Tag Archives: homelessness

San Diego Cop Who Committed Perjury Exposed by His Own Body Cam Video

San Diego Police Officer Perjury Body Camera Homeless Citation

San Diego Police Officer Colin Governski’s own body cam video exposed that he had committed perjury while testifying against a homeless man.

In August of 2015, Officer Colin Governski of the San Diego Police Department was in the process of harassing some homeless people who were camping near a beach. Shortly after, Governski saw another homeless man, Tony Diaz, come out of a nearby bathroom.

He then began accusing Diaz of living out of his truck and after initially indicating that he was warning him about doing so, he quickly decided instead to give him a citation. That citation was based on a San Diego law that prohibits people from living within a vehicle that is parked on public property.

In court, Officer Governski testified that he had caught Diaz sleeping inside the back of his truck. However, Diaz maintained that he was just using the bathroom prior to going fishing at the beach. He also stated that a friend allows him to park on their privately owned property overnight. In spite of his insistence that he had not been sleeping in his truck at the time, based on Governski’s testimony, Diaz was found guilty of “vehicle habitation” and fined $280.

Later, the lawyer representing Diaz filed an appeal of that conviction in order to challenge the constitutionality of the ordinance against living in a car. A similar law in Los Angeles had already been struck down as unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014.

During the appeal process, it was discovered that Officer Governski had been wearing a body camera that day. (See video embedded below.) The unnecessary arrogance and mean spirited nature of the harassment shown on that video is appalling by itself. More importantly though, the body cam footage clearly showed Diaz was walking out of the bathroom and not sleeping in the back of his truck when Ofc. Governski first encountered him.

As a result of the contradiction between Governski’s testimony and what’s shown on the video, the conviction was reversed. However, Governski has yet to be charged with perjury. And it’s not because he doesn’t warrant such a charge. During the original trial, Governski had lied directly to the judge while under oath when he was specifically asked several times if Diaz was sleeping in the back of the truck when he found him. For anyone without one of those Magic Uniforms, that’s a felony.

This wasn’t even the first time he was caught lying and filing false charges to harass someone, either. In 2014, the taxpayers of San Diego were forced to pay $15,000 to another homeless person Governski had falsely arrested. On top of that, he had also violated SDPD policy by not noting on the citation that there was body camera footage available, which is why it wasn’t presented at the trial.

Nobody should hold their breath waiting for Officer Governski (or any other cop) to be charged with or in any meaningful way punished for perjury, regardless of how obvious and outrageous the lies they tell are. In fact, the San Diego City Attorney’s Office indicated that they had not even reported Governski’s conduct to internal affairs or his supervisor when asked by his attorney.

Of course, as Tony Diaz’ attorney, Coleen Cusack, pointed out, if they will lie about such a minor citation what won’t they lie about? For the sake of yourself and anyone else you see being harassed or abused by the police,  film the police.

 

Key West Police Wrongfully Arrest Homeless Man Then Assault Him After Turning Their Body Cameras Off

Key West Florida Police Brutality Homeless Body Camera

The following videos were originally posted at the “Blue Paper” an independent newspaper located in Key West, Florida. All commentary included on the videos are those of a contributor to the Blue Paper. In addition, police reports and all body camera footage that are included within this post were acquired by contributors and/or the staff of the Blue Paper and subsequently submitted to  Nevada Cop Block.  Between the commentary on the video and the video itself this incident is actually somewhat self-explanatory.

Naja and Arnaud Gerard, the editors of the Blue Paper, originally received a video taken by a concerned bystander of a homeless man, who had already been restrained, being treated roughly by a pair of Key West police officers during an arrest. This arrest took place in February of this year and resulted from a trespassing complaint by the manager of a local Publix grocery store. The justification given for this “rough arrest” was that the man being arrested, Kristopher Knight, had kicked the window of the police car once he was placed inside.

