This past week was the US open in Huntington Beach which means that not five hundred yards from where I work, Hurley, Volcom, Tilly's, and Nike put an advertising face on the honestly noble sport of surfing. The actual surfers were shunted aside, the competitors were kept signing things from dusk til dawn rather then actually-you know-surfing-and the street was littered with SWAG, alcohol, and marijuana.
I'm not against people partying and I spent a good portion of the weekend looking the other way while of-age drinkers and under-age drinkers did their thing trusting that the law would out or they would go about their business at their leisure. I had enough to deal with as far as swinging punches to get on the bus, a drunken idiot lighting a store display on fire, a woman collapsing from dehydration on top of me while I stocked things, and four to five hour walls of just-people.
But I had directly avoided being involved until the ride back home (of course) when, sitting in the back of the bus I became aware of three middle schoolers who were just graduating into freshmen (they had been discussing this) smoking a bong.
Not my problem, not a big deal. I pulled the cord for my stop as a man approached them, opened a fanny pack, and held out several vials of pot in an attempt to sell to them. One of the boys held out a twenty-the other said "seventy bucks is way too fucking much" and I left the bus, reported the incident to the bus driver and informed her I was going to call the police. I don't have a problem with people who are legally capable of making their own decisions making decisions
, but those were kids and that was a late sixties not-friendly-beach-bum. The Newport Police Department said that they would send out a car after the bus once I gave them a description of the dealer.
Nothing, most likely will come of this but it was important for me to do what I felt, what I felt
was the right thing. In thinking about it however it brought to mind the moments that I encountered the police and my behavior therein which led to my decision to actually get involved over the other instances of illegal activity that I throughout my twenty five years have witnessed which lead to me making the following statement. The police in this country are deeply, deeply
flawed but part of the responsibility needs to be on the citizens not only to report the dangerous police who they encounter-men and women who do not care about law and order and keeping people safe-but who also have a responsibility to assist them if they need help so that people don't
become men and women who don't care about keeping people safe. The actual title for a police officer is a Peace Officer
. They're here to keep the peace and people break it-but then they break it right back and they break it worse.
We as citizens have a responsibility to speak out if we witness activities which violate ingrained social conditioning. If someone is being killed in front of you, robbed, raped, murdered, silence is your worst enemy
. To quote a constantly used metaphor "Silence cuts like a knife."
Or some variation thereof.
My silence, nearly cost a woman her freedom and would have kept her with a man who saw nothing wrong with abusing his female companions in public.
I was 19 years old and just getting back from work on a late bus. I lived downtown in a hotel, which presented it's own set of difficulties but I have always liked urban centers. As I was walking through Hillcrest in San Diego I became aware of people shouting. The man, a large guy-was chasing a woman around a parked mazda screaming "Call 911 you cunt! Call 911!" While she screamed and sobbed.
the neighborhood was silent. Businesses were either closed or busy and I crossed over to my stop without personal incident. The sound carried
however and I could still hear her screaming. I asked the other two kids at the bus stop what we should do. One said "we don't know, it may be some kind of thing...who wants to get involved?" the other said that she couldn't miss the bus.
The noises continued. I begged them for a number to call, scared to call 911 because I didn't know any details beyond a man hitting a woman. What if they were play acting or street performers? Would I get in trouble? One woman hunted for a number and I finally crossed over to the other side of the street preparing to make some sort of crime report. By this time, a crowd of a few people leaving a restaurant had gathered, hiding in the parking lot opposite the scene to call 911. I joined them. Two police cars pulled up and we approached as a group. One by one we were called to give statements-but people had only heard the sounds. I was a witness to the actual physical violence.
I stood up, "Excuse me officers, I saw him hit her. He hit her in the face and he screamed call 911 cunt call 911" The officer-a guy with a donut gut motioned his...amazingly attractive SWAT partner over who took my statement and thanked me for being willing to share my story. I called my dad and my mom, told them I was okay then went to my little hole in the wall hotel room and buried myself in blankets and cheap TV for a good day and a half afterwards.
There were incidents after that, but nothing so direct until I was actually on the street.
I'm pretty open about the 2 months I spent living on the streets of San Diego. I'm still pretty shell-shocked about it, and sometimes I think that talking-or sharing the things I saw will help me understand them better since there's a lot that I don't
understand about it. It shook me pretty deeply, no incident moreso then this.
