Tonight (Monday) at 7:30p, a screening of The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution will be played at the Marchesa Hall & Theatre at 6226 Middle Fiskville Rd., Austin. Tickets are still available. The weblink to purchase tickets is: http://www.austinfilm.org/page.aspx?pid=3040&cgid=5&ceid=4811&cerid=0&cdt=10%2f5%2f2015. For those who don’t know, the Black Panther Party was the original cop watch group. In response to racist policing and police brutality, the Black Panther Party began by going out and observing the police interacting with the public. They didn’t have cameras back then, but they were armed with law books and rifles.
And on Friday at 7p, at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, there will be a showing of Peace Officer with a Q&A afterward featuring Scott Christopherson and Peaceful Streets Project founder Antonio Buehler. Peace Officer won multiple awards this past year at various film festivals, including two at SXSW. There are only six seats remaining so purchase your tickets, today: https://drafthouse.com/movies/peace-officer-w-director-scott-christopherson/austin. There will be other showings if you can’t make the 7p showing, but no other Q&A panels.
Also, we are still looking for volunteers who would like to lead or assist on any of the following efforts we are currently engaged in:
- Cop watch
- Know Your Rights trainings
- Police Abuse Complaint Department
- Research (e.g., historical, public information requests)
- Writing (e.g., blog posts, OpEds)
- Video editing
Please reach out if you would like to engage in any of the above activities.
Hopefully we will see you at these two documentaries!
Over the past three and a half years, members of the Peaceful Streets Project have collectively gone into the streets thousands of times to film the police in order to help protect and serve the community. Most of these cop watches have resulted in boring videos of typical police encounters, or what we call non-incidents (although to the people detained, ticketed, or arrested they are hardly non-incidents). Hundreds of these cop watches have resulted in videos of cops abusing their power, harassing us or other members of the public, and/or committing crimes against us or other members of the public. And in zero instances have we videoed a “good” cop arresting a terrorist cop who was abusing, violating the rights of, or committing a crime against us or a member of the public–although there have been numerous opportunities for those so-called “good” cops to protect people by arresting terrorist cops.
As a grassroots organization with zero employees and no 501(c)(3) designation, we have never focused on raising money to outfit ourselves with high quality equipment. The bulk of the money that we have raised has been used to fund our two (free to the public) Police Accountability Summits, and the purchase of 100 Sony Bloggies that we handed out to people in our communities so they could also film the police. Our volunteers have primarily used their own smart phones, flip cameras, and camcorders that they bought using their own funds. Unfortunately, this has resulted in far too many low quality videos.
Fortunately, a benefactor has stepped up to the plate to help us upgrade our technology. This person purchased seven camcorders, three action cameras, a professional camera and a separate lens, a camera for livestreaming, numerous memory cards, multiple battery packs, and various other accessories. Now when we go out cop watching we will be able to capture more video, at higher quality, from more angles.
Our donor has long been frustrated by the tyranny within our society, and had been looking for an organization worth supporting. Their priority was to support an organization that was doing the dirty work necessary to help society move forward, that has the courage to speak truth to power, stand up to power, and to embolden and empower others to do the same.
We are proud of the work that we have been doing. We have not wavered in our pursuit for justice and a society free of institutionalized violence. We will not compromise our work in an attempt to appease our critics. And we will continue to engage in the radical work of calling out terrorism where we see it. Our actions do not win the support of the meek, or those who believe that one must respect their oppressors in order to mitigate the oppression. Our actions do, however, win the support of those who have given up on the fairy tale of “good” cops. They win the support of those who are willing to go into the streets, go into the courts, or donate to help us continue to engage in direct action tactics that shine a light on the abuses of the police state, and that empower others to stand up, as well. Thank you, dear benefactor. We will put your donation to good use.
If you would like to support the Peaceful Streets Project, we encourage you to reach out to us to get involved in some of our volunteer activities (e.g., cop watch, know your rights trainings, jail support, police abuse complaint department, fliering), or donate to help us grow. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
On July 18, 2015 three Dallas area activists headed down south to Waller County Jail to conduct an independent investigation into the murder of #SandraBland. One of those activists was Stephen Benavides (@S_Benavides1 on Twitter), and the other activists were Shani Deason (@WickedBeaute) and Sunshine (@LOLatWhiteFear).