That original video was described in a post on the Blue Paper:

The initial bystander video showed Mr. Knight screaming in pain while Key West police officers were handling him. His hands were already cuffed and his legs had been tied with some sort of leash [a hobble strap]. It was not clear what kind of resistance the short 25-year-old would still have been able to show the officers. The level of pressure used on Knight was disturbing for some of our viewers; others found it perfectly justified.

After that video surfaced, public records requests were used to acquire the police report filed by Officers Julio Gomez and Michael Chaustit that day, as well as their body camera footage from the incident. This provided the entire context of the incident from the time the officers first arrived to the time they left.

Interestingly enough however, by some amazing “coincidence” one portion of the arrest was somehow not captured by the officers’ body cams. This, of course, was the part where the officers have pulled Knight back out of the police car. In fact, the body cameras were able to capture everything up to that point and everything after Knight was placed back into the car perfectly fine.

Due to the convenient timing, a skeptical person might even be tempted to think the cameras were intentionally turned off at that key moment. Fortunately though, the bystander was there filming the police as they threw Knight around and twisted his already cuffed arms. Therefore, between the body cam footage and the bystander’ cell phone video, there’s a pretty complete visual record of what happened between Knight and the police that afternoon.

The full incident was described in the Blue Paper’s post:

footage showed Mr. Knight dozing, while sitting down in front of Publix at Key Plaza. One officer, Officer Julio Gomez, wakes him up, and inquires about his condition. He is obtaining reasonable answers and compliance from Knight who he continues to address politely.

Another officer however, Officer Michael Chaustit immediately breaks into foul language and a confrontational attitude. Knight is ordered off the property. He complies, but as he is walking and once he gets about 30 feet away, he yells loudly “Fuck y’all Motherfuckers!” Officer Chaustic is heard saying, “Nope!” Gomez asks: “You want to take him?” Answer, “Yep”.

Chaustit follows behind Knight. He orders “Stop!” Knight raises his hands over his head but keeps walking “Man I didn’t do nothing.” Officer Chaustit, who is twice Knight’s size, throws him into what appears to be some plastic drums then grabs him again and throws him, flying across the walkway, where his head stops inches from a cement column. From that moment on and at all times thereafter Chaustit uses one form or another of “pain compliance.”

The whole thing is captured by KWPD’s new body worn cameras, to one exception: the really disturbing scene, where Knight is completely restrained and yet constantly subjected to pain, that part, is not recorded. The footage however resumes immediately after, as Knight is being put back inside the police cruiser.

It’s pretty evident in the video who was the aggressor that day. From the time he arrived, Officer Chaustit is verbally abusive and confrontational, even when Officer Gomez is being fairly polite and Knight is being cooperative. Obviously, Chaustit is waiting for any excuse to arrest Knight and likely hoping for an opportunity to use force against him. Shortly after, when Knight yells, “Fuck y’all Motherfuckers!” Chaustit seizes his opportunity and proceeds to assault, arrest, and then once again assault him after pulling him out of the car.

Within their post, Arnaud and Naja Gerard also state they contacted Key West Police Chief Donie Lee, who subsequently ordered a review of the incident by the KWPD Professional Standards Department. As a result, according to a statement from Chief Lee, Officer Chaustit received some unspecified “discipline” for his actions (described as a reprimand in the Blue Paper’s post):

“We have concluded our review of the arrest of Kristopher Knight by Ofc. Chaustit on Feb. 4, 2017.  Although we believe there was probable cause for the arrest, we believe the arrest was based on an emotional reaction to provocation by Knight.  My expectation is that our officers always strive to maintain their professionalism and avoid attitude arrest. Ofc. Chaustit also didn’t use his body cam according to policy.  Ofc. Chaustit has been disciplined for his actions.  He is a good officer and has accepted responsibility for his actions. We have determined that the use of force in this arrest was within policy.”

The basic gist of that is “we found that Officer Chaustit probable cause (of which cursing at the police isn’t) to arrest Knight, but it was unprofessional of him to do so because someone had insulted him. And he violated department policy by turning his body camera off right before he assaulted Knight the second time, but Officer Chaustit is a Good Cop and promised not to do it again.”

