the system is operated. We do not expect our actions to actually result in police officers or other officials being disciplined, fired, arrested, or tried for their corruption and crimes. We simply plan to use these processes to highlight the absurdity that is the system by formally documented the efforts that police, prosecutors, judges, politicians, and the media will go through to prevent justice from prevailing. While the system may eventually sacrifice a cop to the process in order to make the public believe that sometimes the system works, those who are paying attention will recognize that far more often than not the worst criminal cops are the ones who are most protected by the system.
We will post some of those efforts on this webpage. The first attempt is a formal complaint that Antonio Buehler has filed against Officer Zachary Scott Baldridge #7042 for his actions on the night of June 13, 2015. Buehler was with a team of Peaceful Streets Project copwatchers that same evening in downtown Austin. When the Peaceful Streets Project team observed a disturbance and policing surrounding a young man, the PSP team moved in to film the incident. Baldridge zeroed in on Buehler and blocked his view. Each time Buehler tried to move to a different position to film the incident, Baldridge moved to place his head and body in front of Buehler’s camera. Eventually, Baldridge shoved Buehler when he allowed Baldridge to block his view, which constitutes assault.
The video to that incident is embedded in this post, and the formal complaint can be found here: 15.12.02 Baldridge Complaint Affidavit for upload. Consider this an evolution of our Police Abuse Complaint Department. Through the video and the complaint, it should become quite apparent that Baldridge (and probably SGT Randy Dear #4422) broke both Austin Police Department policy and Texas state law. We will provide you follow ups on the progress and outcomes of the so-called disciplinary and criminal processes that are supposed to take place in the aftermath of documenting these policy violations and cop crimes. Don’t hold your breath that justice will be served — for that we need you to get involved in Peaceful Streets Project actions.
UPDATE 1: On December 3, 2015, we were informed that no use of force report was filed. That means at a minimum that Officer Zachary Baldridge failed to file a required report, and the SGT Randy Dear failed in his duty to ensure the report was filed.
UPDATE 2: On February 4, 2016, we were informed that the case was not being submitted to SIU for an investigation into criminal action by Officer Zachary Baldridge. So that means that either cops are allowed to assault cop watchers, or that shoving someone in the chest in not assault. It would be interesting to find out if the Austin Police Department is willing to allow people to shove their coward cops in the chest.
The USA loves violence, especially when it is directed toward the poor and homeless, women, LGBTQ persons, the mentally ill, and people of color. Our police apparatus exists in order to defend hegemonic power and property. Police are given the power to beat, to invade, to rape, and to kill with impunity, and people love the police because they love violence, subjugation, and control.
One of the most popular and enduring TV shows of our time, Law and Order: SVU, consists of a never-ending sensationalist exhibition of the torture, rape, and murder of women. Its ostensible “feminist” purpose is to illustrate the problem of violence against women and the “heroic” efforts of the paternalistic police to combat it. The detectives decide who is a “good victim” and often engage in victim blaming, exploitation, and worse. It is a nasty, misogynistic, pornographic spectacle that perpetuates the basest attitudes and thoughts about women.
The idea of the good cop makes no epistemological sense. In service to an oppressive system that commits daily assaults, rapes, and murders, being a good cop is like being a good soldier in an immoral war which, like almost all wars, exists in order to abuse the vulnerable.
As a society, we have long ago decided to allow the state, through its policing apparatus, the authority to decide who has freedom and even life. But fascism needs more and more bodies to exploit and to destroy in order to fuel its growth. By definition, the police need the ability to beat, to rape, and to murder.
In this video, Officer Martin of the Austin Police Department publicly flaunts his entitlement to rape young women. He carries the smugness and the nonchalance of the serial rapist and abuser. With all the power of the state behind him, why should he expect any consequences this time? Indeed his own police chief became nationally notorious for minimizing rape by officers, and his fellow officers’ jokes about “un-raping” women were parodied on the international hit Orange is the New Black.
Notice, however, how his demeanor changes when he is held accountable by members of the Peaceful Streets Project. He can’t scurry away fast enough.
It would not be sufficient for Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo to take the badge away from this rapist and to put him in prison. The whole system is deeply diseased. The problems are so insidious and so overwhelming that it can be tempting for members of oppressed classes to turn away into depression, isolation, or escapism.
But social movements throughout history show us that they can beat us, rape us, even kill us, but that when we come together and expose the truth, we still have agency.
On September 21, 2012, the Peaceful Streets Project came across a DWI stop on West 6th Street in Austin, TX, during a standard roving cop watch patrol. As you can see in both video that are embedded, the Peaceful Streets Project cop watchers (Antonio Buehler and Sarah Dickerson) quietly approach to film the interaction between the police officer and the suspect, while the police officer is still in the vehicle. That police officer is Patrick Oborski, the cop whose illegal arrest of Antonio Buehler on New Year’s Day 2012 helped spur the formation of the Peaceful Streets ProjectBy every measure of the law, none of the Peaceful Streets Project cop watchers were interfering with the stop. They were far enough from the stop that they were not impeding the investigation. Oborski calls out Antonio Buehler by name, and tells him to back up several times, to which Buehler responds by asking “how far” he has to move back. Oborski then said, “back up until I tell you to stop, back up.” Buehler backs up, then asks Oborski once again how far he needs to move back, but Oborski doesn’t respond.
SGT Adam Johnson then come on the scene. Johnson is Oborski’s supervisor who helped cover up the crimes of Oborski (and Officer Robert Snider) on January 1, 2012.
Johnson then begins to order Buehler and Dickerson to go in the opposite direction that Oborski ordered Buehler to go. Johnson told Buehler and Dickerson to go to the other end the block, on the other side of Oborski, which would have required them to approach Oborski, walk within feet of him in order to pass him and the suspect, and then continue on to the end of the block.
Buehler, recognizing the danger in walking toward the police officer who had previously illegally arrested him, and feeling that it was a trap, repeatedly asked Johnson why he was giving him such an absurd order, how far he needed to move back to not be “interfering,” and reminded Johnson how he could not be interfering at such a distance.
Despite constantly moving back while asking how much further he would have to move back, Buehler was ultimately illegally arrested by Johnson after Buehler asked Johnson why he was being a “bully.”
Johnson then arrested Dickerson who was further away from the stop than Buehler the entire time.
Despite having criminal charges hanging over their heads, the Austin Police Department and city attorneys prevented Buehler, Dickerson, or their lawyers from reviewing the video or retrieving the cameras the police confiscated from them for two years. The Austin Police Department and the city apparently didn’t want the world to see how their cops clearly targeted cop watchers and violated their civil rights by illegally arresting them for filming the police. It wasn’t until a judge ordered the City of Austin to turn over the cameras that Buehler and his legal team were able to see these video.
Johnson was never disciplined or charged for his violation of Buehler and Dickerson’s civil rights, or his crimes on January 1, 2012. Johnson was, however, celebrated for irresponsibly shooting and killing a mentally ill man with his service pistol on Thanksgiving of 2014, while holding horse reins in one hand, toward a major interstate from a distance of about 300′.
Oborski, likewise, was never disciplined or charged for his violation of Buehler and a San Antonio woman’s civil rights on January 1, 2012. Oborski was, however, awarded the department’s first ever Jaime Padron Hero Award after every cop in Austin found out that Oborski was caught on tape abusing a woman, assaulting Buehler, and then trying to frame him with a felony crime that he did not commit.
Austin Police Department won’t discipline, fire, or arrest cops who are caught on camera committing crimes, but they’ll celebrate cops when they irresponsibly kill people.
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.
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.
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