Afterwards, on the 4 hour drive back to Dallas, the group stopped in Madisonville, TX to use the restroom. Across the street, Madisonville Police had a Black man pulled over and out of his car. This prompted the group to begin filming the interaction (cop watching) to ensure the safety of the driver.
After the driver was let go, the group of activists decided to leave. The two Madisonville police officers decided instead to approach the group and began to question their decision to #FilmThePolice. When asked by the police why they “think that’s acceptable to come walking up like that,” Stephen clearly articulated that they have a Constitutional right to film the police so long as they did not interfere with the stop. On that point, he was completely right, and the police should have apologized for the misunderstanding and left them alone. However, the police officers decided to continue the discussion instead of disengaging.
Stephen told the police officer, “you walked toward us.” Again, Stephen was right. The activists clearly never interfered with the stop and there would not have been an interaction had the police not approached these law abiding activists. But instead, knowing the activists had not committed any crime, the police officer said, “if you wanna keep pushing the issue, what we can do is we’ll take you to jail and you can explain yourself to the judge.” The police officer at this point was making it very clear to the activists that the cops would be willing to illegally arrest the activists for what is commonly known as “contempt of cop,” or not bowing down before the police.
The activists then challenged the thuggish behavior of the police. Stephen specifically asked, “push what issue?” As the police tried to inform the activists where they would allow them stand if they wanted to film, Stephen asked multiple times, “push what issue?” He also reminded them that filming was a Constitutionally protected right. As the activists tried to educate the ignorant police officers as to what is illegal and what is not illegal, Stephen uttered the f-word. At that point the other officer told him, “if you say one more word you’re going to jail, one more cuss word.” The cop then continued, “you’re not going to cuss out here.”
Stephen then had a choice to make, as many cop watchers and activists do. Does he stand up for his rights, knowing that it is completely legal to curse at police, and let another f-word fly? Or does he go home so that he can see his family and sleep in his own bed at the end of the night? Stephen chose to flex his rights, and told the cop, “fuck you.” The police then illegally arrested him. He spent the night at the Madison County Jail on the charge of “Disorderly Conduct”.
For those who don’t understand how terrorism and white supremacy work, pay attention to the video. Even if the police believed that Stephen had broken the law, which he did not, once the cops arrested him they had no reason to reengage with the other activists. However, the cops felt it was more important to terrorize the other activists, so they turned around and came back to bully and threaten Shani (@WickedBeaute) and Sunshine (@LOLatWhiteFear). Kudos to these two activists for standing up to these bully cops after they saw their friend illegally arrested, despite the imminent threats to their lives and liberty.
The police have a saying for the type of illegal arrest they employed against Stephen, “you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride.” It means that they don’t really care if you are convicted or exonerated, the purpose of the arrest is to cause you the inconvenience of spending a night in jail, paying thousands of dollars to a lawyer, coming to court many times, and then often times having to go through a trial in the hope that a jury will recognize that the arrest was illegal.
Telling a cop, “fuck you” is not illegal. The courts have ruled time and time again that cops do not have the right to arrest you because they are offended by your words. The courts have ruled that you can wear clothing with the word “fuck” in public. They have ruled that you can flip off a cop. And, Stephen will eventually have the courts reaffirm that you can say “fuck you” to a cop. A member of the Peaceful Streets Project also has a pending lawsuit over an arrest for telling a cop to “go fuck yourself,” which will also go down as a case law win.
Stephen’s fight continues. Yesterday, Stephen was in court in Madisonville and had his next pretrial appearance set for September 24th. He is going to fight this illegal arrest, he is pushing for a speedy trial, and he needs your support to do so. When people stand up to the terrorist police they risk their most basic freedoms, their money, and sometimes their lives. When Stephen righteously told the cop, “fuck you,” he was speaking for all of us. Please help him beat these bogus charges by donating to his legal fund: https://rally.org/f/kUhNYaDBy0U.
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.
On August 2nd, I was arrested while filming police officers downtown. It marked the fifth time that I have been wrongfully arrested by the Austin Police Department in retaliation for exercising my constitutional right to film the police in an attempt to hold them accountable. Fortunately for me, I do not have to rely on police video to ensure that I am exonerated of the charges pending against me.
APD continues to mislead the public on the well-established right to film the police in public. In addition to being the document that all police officers swore to uphold and defend, the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Among the first rights enshrined in the Constitution are freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Contrary to claims by Chief Acevedo, it is impossible for someone to illegally film police officers if they are peacefully doing so in a public space. The pro-First Amendment position that we have the protected right to film the police has been reaffirmed numerous times in Federal Courts, from Glik v. Cunniffe in the First Circuit to my lawsuit against the City of Austin in the Fifth Circuit.