The video shows otherwise, though. Officer Chaustit, like many of his “Brothas in Blue,” is a violent bully who was looking for an excuse to assault someone whose dangerous crime was coming onto someone else’s property without their permission and going to sleep. It’s not a situation that should require force against a person who is being compliant, even if they are being verbally defiant in the process, especially when Chaustit initiated the hostility himself. And in spite of his “acceptance of responsibility for his actions,” you’d be foolish to believe this was the first time Ofc. Chaustit unnecessarily used violence against another person, even more so if you believe it will be the last.

Full Video With Additional Commentary

Unedited Bystander Video

Bystander and Body Camera Videos Combined

Days Before Christmas, the LVMPD Conducted Raids on Homeless People Stealing Blankets and Winter Shelter

The following post was written by Jonas Rand, a UNLV student and member of Food Not Bombs Las Vegas. It was originally posted at “The World as seen by Jazoof,” a blog maintained by Jason Nellis under the title “‘Take What You Need and Leave Right Now’: Raids Target Local Homeless Encampment.

It details one of the sweeps that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department conducted against homeless people at a local park that members of Food Not Bombs Las Vegas hold one of their weekly picnics, in which they share food with hungry people, including those who do not currently have permanent housing.

During this sweep, the people within the park were given only given one minute to gather their belongings before police threw them away. In particular, officers from the LVMPD stole blankets, tents, and other cold weather necessities from those people. In addition, at least one person, an elderly disabled woman, had her pet dog and sole companion stolen from her.

This raid was carried out just before Christmas and during a time when Las Vegas is experiencing record low temperatures. Instead of allowing people a reasonable amount of time to remove their belongings or storing them for 30 days, as the law stipulates, those possessions were simply thrown in a dumpster, without regard for the hardship it would create for those who were then without shelter from the cold.

This sort of raid, as well as other types of harassment against and bullying of homeless and poor people by law enforcement in Las Vegas, is not an isolated or even unusual occurrence. Essentially, they seem to operate under the assumption that if they make life difficult for homeless people within the city they will just go away. However, they obviously have nowhere to go or they wouldn’t be homeless in the first place.

“Take What You Need and Leave Right Now”: Raids Target Local Homeless Encampment

According to several witnesses and former inhabitants, all of whom wished to remain anonymous, a raid by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) two weeks ago forcibly drove out a group of people camped in a local park consisting of over two dozen individuals, dispersing them and discarding their belongings.

For those who had been residing in East Las Vegas’ Molasky Family Park, located near the UNLV campus, December 8 seemed not unlike any other day. With little to shelter them from the windy winter weather, the park’s street-dwelling residents fell asleep as night descended, expecting nothing new the next day.

That all changed in the early hours of the following morning, when several witnesses say they were awakened to the sound of Metro officers raiding the park to forcibly disperse the park’s homeless population. Perhaps as many as 40 people had been present in the park the previous night.

Park residents report waking to a chaotic scene. They recalled having to move heavy loads of their belongings quickly, after being given only 60 seconds to remove their belongings, with those who failed to comply in time receiving citations.

Those present in the park at the time of the Dec 9 raid said on Tuesday that the unanticipated police action involved the officers arriving while they were asleep/ The police seized many of their personal belongings, including tents and blankets, which were seen being thrown in a dumpster, according to witnesses.

“We woke up and […] the police, the park maintenance people, they were driving around. They came in with the dumpsters, and they were taking everybody’s stuff, throwing it in the dumpster, telling them ‘take what you need and leave right now’”, one witness stated on Tuesday. “They were taking everything there and throwing it in the trash.”

Park Police and LVMPD officers were in the park on Tuesday from approximately 10am to 12pm, when one person was arrested on an outstanding warrant, and confirmed that an action to move on those who had taken up residence in the park was planned as early as December 1. According to Metro’s Sergeant Ryan Cook, the park was singled out for action at a meeting that day of the County Multi-Agency Response Team (CMART), a local police unit which includes multiple county agencies.

