Posts Tagged ‘police

18
Apr
10

POLICE HARASSMENT/BRUTALITY IN SEATTLE

I’m sick of it…

Tonight marked yet another instance of being harassed by police in Pioneer Square.  It is getting to the point where we at ONE4ONE cannot go downtown without being hassled by the police.

Tonight we ran across one of our friends who sleeps outside, Germiah, who is one of the kindest, gentlest men whom I have ever had the privilege of meeting.  Germiah told us that the cops had been hassling him.  No surprise there…  As we were speaking to him, the cops began to shine their mag-light in his face from about 12-15ft away.  Every time he tried to turn they would follow, going out of their way to shine and flash the light on and off in his eyes.  When Ben Curtis, and I gathered up to block the light here they came.  The butted up in between us and postured up, trying to intimidate as they stood with their arms at right angles and hands on their hips, puffing out the chest.  The one officer continued his bullying with the light, now shining it with blinding pinpoint accuracy in the eyes of my friend from only 3ft. away.  The officers confronted us and asked if WE had a problem!!!  “Who did we think we were to try and block the light!”  We informed them that the light was shining directly in our eyes so we turned our backs, blocking it off.  The officer responded that “well, you shouldn’t have done that.  It wasn’t shining in your eyes…just his (referring to Germiah).  We informed them that either way…there’s no reason to be shining the light.  The officers shouted to my friend that he wasn’t allowed to be there and we promptly stepped in insisting that they tell us what the issue was and why had to leave.  The cops seemed surprised, taken aback and finally responded that he had been leaning his back against a window and they had warned him before that he couldn’t do that (despite the numerous club patrons at Pioneer Square doing the same).  According to them since he was now touching the window (maybe 1/3 of his torso was touching the glass as the rest was against the outer lying brick) he had to leave.  We protested and the cops threatened Germiah that he was breaking the law and failing to comply.  Germiah leaned in and asked that we just “let it go” as he “had to sleep out here and fears for [his] safety”.  And then a strange thing happened…for the first time after several incidents, when we asked the cop gave us his name.  Officer Davenport.  Officer Davenport then popped off several snide comments which unfortunately I gave no heed to and do not remember or else you’d be reading them right now.

Being the concerned citizens that we are, we proceeded around the block and back to inform the officers that in front of Jimmy Johns and the Creole restaurant and by two of the clubs, non-homeless people were leaning against windows and “since it was such a high priority and so illegal we just thought they should know”.  They did not move and did not proceed after any of the other “law breakers”, but then again none of the other people were black homeless men.

I’m sick of it…

This is not the first instance.  We have previously been walking down the block only to have a white expedition run the red light on a left-handed turn and drive up the sidewalk.  From the vehicle proceeded 4 vice squad officers with their hands on their guns that ran up and then pinned Ben up against the wall and began dumping out our donations.  One of the officers began to get into face, bumping against me and almost knocking me over.  He was shouting at me to “Get the fuck off the block!  Get out of here motherfucker! Leave now!” I asked repeatedly why they were searching Ben and dumping out our stuff, but they refused to answer.  I asked them for names which they also refused. My only answer was the officer pushing me further and further back, screaming and cursing me.  Finally, the officer who was searching through his wallet came across his identification showing him to be the Dispatch Center Manager for Operation Nightwatch.  All of sudden their demeanor changed.  They picked up the socks and other donations that they had dumped out and then released Ben.  They informed us that they were sorry, but they still did not identify themselves.  The only information they would give is that we looked like drug dealers and they couldn’t understand why a minister would be out in Pioneer Square!  I mean…c’mon!!!  People deal openly in Pioneer Square constantly!  One can walk down the streets and be peddled drugs incessantly, but we look drug dealers?!?  Here I am, in clerical shirt and clerical collar, in a walking boot and on crutches and I look like a drug dealer?  Even if I did, does that give them the right to not identify themselves and to search and detain us without giving reason?!?!  As to cops not understanding why a minister would be downtown at night…that’s another story!

