Ferguson Files: You Have the Right to…..

Wait, no you don’t.  Since the institution of the Patriot Act in September 2001, we’ve all been subject to a lot of the “new rules” we saw being played out in full color in Ferguson.  Since the grand jury returned no bill of indictment, the police have been acting even more entitled, if that’s possible, to harass, search, hold, incite arrestable behaviour and on and on.  And, it is all over the St. Louis Metro Area, not just in Ferguson.  Not that it ever was just in Ferguson.

Today, after stepping out of the courthouse, where I was on other business, I turned on my phone to find this message: “A cop threatened to taze me!”.  Checking the time stamp, I realized over 2 hours had passed since that message was sent!  That is when I started to panic, messaging and dialling frantically in order to make sure my friend was Ok.

Why panic?  After all, this is a 35+, college educated, married, father of 2 and business owner.  Surely it wasn’t what he meant to send right?  Wrong!  Part of what he does to support his family and fulfil what he considers his humane and Christian duty is to help the homeless access services.  And it seems that he was in the wrong place on the wrong day.

Earlier, St. Louis and the pastor of the only homeless shelter down town had been arguing again over whether or not the shelter could be closed by the city.  The pastor decided to file suit alleging that the shelter was a house of worship as well as the fact that sheltering the homeless was part of his own personal religious path.  The city didn’t like that attitude, so it evidently sent out it’s bully boys to harass the homeless on the streets near the shelter.  The police scooped up everyone, made them sit on the curb while their ID was checked and also harassed them both verbally and physically.

My friend was ordered to show his ID, and as he searched for it (he’d been doing end of the day paperwork and didn’t know what was going on around him), another officer walked up who first  ordered him out of the car, “You have 30 seconds to give me your ID and get out of the  car” then immediately dragged from his car leaving his tablet on the front seat and the drivers door wide open into traffic.  When he asked to at least close his door so it wouldn’t be a traffic hazard, he was told to stop resisting arrest or he’d be tazered.  So, he was detained on a side walk for nearly an hour while his car was open to any and all passers-by (thanks to the gentleman who closed the door after a while).  He had no wants or warrants, no outstanding tickets, he has car insurance, licenses and registration all up to date and the police  had no reason to bother him at all.   Except for the facts that he is black, his car is not the newest and he was near some homeless people.

He told me he’d never been treated as nastily and rudely as the STL PD treated him today.  This from a man who did not always make the best choices and  grew up hard in East St. Louis when it made St. Louis look like a nice, calm place.  He was looking for an explanation from me.  I was at a loss as to what to say except, “Now they all act entitled to harass anyone and yeah, profiling and well, because…… racism”


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