LVMPD Sgt. Ryan Cook

Sgt. Cook stated that the action was in response to “people who take up residence in the park and diminish the quality of the park for everyone else who […] would like to utilize this park”. The goal of the action, he said, was to “link the individuals […] who are utilizing the park as their home, to Help of Southern Nevada”, a local charitable organization which provides services for Las Vegas residents affected by homelessness or housing instability, to provide them with services, including housing in shelters or apartments, which he said had been prepared for at least some of the displaced individuals.

Disappointment, conflicting narratives remain

Meanwhile, individuals who were awakened to the raid and who were also approached by police Tuesday reported that volunteers with Help of Southern Nevada were not present at the park at the time they were announced to be coming.

“A couple more police came[…]. They said Help of Southern Nevada would be on their way, that they were going to be there, within 10 minutes, right where we were at. Then I went to the other side of the park, I came back and then they told us “oh, they’re going to be on the opposite side of the park, in 20 minutes”, a previously quoted witness to the raid who was in the park at the time, said later on Tuesday. “We went back to the other side [to meet with them], and they never showed up, we waited [about] an hour. They never came”, he said.

That witness, alongside another witness to the raid who was also present for the police visit on Tuesday, also said that the police were there to inform them of a sweep planned for the next day by the Park Police, to clear out remaining residents. The former camp resident reported that one policewoman’s comments on Tuesday to those who had returned to the park brought up families visiting for the holidays as the reason that he and others had to leave, describing returning individuals as “a deterrent”.

It was not immediately clear whether such a sweep happened; however, sources present the following morning saw no presence of police nor evidence of action to clear the park.

While multiple former residents of the encampment had reported that there were several previous visits by police, none seemed to indicate that there was warning the previous day of what was to come. There were perhaps 5 prior visits, the witness previously quoted said, and that each time, people were told to leave. One head police officer was reported to have repeatedly said “Not on my watch”.

One day before the raid, police came by and awakened everyone, according to another witness, who had lived in the park for approximately 2 years. She said that she had also been given misinformation, namely that the raid would occur on the 16th, a week after the raid, and that Park Police had raided two weeks ago.

But at no time did they announce that they were intending to clear the encampment that Friday, and there was no indication that property would be seized. Sources also reported citations given to individuals who did not leave with their property fast enough, including a deaf resident whose belongings were seized and discarded.

“There’s lots of people in that park that really need help, and they’re not getting it. A lot of us, we’re having hard times right now. Trying to get back on our feet”, said one of the witnesses interviewed Tuesday.

The same witness also reported that he knew of no one who was housed by Help of Southern Nevada as of yet, and that many would refuse to go to shelters. According to the former park resident, the group had only sent one representative once, to inform residents about their housing services. Among the reasons people have not been willing to accept housing options offered by Help of Southern Nevada are the presence of bedbugs in shelters as well as restrictions on pet ownership in available housing options.

Police remain positive

Sgt. Cook expressed an unapologetically positive attitude about the police action.

Cook, who works in the community-oriented policing section of Metro, commented that “when we have individuals that utilize the playground equipment for sleeping places, and kids can’t enjoy the slides, and things like that, is when park police and us get called, to try to help resolve the situation and get people to where they need to be”. He brought up the services that Help of Southern Nevada provides, including a new triage center.

Asked how he felt about the action, he said, “I think it’s positive. I think it’s positive that the park is being used for what it was actually initially designed for, which is recreation and entertainment for all the residents. Not private living facilities.”

Still, however, not everyone is pleased. An additional onlooker who witnessed the raid, noting that displaced camp residents would simply re-locate, said Monday, “They’re not fixing the problem, they’re just avoiding the problem.”

Sgt. Ryan Cook gets a little creepy while talking about a traffic stop

Retired Chicago Cop, “Medal of Valor” Winner, Arrested for Burning Homeless Man’s Tent and Belongings

A man who was arrested for arson after he burned the tent and personal belongings of an area homeless man is a retired Chicago police officer. In fact, Sergeant James R. Povolo, much like a slew of other violent cops that have been exposed as criminals, was a former award winning officer.

