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.
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.