Audrea (the girl who was sort of dubbing herself my unofficial protector)and I were returning from getting food after I had gotten food stamps. I was paying for her protection and advice-in essence with food so we carried our bags back down to the shelter at 16th and island only to notice a large crowd of ragged men and women screaming and shouting. I asked her what it was, shes aid she didn't know.
A body exploded out of the crowd-an older man. Three men were holding him down trying to beat him into submission. I reached for my cell phone and Audrae said "No. We're not getting involved."
When I protested this, Audrea said that it would bring trouble down on both of us-particularly me. The crowd grew wider and we watched a man be beaten senseless
. Finally, finally when someone realized who the man was one of the people who we had dubbed the unofficial leader of our little knot of homeless people picked up their phone and called 911. Police, Fire Fighters, and paramedics showed up. The person who was beaten? Waterman Dave
a man who sued the city after being beaten by a corrupt cop
and used his money to help the homeless
was held down and beaten by a man who he had tried to help and no one lifted a finger until he had blood running down the front of his face.
To be quite honest, whenever someone on tumblr or plurk brings up police brutality, I think of Waterman Dave and how he was directly responsible for helping keep me hydrated and how the very people who he wanted to help beat him.
I ask myself, where were the police? No one called them.
On the opposing side of the coin however, we have my friend Audrea and one of the scariest moments of my life personally. She called my directly, knowing that before I was out on the street I had intended to try for a career as a police officer. She jokingly asked me to come around the corner where I found her-with a cop keeping her inside the car while a friend of hers was being searched in front of the people who we were staying with at the time. The officer ordered her into the vehicle, searched her purse without permission and asked her about how she kept her jewelry in her bag.
I quoted the definition for detention at her and asked her to stay put shaking in my shoes. I asked the second officer to explain what had happened. It turned out Audrea's friend was a felon, and driving a car without tags. They had pulled him over for that and were now conducting a "routine" search of the car.
I pointed out that there were tags on the front of the car and the officer's partner-who was searching my friends' purse without her permission-told me they had checked the back. While I did not have time to validate this, coming fresh out of an academy class taught by an LA county sheriff and a San Diego assistant district attorney everything was wrong with this particular statement but I kept silent-out of fear.
My silence cut deep. The first time, it nearly cost a woman her credibility. The second time, it nearly cost a man his life. The third time-it would have cost the person who was keeping me alive her freedom as the second officer had intended to take them both down to the station. I cried, internet. I cried and asked him not to take her because she was my only friend.
They let them both go. She complimented me on manipulating him and I asked her if she got his badge number or his name. He had violated her rights and she could report him. She dismissively said, "What good will it do?"
....I see a lot of emails in my inbox from change.org asking me to sign petitions. I try and sign as many causes as I agree with but to be quite honest, I bemoan the efforts of the internet. Daily, DAILY my plurk stream, tumblr feed, and facebook are full of "Remember this person who was killed" notations. I was actually really pleased to see the Anaheim "Occupy" signs circulating. Violence at the occupy protests, violence at ANY opportunity to do things like that is something that should be punished swiftly. The law says we can protest, we have a voice.
Call me militant, but in thinking of past instances where my presence was involved at the scene of crimes I can only remember that it is a moment of loss and pain and horror for the victim and perhaps the perpetrator. That for the cops investigating it it's either the final nail in the coffin or a desperate attempt to reign in a world that does not want to be reigned in. I didn't want to see a petition, I wanted to do something to alleviate my own sense of helplessness at the human condition. I get manic, and I like humanity. No matter how terrible humanity is I love it. It could be selfish and awful and horrible and I would still live it and in those moments where everything is heightened...
It seems silly to prevent anybody from enjoying that existence to the fullest within acceptable society's laws and the things that we as a species have discovered work.
Such as the notion that you should never leave your child unattended at a playground because seeing a broken-faced five year old is enough to trigger the mother inside a 25 year old bisexual female with no real family of her own.
Such as you should not sell your pot to students and under-age students at that.
Or beat people senseless, or hit your significant other.
Otherwise, partying in any form is an acceptable outlet. No matter how much your sheer numbers might overwhelm me. US Open, I survived you once. I had my tears this morning, and they weren't for you. I'm ready for next year.
But I won't be working it.