Although the exact reason for his recognition is unknown (because the Chicago Police Department attempted to hide the fact that he was once one of their Good Cops), the Naperville Sun confirmed, via a FOIA request, that he was recipient of the department’s “Medal of Valor,” which is awarded for acts of “heroism, personal courage, and devotion to duty” by police officers.

The case he stands accused of currently is decidedly unheroic, though. Although investigators haven’t provided any motive for his actions, the victim was an outspoken and well known activist and political protester who has been involved in a long standing battle with the government officials in Naperville.

Via the Chicago Tribune:

In the Naperville case, Povolo was arrested less than two weeks after the alleged arson. Prosecutors said he approached Huber’s tent at a time he knew Huber would not be there and set fire to it, reportedly with a cigarette. Police have offered no motive for Povolo’s alleged action and have not disclosed what information prompted them to arrest Povolo.

(Scott) Huber, 66, lost his two-tent encampment and most of his possessions in the blaze. At the time, he said he was most distressed about the destruction of numerous computer discs on which he had stored what he said was the history of his political struggles with Naperville officials, police and local judges.

He has battled Naperville authorities for about 20 years, ever since losing his electronics business and being evicted from his home. He is protesting what he says has been unfair and illegal treatment by authorities.

Povolo’s next court hearing is March 1. The terms of his bond were modified last month so he could travel from his Naperville home in the 1300 block of Dartford Court to his Key Colony Beach home in Florida, where he is a legal resident and where he winters from fall to spring, according to court records. Under the original terms, he could not leave the state without permission from Judge Liam C. Brennan, who is presiding over his trial.

“Defendant (Povolo), because of injuries sustained while employed ‘on the job’ as a police officer for the City of Chicago, has artificial knees, and does not well tolerate cold weather,” Povolo’s attorney Charles Dobra wrote in his petition.

Admittedly, it would be a shame if Povolo had to face the cold unprotected within his Illinois summer home, rather than being afforded the warmth of his winter home in Florida, just because he intentionally and maliciously destroyed the shelter and most of the personal belongings of another man for no apparent reason. He is a Medal of Valor winner, after all.

Harassment by Police for Using a Public Park in King City Oregon

The following post and the video included with it were shared with the CopBlock Network by Theodore Pojman, via the CopBlock Submissions Page.

The video shows Officer Hyson of the King City Police Department extorting them for being in a public park, presumably because they are homeless and live in their truck.

According to Officer Hyson, this constitutes “illegal camping” (he eventually decides to extort them for criminal trespassing instead), even though they’ve done nothing except sleep in their truck.

Criminalization of homelessness is not a new thing. Many cities have passed laws that go so far as barring people from voluntarily sharing food with other people in public.

Oregon in particular has passed these “camping” bans which are explicitly intended to target and allow police harassment of homeless people.

Should someone’s economic situation really preclude people from using public spaces when their only “crime” is having nowhere else to go?

Date of Incident: July 1, 2016
Officer Involved: Officer Hyson Badge# 26709, Deputy Fletcher
Department Involved: King City (Oregon) Police Department
Facebook Page: King City – Oregon Police Department
File a Complaint: Online Complaint Form
Department Phone No.: (503) 620-8851

My friends and I were at King City Park at 8 in the morning when we were approached by a rude policeman named Officer Hyson.

He woke me up from a nap and demanded identification from us. I refused to present my license, because I was too tired to look for it, and instead gave verbal identification. He asked me for my social security number which I refused to give.

He seemed offended, called me “junior lawyer” and threatened to cite us for criminal trespass if we weren’t gone in one hour. It was during the park’s open hours. Fifty-five minutes later, after I had finished eating breakfast and was starting the van about to leave, officer friendly pulled up behind me to write me a ticket.

I explained to him that we weren’t committing a crime by being in the park, and that he had no evidence that we were “camping” overnight. He demanded that I present ID, I refused. He demanded that we step out of the vehicle. We refused. He then stuck his hand in the window uncomfortably close to me. I told him to retract his hand from my vehicle/home, he refused at first, but eventually backed off. I asked for his badge number. He said that it would be on the citation.