Acevedo tries to confuse the public by claiming that his officers are not arresting people for filming, but merely for their “conduct” while filming. But there should be no confusion—the only questionable conduct is that of police officers illegally arresting lawful people. Acevedo also tries to confuse the public by claiming that the Peaceful Streets Project is interfering with arrests. However, all such claims are baseless. They have yet to provide a single example of a Peaceful Streets Project member physically interfering with an arrest. Legally, one cannot interfere just because they happen to be holding a camera in their hand.
The Peaceful Streets Project is a grassroots initiative that grew out of the community support I received after I was arrested on January 1, 2012. That morning, I witnessed Officers Patrick Oborski and Robert Snider abusing a woman who had not committed any crime. I began to question the officers and attempted to take pictures with my cell phone. Because I had the audacity to exercise my constitutionally protected rights, I was arrested and charged with the felony crime of spitting in a police officer’s face. Fortuitously, half a dozen witnesses were willing to come forward and testify that the police lied about the event, and one took video of the incident.
What I did not have access to for the two years and nine months after the arrest, while APD continued to slander me by claiming I spit in Oborski’s face, were the dash cam videos that also proved my innocence. APD and prosecutors also failed to turn over the 7-Eleven surveillance video they had in their possession, which we fortunately acquired through other means. In subsequent arrests, they also confiscated three Peaceful Streets Project cameras that had video of Austin police illegally arresting us for filming them. It took us about two years to get those videos back from the city. And the city tried to quash our requests for HALO video that show the events leading up to my arrest on August 2nd.
Acevedo disingenuously claims that they are now rolling out body cameras to increase transparency. However, body cameras without access will not increase transparency, they will become another tool for the police to abuse people they find undesirable. The opposite of transparency is the status quo in which APD suppresses video of police misconduct while misrepresenting those incidents by referencing videos that they refuse to allow the public to see.
If APD were really interested in transparency, they would acknowledge that the six videos of my most recent arrest prove that the police officers lied in order to justify another illegal arrest. And they would encourage the public to record the police.
* This is in response to their op-ed Body cameras might illuminate right and wrong when recording police. I tried to have this op-ed published by the Austin American-Statesman but like many media outlets, they choose to let the lying cops dictate the narrative of the story, and to have the final word.
It is Peaceful Streets Project’s hope that Acevedo’s reaction of disgust at the slander rhetoric of a slain officer’s character will provide him with some insight into the injustice of a practice so commonplace in the news media, police press conference rhetoric, and bigoted minded individuals, that much of mainstream white America shows a selective impairment in the identification and expression of similar disdain when the equivalent practice is applied to victims of police abuse—particularly when those victims are black men and boys. Indeed, it is our hope that Acevedo might examine his reaction to this injustice and note that others, when faced with a parallel situation, might dare to feel the same way. Indeed, it is conceivable that just like him, others may likewise conclude, “This is how the mind of so-called Peace Officers work and why some members of our community don’t want officers inches from their face.”
The irony here is that Art Acevedo and his supporters are missing the point entirely, yet driving it home precisely: yes, it is offensive, hurtful, and callous to slander a slain victim irrespective of whatever preconceived notions or judgments a complete stranger has about his or her character. The disproportionate outcry when this happens to a slain officer relative to a slain black person is precisely why the specificity that black lives matter is important. The public already understands that officer’s lives matter—that is why these comments ignite such visceral anger. This reaction is all but absent from large segments of white America when the tables are turned, however, and a black person is slain at the hands of police. Indeed, this outrage and empathy gap betrays the ardent protests that “all lives matter.”
This was posted in response to the predictable outrage that resulted from us using the same rhetoric about a slain police officer that the police, their supporters, and the media use to dehumanize a person of color each time a cop kills one of them.
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.
BREAKING VIDEOS: Austin Police Affidavit Proven False by Peaceful Streets Project Videos; Video Proves Illegal and Unconstitutional Arrests
In what many believe was a continued assault on the First Amendment rights of police accountability activists by the Austin Police Department, Antonio Buehler, founder of the Peaceful Streets Project, and Mike Bluehair Smith of Film the Police Portland were both arrested early Sunday morning, August 2nd, while filming police officers in downtown Austin during an organized “cop watch.” Fortunately for Buehler and Smith, the videos that members of the Peaceful Streets Project were taking proves that their arrests were illegal, unconstitutional, and that the Austin Police Department issued a fraudulent probable cause affidavit.
