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.