Around this time, Deputy Fletcher pulled up and talked to Officer Hyson and myself to see what was going on. He chatted with us for a while until officer hyson finished with the citation. Al three of us were cited for criminal trespass 2.

All in all it could have been worse, but I feel like my rights have been disrespected. I was in the public park during daylight hours and yet was cited for trespassing. I believe we were profiled for having Florida plates, being homeless and exercising my right to verbally identify.

I intend to fight the citation in a trial by jury on August 1st, 2016 and none of the three of us can afford to pay the fines. This will likely turn into a warrant if not taken care of. Legal help would be appreciated.

This is not the first time the police have harrassed me for sleeping. Sleeping outside has been criminalized in many places and even where it’s acceptable to sleep, I have been woken up and told to identify myself. I’m tired of this criminal harassment and would Like to see some consequences for these bullies who have nothing better to do than harass the homeless for the crime of existing.

– Theodore Pojman

Homeless Man Unnecessarily Arrested After Being Profiled at Starbucks (Submission)

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Dan Olson, via a message to the CopBlock Network Facebook Page. In addition to that option you, can also send us stories and/or video through the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

The post consists of submission consists of a post Dan made to his personal website describing his recent arrest by police in Erie Pennsylvania. The format of the post has been edited a bit to better fit the structure of CopBlock.org’s own. Otherwise and in terms of the content, it has been reposted as it was originally at the “Communicating Convict” website.

As far as what is described in the post, people are free to decide their own opinion of it. However, it does raise several questions in relation to homelessness and the police, as well as business’ treatment of homeless people. Often times that treatment borders on, if not actually consists of, bullying and unnecessary hostility.

Starbucks certainly has the right to tell someone to leave their property, but is it good business to telling paying customers they are unwelcome after taking their money? If he was being disruptive that would obviously be a different story, but he appears to have been having a peaceful conversation with people that had themselves initiated those conversations.

Beyond that was it really necessary for him to be arrested by the police, once they showed up? One could argue based on the description provided that his real “crime” was not respecting their authoritah quick enough and simply for daring to question it. Anyone who has worked with or around homeless people on a regular basis finds out rather quickly that they are one of  the favored targets for bullying and harassment by police.

Another, bigger issue is that when you call the police, even for minor issues, it can become a death sentence for the person you call them on. That’s especially true if that person is poor and homeless. So, rather than doing that and potentially being responsible for the death of another person, wouldn’t have been better for the manager to have come out and spoken to them, even if they were still determined to kick them out? As long as they weren’t being disruptive or ultimately refusing to leave, why get the police involved in the first place?

Starbucks Calls Cops on Over Educated Homeless Activist!

It’s been awhile since I have posted anything and if you don’t know it’s because I have been in Erie County Prison for two months for the crime of being homeless in a public space and daring to ask a police officer what the law is. Ironically much of what I wrote on the day of my arrest in my previous post would come true. I was walking around Erie for a few days with a sign that read “Homeless will defy and eat politicians for food”. Tom Wolf was scheduled to appear in Edinboro so I created a new Facebook page with a status that read “The way I see it is this. Tom Wolf will be in town on the 14th. I want a pardon.

Since I am homeless in my bright red Edinboro sweatpants and Edinboro Communications Department “Keep Calm and Communicate” shirt the city of Erie can save some face by explaining that I am working with Edinboro and the City of Erie to raise awareness for stigma, particularly toward homelessness and mental health. I will accept an award for my great work and some cash, I will also also…since I am smarter and stronger than “conservatively” 90% of the local government accept a nice desk job with decent pay and benefits. If these demands are not met, (and most likely even if they are) my schizophrenic stroll will continue. Peace love and revolution….Erie.