Austin Police Officer Aljoe Garibay #6155 was the author of the affidavit for the arrest of Buehler. The affidavit included a series of misleading and false statements. The misleading and false statements are listed below in bullet format, with an explanation of why the statement is misleading and/or false in the subsequent bullet:
- “Not only did responding officers have to move around crowds to get to the disturbance they also had to move around members of the Peaceful Streets running towards the scene attempting to get there before we could, this delayed our response time to help and assist breaking up the disturbance by adding to pedestrian traffic, blocking my path, at one point I had to move Buehler out of the way.” (Paragraph 3)
- First, the Peaceful Streets Project members are a part of the crowd, and should not be treated as a separate class of people who are expected to always be mindful of who may be behind them. To argue that only those with cameras have the responsibility of knowing if a police officer is behind them and wants to move in a straight line to an unknown point that would lead the police officer through that person with a camera else they be arrested for interference places a considerable burden on cop watchers. A burden that is a violation of their First Amendment rights.
- Second, the video of the incident shows that Garibay was in a hurry to get nowhere. Garibay went past the disturbance to push past Buehler, and then stopped and stood around doing nothing.
- Third, Garibay refers to the scene as a “disturbance” implying that a crime was in progress involving a crowd. The scene was merely a young woman vomiting. The police work performed was in the nature of a welfare check to make sure the young woman was OK and nothing further happened.
- “It was then that Antonio approached our perimeter and made contact with SGT. Randy Dear. Antonio was holding a video recording device in his hand and was holding it approximately 6 inches from SGT. Dears’ face nearly touching him.”
- First, the affidavit makes it appear that the police presence at this time was related to an ongoing crime scene incident or disturbance. In fact, there was no incident at this point at all. The incident with the sick young woman had been resolved, all parties including the police had dispersed, and all Peaceful Streets Project cameras turned off. There was no disturbance whatsoever.
- Second, Buehler did not approach their perimeter. The police officers formed a huddle where they were all listening to SGT Dear, ostensibly preparing to orchestrate an illegal arrest of Buehler. Buehler was approached by SGT Dear, not the other way around. The video does not reveal any reason for the huddle.
- Third, the video clearly shows that SGT Dear moved from the huddle approximately 10-15 feet away to within inches of Buehler’s camera. At no point while Dear was approaching Buehler did Buehler advance his body or his arm holding the camera.
- “SGT Dear. Advised Antonio that he was on patrol and asked him to get back as he was in blocking his view, preventing him being able to have a clear line of sight of the large 6th street crowd. Antonio moved his recording device approximately 2 inches and began arguing with SGT. Dear.”
- First, the claim is an outright lie. SGT Dear said, “Hey, I’m going to let y’all know, the next time we go to a disturbance and you all get in the way … yes you were … the next time you’re interfering you’re going to be arrested. Alright, thank you. You’ve been warned Sir.” And then he walked away.
- Second, as previously proven through video, Buehler did not advance toward SGT Dear at all. Buehler’s “arguing” consisted of Buehler asking for clarification on how they could be interfering for standing somewhere.
- “A few minutes went by and I then asked Antonio to step back at least an arm’s length as he was now focused on recording CPL. Sebek. Antonio had his recording device approximately 6 inches away from CPL. Sebek face.”
- First, no more than thirty seconds went by from the time Dear walked away to the time Garibay told Buehler to stay an arm’s length away.
- Second, Buehler was at an arm’s length away from Sebek, and further for Garibay, the entire time. The video shows Sebek reaching his arm out ordering Buehler to be an arm’s length away without touching Buehler. Buehler never advances toward either of them.
- Third, Sebek was filming Buehler as Buehler was filming Sebek. They both had comparable filming positions, although Sebek initially placed his camera closer to Buehler’s face than Buehler did to Sebek’s face. At no point did Buehler stick the camera within six inches of Sebek’s face. The only time Buehler adjusted his filming position was when Sebek placed his camera directly in front of Buehler’s camera.
- “A few minutes went by again, and Antonio kept arguing with us getting closer and closer every time attempting to distract and engage in conversation. I … pointed exactly to him where he needed to be for a safe distance. Antonio kept getting closer and loser, rallying up his crew as he was being loud trying to get attention from the 6th street crowds and his crew quickly becoming a hostile situation.”
