8 Jan
2016
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Peaceful Streets Project New Year’s Update

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.

3 Dec
2015
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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.

12 Oct
2015
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Rape and the Austin Police Department by Erin Schultz

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.

Orange is the New Black Gets Their Material From Austin Police Department Cretins

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.

 

8 Oct
2015

Antonio Buehler Removed From Q&A Panel; The Influence of The Police State

Peaceful Streets Project founder Antonio Buehler was scheduled to sit on a Q&A Panel with Scott Christopherson, the producer of the documentary Peace Officer, following the Austin “premier” of the film, tomorrow evening. Within hours of the Peaceful Streets Project posting a Facebook event about the documentary, the public relations firm that contacted Buehler to sit on the panel sent him an email telling him that the Q&A Panel was cancelled. (If you purchased tickets and want a refund scroll down to the final paragraph)

When Buehler finally got the PR rep on the phone the next day, she told him that the producers of the movie got cold feet because they had received an email from someone who indicated that they were offended by the views of Buehler, and therefore the producers chose to remove him from the panel (but not cancel the Q&A as she claimed the day before). However, when Buehler talked to the producers of the film, they claimed that they had nothing to do with the change, and that the PR company was the one who made that decision.

Unable to get a straight answer from the PR company and/or the producer, we are left to assume that once again the police have exerted external pressure on someone to prevent us from sharing our message of police accountability, even though the police were able to use the same film at the same venue in advance of the premier to push the lie that Austin Police Department doesn’t use their SWAT team to terrorize and kill people. In the past, the police (who are led by media savvy but ethically corrupt Police Chief Hubert “Art” Acevedo) have pressured three venues to cancel Peaceful Streets Project events, to include Huston-Tillotson University after we paid a security deposit. Additionally, they have pressured local media, to include the Austin American-Statesman and Jeff Ward of the local radio station KLBJ, to stop giving us a voice.

One might ask themselves, why would people allow the police to dictate who can appear at their events, who can host events at their establishments, and who they can give a voice to using their platforms? The answer is that the police state is quite influential and powerful, particularly at the local level.

First, the police are a violent gang of thugs who pick and choose which people they abuse the most. If you’re a person of color, homeless, mentally ill, female, or happen to look or dress the “wrong” way, you are much more likely to be abused than people in other segments of society. Much of society recognizes this, and they don’t want to find themselves in the sights of criminal police.

Second, the police provide subsidized security services for corporations. The notion that the police have a duty to protect you has been disproven by the Supreme Court (Warren v. District of Columbia). Sure, police may murder people at traffic stops or turn their backs on someone who is bleeding out in the poor part of town, but they will eagerly protect private business. Business owners are well aware of the benefits of relying on the police to protect their property instead of having to pay private security. It reduces their expenses, padding their profits, and it removes them from liability should the security (police officers) violently beat or kill someone. Like dealing with the mafia, it often pays to stay on the good side of police who may or may not be able to ensure the protection of your business.

Third, in our backward society, there are benefits to being on the good side of the police. If you’re a business owner, you may get taxpayer subsidized customers such as police conferences held at your establishment, paid marketing such as police recruitment advertisements in your newspaper, or special contracts such as a monopoly on towing services. If you’re media, you even get access to the Chief of Police for interviews. And if you’re really friendly with the Chief, he may even be willing to get you out of jail and have your DWI charges dismissed. Of course if you cross the police, you may get cut off from accessing the police department, which may give you a competitive disadvantage (which may force you to fire someone, ruining their life, and leading them to go to New York to commit suicide outside of the national corporate headquarters).

Because the police are a terrorist gang of cowardly criminals, we understand why so few people are willing to stand up to them. After all, we see how they viciously go after the victims of police abuse, with no repercussions because other cops, prosecutors, and politicians refuse to hold them accountable for their crimes. This is why it is essential that we continue to work to undermine the police state, and to help people come to the realization that we can evolve as a society, and live in peace with one another without paying the worst of society to put on a badge and a gun so that they can commit their crimes behind the protection of qualified immunity.

For those who had planned to attend the “premiere” of Peace Officer, you can email Kayla Williams at kayla.williams@drafthouse.com and provide her with your row number, seat numbers and telephone number. She will have someone from Alamo contact you and ask you for the name on your credit card, your credit card number, and the expiration date on the card in order to cancel the charge. You can also call the following number to have your refund processed: 512-861-7040, box office press 4. You must contact them before 7:00 pm on Friday, October 9th in order to get a refund. In place of the film and panel, we will be meeting at 8:00 pm at the Shake Shack for dinner and camaraderie in advance of our Friday night cop watch. I hope you can join us. All power to all the people! #ACAB

5 Oct
2015
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Two Documentaries to See This Week in Central Texas

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!

 

24 Sep
2015
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Donor Provides Peaceful Streets Project With New Equipment to Film The Police

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 peacefulstreets@gmail.com for more information.

 

18 Sep
2015
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Activist Arrested for Saying “Fuck You” to Cops

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.

14 Sep
2015
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EXCLUSIVE: Newly Released Video Show Cops Illegally Arresting Cop Watchers

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 Project

Criminal Cop SGT Adam Johnson

By 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.

 

5 Sep
2015
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Without access, body cameras will not increase transparency by Antonio Buehler

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.

 

31 Aug
2015
Posted in: Blog Post
By    4 Comments

Should we slander dead cops? How does the mind of a peace officer work?

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.