If you believe these demands are actually reasonable considering the lifetime of abuse and trauma I have suffered, mostly from these institutions PLEASE LIKE AND SHARE!!! I was speaking with a close friend that morning and he expressed his concern for me. I jokingly told him “don’t worry about me, I’m on my Jesus Christ/Buddha consciousness raising awareness for the unfortunate. He replied it wasn’t me he was worried about rather the police I may interact with and how I could be “trapped”. In hindsight it was advice I should have heeded.

Homeless Food

One day the poor will have nothing left to eat but politicians.

I left the library and walked up to the Erie City Mission for lunch. On my way a black gentleman pulled over and offered me a dollar. I thanked him and continued on my way. When I arrived at the City Mission there was almost double the amount of people waiting to eat than last time I was there for a ”research paper.”

Homelessness and poverty must not be improving in Erie. Good thing we are going to pay thousands of dollars for some extra police to patrol the downtown and kick those vagrants to “better” pastures! Inside the place is packed and a couple of Edinboro nursing students are trying to sign people up for some kind of medical service. I make a few comments to them since I am rocking my EU sweats.I get a tray with some greens and a burrito and pass on the sweets.

People are engaged in the same interactions as before and possibly since the doors opened in 1911 (pretty impressive). After listening to a few arguments I shoulder my bag and make my way to the Mental Health Association (MHA) to see if I can score a shower. It’s only a little ironic that I was recently here with my family dropping off donations that my daughter collected for winter and filling out applications to work or volunteer. No work was available, but I could develop a men’s group if I wanted…

In order to be eligible for services at the MHA you need proof that you are receiving mental health treatment. “Luckily” for me I had a few appointment cards in my wallet from Stairways. They also require photo ID, all I have is an Edinboro Student ID since my licence was confiscated…which they accept. A man takes me into a side room and begins to read me my “rights”. You have a right to feel safe, you have a right to your own property, you have a right….he rattles off a few more and I actually feel good listening to it.

When he is done, I comment that that was nice, it must go along way for people suffering from PTSD after interacting with the police. He looks at me like he doesn’t understand the joke, or it wasn’t funny and leads me to the shower. The door does not lock…or I can’t figure it out and I eventually say fuck it I spent enough time in prison…I’ll just shower with this box cutter. After the shower I feel much better and I am grateful the MHA was there as I step out into a light rain.

I walk to Starbucks to enjoy a cup of coffee…as I have been doing for the past couple days. I purchase a coffee and sit down, my homeless sign is visible but I do not feel I am being obtrusive. It is impossible to raise awareness for anything unless you engage the public in some form, besides if you happen to be offended that I am homeless…well that makes two of us and we are one step closer to a “movement”. A few days ago I made some rugged slips of paper with words like Love, Adapt, Refuse, Defy on them with links to this blog. They were rugged and raw along with my sign because…well I really am fucking homeless and I can’t afford many of the tactics I might have learned in Communication Studies. I did have a theory that perhaps people are becoming turned “off” by well designed shit and typical ads and something like what I was doing might actually garner more attention.

Earlier, I had pinned some of these to a board at the Blasco Library, and at a local laundromat. I had these papers sitting at my table with my coffee but never made any active attempts at solicitation. A few people stopped to talk to me such as Scott McGrath gentleman I participated in a “Love Letters to Erie” art event whose artwork can be seen here. At one point I noticed an old acquaintance and I stood up to actually greet them, I heard it is a polite thing to do. In this exact moment a Gannon student names Shayla Jones approached me and informed me that I was the subject of her Social Movements class and she had to come and speak with me.

Naturally, I was ecstatic to hear this news, it was the most validating thing I had felt in a long time so I quickly exchanged contact information with my acquaintance and sat down to speak with Shayla. She expressed both knowledge and interest in “Mass Incarceration” and the difficulties with re-entry so I knew she had read some of my blog and was sincere in her approach.

In a short time, a barista approached our table and rudely interrupts our conversation saying “sir you cannot solicit customers.” I reply I have not solicited anyone, in fact the only person I have approached I in fact knew personally.” She then tells me that she “seen” me hand a piece of paper to someone. Shayla intervenes and says something to the effect of recognizing me and the person were acquainted with each other.