- First, only seconds elapsed.
- Second, the video shows that Buehler never advanced toward Garibay.
- Third, the video shows that Antonio did not say anything to anyone who he knew or motion to anyone who he knew in any way to get them to “rally” or to bring “attention from the 6th street crowds.”
- Fourth, the hostility came from Dear and Garibay issuing illegal orders to Buehler.
- “Antonio again refused to maintain a safe distance, again standing very close to officers placing camera phone into the faces of officers trying to watch the large 6th street crowd.”
- First, Buehler never advanced toward the police officers. The only reason Buehler was ever “very close to officers” was because the officers advanced toward Buehler.
- Second, Buehler never stuck a camera phone in the face of any officers trying to watch the crowd. The officers place their faces in Buehler’s largely stationary camera throughout the entire episode. The only time Buehler actively moves his camera is to be able to film Sebek who uses his camera to block Buehler’s. Sebek obviously was not watching the crowd; he was filming Buehler.
- “SGT. Dear approached Antonio and notified him to turn around he was under arrest for interference with public duties.”
- After SGT Dear approached Buehler and moved to within inches of him, Dear told Buehler that he had to move back because they were about to go on patrol. While protesting an illegal order, Buehler did step away from Dear and moved out of the space that he suggested he needed. Buehler was arrested, anyway. Buehler then turned around and tried to hand off his cameras to other Peaceful Streets Project members.
- “… he kept resisting by attempting to put his right arm under him.”
When compared to the multiple videos that the Peaceful Streets Project took of the arrest, it is clear that the affidavit written by Officer A. Garibay #6155 is one long string of misleading and fraudulent statements. At no point did Buehler advance toward the officers, at no point did the officers give Buehler any legal orders that would have required him to step back, and at no time did they have probable cause to arrest him. Further, Mike Bluehair Smith was illegally arrested for “interference with public duties” for simply trying to catch Buehler’s cameras as he tried to hand them off to Peaceful Streets Project members to prevent the police from confiscating them and suppressing the video evidence of the arrest.
Buehler said, “This arrest highlights how the Austin Police deliberately uses false arrests to trample on the Constitutional rights of those trying to hold the police accountable. By every measure, they were the only people who committed crimes on Sunday morning. They know that by the law, it is impossible to interfere with public duties simply by standing in a public space and filming cops standing around doing nothing. They also know that the Constitution trumps their belief that they can bark arbitrary orders at people with cameras to prevent them from filming their activities.”
In a follow up to statements made to the media on Sunday, Millie Thompson, Buehler’s defense attorney said, “I told you all that it was an illegal arrest. I told you so.”
Buehler originally made news on January 1, 2012, when he was arrested on the charge of Harassment of a Public Official, a 3rd degree felony, for allegedly spitting in Austin (TX) Police Officer Patrick Oborski’s face. Buehler was ultimately cleared of all charges from that arrest due to multiple witnesses stepping forward to testify that Oborski lied about Buehler spitting in his face, as well as multiple videos and audio files that proved that Oborski lied. In the fall of 2012, the Austin Police Department trained their officers how to illegally go about arresting Buehler and other members of the Peaceful Streets Project for filming them using the “interference with public duties” statute. Over the past three and a half years, Buehler has been arrested five times, has had ten charges levied in the courts against him, and has had dozens of criminal investigations launched against him (including at least three felony investigations by the Austin Police Department). Buehler has beaten every charge. No police officers have been disciplined or arrested for their illegal arrests.
The Peaceful Streets Project and Film The Police Portland are independent grassroots organizations that attempt to promote police accountability through cop watching (filming the police in public), in addition to other forms of direct action such as Know Your Rights trainings, protests against police brutality, and police accountability summits.
Antonio Buehler’s video: https://youtu.be/7ktkUingcOs
Steve D’s video: https://youtu.be/qIFItJeCM5c
Julian Reyes’ video: http://youtu.be/kvE8qGIUPm0
Richard B’s video: http://youtu.be/e4mziCp43VI
Lynn F’s video: http://youtu.be/ES04LtfEMCQ
Here are the first four videos synced highlighting how everything APD claims is a lie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiwtuBP7SXw
Antonio Buehler’s video of “disturbance” before the arrest: http://youtu.be/tCGPt0VvZg4
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.