Our conclusion is that this was retribution as we’ve had previous run-ins with the police in Pioneer Square when they have repeatedly tried to run our friends who sleep outside off the square and keep them from sitting down while at the same time allowing the patrons of the clubs loiter around and sit on benches as they feel like.  “Officer we’ll be glad to leave, but unless you tell the other people on the benches and in the park to leave, we’ll be right back.”  Other times the police have come up and demanded to see our friends ID’s.  The look on the officer’s faces is quite the sight to see when we inform our friends outside that they have no legal obligation to show their ID’s and they don’t have to.  Other times the cops have just started searching our friends and going through their belongings without ever giving reason.

I’m sick of it…

Lately the cops have followed us around, and whenever we begin to talk to our friends who are sleeping outside, the cops do their best to interrupt it.  They walk up right next to us and ask “what are you talking about?”.  Or else they tell us that we’re “taking up too much space and blocking the side walk”.  C’mon!  There are three rows of people waiting to get into clubs and we’re on the edge of the sidewalk and n one has come within arm’s length!  The last time the cop stood directly in between us and our friend Edward from the streets and told us that he “wasn’t going to leave until [we] do”!  It was shocking that a cop would come up and wedge himself in the 2ft gap between us for not other reason but to hassle us!

I’m sick of it…

-I’m sick of seeing our friends have their tents and sleeping bags slashed.

-I’m sick of seeing the bumps and bruises from our friends outside who have caught a beating from the cops just because they didn’t hear the cop tell them to wake up and move along.  Or just because they had the audacity to question and talk back to a cop!  Or just because a they were homeless…  By the way…our friends are not arrested.  The cops just beat them and trash their stuff.  No arrests…after all, our friends have not broken the law, they are just homeless.

-I’m sick of hearing stories of police beating our friends and calling them “nigger”.

-I’m sick of police sweeping our friends outside from encampments and not posting any notice and not storing their stuff…just throwing it away.  I recently had one friend outside who was swept at 6th & Yesler whose new laptop was supposedly thrown away because the police deemed it “trash”.  I wonder if the officer is enjoying his new computer?

-I’m sick of police arresting someone who sleeps outside and keeping them sitting on the curb in handcuffs as they joke about “crazy homeless people” for an almost an HOUR with the girls in line for the clubs in attempt to flirt!

-I’m sick of watching police run off our homeless friends from Pioneer Square telling them that it’s illegal to panhandle and they’ll arrest them.

-I’m sick of watching the police in Pioneer Square targeting black homeless man or woman, demanding to see their ID’s and searching them illegally!

Just in the past 3 months we’ve gotten 13 people off the streets.  We are out there making sure people stay safe and dry.  Loving on them, caring about them, and making a difference.  We are out there helping folks get off drugs, helping folks get into treatment, connecting them with services, helping people get in housing, and helping people change their lives.  The police should be working with us, not against us! One4One is freaking social service NPO, and the biggest detriment to us not simply a lack of financing but the police, who are there to protect and serve the community…that is unless you’re homeless…and especially not if you’re black and homeless.

So rest assured that I’ve had my fill.  We will continue to stand for our friends even if no one else will.  In the next few months, I fully expect to be arrested.  I have no desire to go to jail; in fact, I dread it.  But unless people are willing to stand in the gap, unless people are willing to stand and say that this is wrong, our friends outside will continue to suffer.  Their lives are hard enough as it is…why should the police be making it any more difficult?!?  I fear with the new proposed anti “aggressive” panhandling law things will be worse.  More people on the streets will suffer.  I fear for my friends…

I’m sick of it, and I hope you are too.  This has to stop…and suggestions?

“The first lesson a revolutionary must learn is that he is a doomed man. Unless he understands that he does not grasp the essential meaning of his life.” -Huey P Newton

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