The barista ignores both our testimonies and claims she needs to look after the safety of the customers. I look around and see a couple I know is homeless, a young man I know is homeless, an older schizophrenic who talks to himself more than others…and also has a bag…and Jessie and Ricardo as all the other customers. I begin to feel discriminated against and I say as much. I reply “if I was wearing a business suit you would not even dare to speak to me.” I am feeling harassed and would like to speak to your manager.”

Starbucks’ website claims ”It happens millions of times each week – a customer receives a drink from a Starbucks barista – but each interaction is unique. I guess I was about to learn just how “unique” these experiences can be. According to the police report, the manager rather than coming to speak with me informed this junior coffee cop to call the police.

Unaware that the police have been called, I continue talking to Shayla about some of her personal struggles and perceptions of social issues from poverty, racism and what movements are having positive effects such as Black Lives Matter. My moment of validation and perhaps even congratulations of a apparently successful public action will be short lived when two police officers walk in the door.

The first officer recognizing me as the man who was singing “Kumbaya” behind the courthouse has that classical “oh, no you again look”, and he basically says as much while walking through the door. The second officer has a different approach and locks onto me with a pretty aggressive and meant to be intimidating gaze and says “You. Up. Now.” in a manner meant to illicit immediate obedience and submission.

I have a notepad in front of me and garbed in my Edinboro “Keep Calm and Communicate” shirt I reply “Officer I am a researcher and a scholar could you please tell me what law I am breaking?” Officer Ryan M. Onderko, in a de-escalating (sarcasm) manner responds…I am going to break your fucking head in a minute. With all the education Edinboro has provided me and self control I can muster, I recognize that this officer is looking for an opportunity to be violent. So in the international symbol of preparing to take my leave I rise up and begin putting on my jacket.

While doing so I say, “officer I really will need to know what law I am breaking if I am going to be an informed law abiding citizen.” He then grabs my arm, which caused my body to go tense because it was unexpected and says, “you want to know the law I’ll show you the law, put your hands behind your back.”

I hesitate because I am in shock and disbelief that I might be going to prison, PTSD and a multiple of other symptoms flood my brain. Sensing this Onderko in a real manner again to de-escalate says, “if you resist me you are going to get hurt bad.” I do not resist and allow myself to be cuffed to which Onderko then says “Don’t you ever question me, I don’t care how big you are. I will cut you down.” I respond, “if you are going to threaten me you might as well just kill me, because I refuse to walk around afraid of the police.”

I am escorted outside and Dan Zmijewski follows us out to the police car. The officer looks towards Dan and says “you get out of here, or you are going with him.” Dan says something about his freedom to stand on the sidewalk and Officer Onderko releases me and lunges towards Dan to grab him.

Dan speeds up his walk and almost begins to run when Onderko perhaps recognizing he can’t just leave me unattended calls off his pursuit of Dan. Even from my position of being cuffed I can’t help to be both amused and happy that Dan managed to “escape”.

In the process of checking my pockets for weapons and “contraband” he asks if I am on probation. I reply that yes I am and he says “that is all I need to know.” In America, while on probation the law is less concerned about the truth. When they are prepared to detain you, all they need to say is “probable cause”. You are arrested on a whim…and if you are lucky released after an extensive second thought…typically taking 3-6 months.

This is the story of my “arrest.” Next I will relate some of my experience and interactions while incarcerated at Erie County Prison. I will leave off today with a quote Lenin apparently told a young poet in a coffee shop shortly after the Bolshevik “Revolution.”

Every man must rely on himself. Yet he should also listen to what informed people have to say. I don’t know how radical you are, or how radical I am. I am certainly not radical enough. One can never be radical enough, that is one must always try to be as radical as reality itself.

Intractable conflict, radical conflict and power is what I live and study. I must wonder if my problem is not that I am toooo “radical” for Erie…rather I have not yet become radical enough.

Peace, Love and Revolution to you all.

– Dan Olson