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#Chalkupy Continues In Austin

3:10 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

The Crackdown on Chalk

Austin Police Department Joins State Troopers in Targeting Chalk

More on MyFDL: The Crackdown On Chalk, More Unconstitutional Copwatching Arrests

During the week leading up to Occupy Austin’s October 6 birthday, the group participated in the Cop Block’s Chalk The Police Day of Action. We began by chalking at Austin City Hall, where the police monitor was in session and in honor of a recent court ruling that said bans from City Hall were unconstitutional. As we chalked, we were confronted by security guards who insisted that City Hall was private property, and therefore we were engaged in illegal graffiti. We continued to chalk, pausing only to quote court rulings backing up our right to chalk. The group left as bicycle cops began to converge on the site.

Chalk on the APD Headquarters: Murderers

Austin Police Department Headquarters, October 1 2012 (Photo: Jeff Zavala / Zgraphix.org / Austin Indymedia, used with permission.)

We stopped briefly at One America Center, the office building which houses both a Chase Bank and Strategic Forecasting. After a short chalk adventure there, we visited the Austin Police Department headquarters. An audacious chalking of the word ‘Murderers’ on the building would win Cop Block’s Best Location Award and the enmity of the police. As the group left the premises, police arrived in multiple vehicles, a transport wagon, and on bicycle. The whole group was detained on 6th Street, the nearby club district.

Though police had no grounds to make arrests for chalking itself, they confiscated two boxes of chalk as evidence and made two arrests. One was a man who had past traffic warrants. The other was Peaceful Streets Project member Lynn Foster. Though Lynn only filmed and did not chalk, police arrested him when he refused to identify himself. According to Pixiq, this is legal under Texas law:

He was charged with failure to identify, which according to Texas law, is an offense if the suspect refuses to provide his name after he was lawfully arrested on another charge or if he refuses to provide his name if he is a witness to a crime.

Police confiscated his camera, the fourth Peaceful Streets Project digital video camera stolen by Austin Police since the police accountability summit.

Texas Department of Public Safety’s Lips Are Sealed

Two activists in handcuffs with State Troopers on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol.

August 9, 2012: Audrey Steiner and Corey Williams are processed on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol after being arrested for chalking a public sidewalk nearby (Photo: Kit O'Connell, all rights reserved).

The first set of Chalkupy-related arrests occurred when Texas Department of Public Safety State Troopers nabbed Audrey Steiner and Corey Williams from the sidewalk across the street from the Texas State Capitol. Both were arrested for “criminal mischief” — a class C misdemeanor though the DPS threatened in the press to increase charges to class B — but when they reported to court for their first hearing, no record of their charges could be found. The Troopers neglected to file their charges, or perhaps hope to withhold them for a later day as a threat.

John Jack Anderson, photojournalist for the Austin Chronicle, filed an open records request seeking DPS documents containing the word ‘Chalkupy.’ Despite the lack of charges, the DPS refused to provide the documents on two grounds:

Because this is an ongoing criminal case, the release of potential evidence would interfere with the investigation and prosecution of this case.

[and]

Revealing the requested records would provide wrong-doers, terrorists, and criminals with invaluable information concerning the methods used by the Department to detect, investigate, and prevent potential criminal activity and could jeopardize security in the Capitol Complex.

Are chalkers wrong-doers, terrorists, criminals or all three? The open records request now gets sent to Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott, whose office will decide how to respond.

Thanks to Zgraphix.org / Austin Indymedia Center for their coverage of Occupy Austin’s Birthday Week

The Antonio Buehler 60′ Bubble (#PeacefulStreets)

10:38 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

For more on this story see Antonio Buehler and the Peaceful Streets, and Antonio Buehler Arrested Again For Filming the Police.

Peaceful Streets’ Police-Transparency Activists Defiant After Second Arrest, Plan Thursday Night Mass Copwatch

Do police need a 60-foot bubble of safety from activists with cameras? That’s the claim Austin Police Department is making in the wake of the second arrest of a police transparency activist.

Antonio flashes a peace sign while exiting the Travis County Jail.

Flanked by allies, Antonio Buehler exits the Travis County Jail last Sunday after his second arrest (Photo: Sarah Dickerson @ChapeauDefee, used with permission)

Antonio Buehler’s first arrest came last New Years Eve, when this Iraq Veteran and Westpoint graduate was accused of spitting on a police officer while filming a traffic stop turned brutal. This arrest inspired the formation of Peaceful Streets, which gave out 100 digital cameras to community activists at a police transparency summit earlier this year. Saturday night on one of their regular downtown copwatch outings, Buehler was singled out of a group of four for arrest.

Now Austin Police Department claims they may institute a new policy requiring cameras to keep 50 feet or more away from police at all times according to KEYE TV, claiming that the presence of cameras agitated the arrestee:

“The individual became really agitated to the point the officer had to use more force,” [Commander Troy] Gay said.

Now APD wants a policy change. They say people should be allowed to exercise their first amendment right, but they need more distance to do their job.

“We would like them to be 50 or 60 feet,” Gay said.

Most mainstream media outlets are repeating APD’s claims that Buehler’s presence interfered with arrest. Buehler tells a very different story in Pixiq:

On Saturday night, police responded to an incident where a man had pushed his fiancée down to the ground. It turned out, the man had a warrant, which is why he was arrested. Buehler and other activists began recording the interaction.

“She walked up to us and I told her we were filming for her safety and she hugged me and walked over to her fiancée and told him,” Buehler said.

“He looks at me and gives me the thumbs up sign.”

But as two cops led the man away and Buehler and another activist began following, a third cop arrived and began ordering “Mr. Buehler” to back away.

“I was standing more than 25 feet away,” Buehler said.

While the cop kept ordering Buehler to back away, the handcuffed suspect began threatening Buehler by saying he is going to kick his ass.

The cop, who Buehler believes may be named “Berry,” then asks the suspect whether Buehler was harassing him. The suspect says yes, which is when the cop made the arrest.

The American Civil Liberties Union firmly believes You Have Every Right to Photograph That Cop. I asked Dotty Griffith, Public Education Director of the ACLU of Texas how that applies to the Lone Star State in particular:

Read the rest of this entry →

Antonio Buehler Arrested Again For Filming Police (#PeacefulStreets)

10:31 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

More on Antonio Buehler: Antonio Buehler and the Peaceful Streets, Peaceful Streets Police Accountability Summit and Peaceful Streets Rally for Anaheim

Late Saturday night, anti-police corruption activist Antonio Buehler was arrested a second time for filming the police.

Antonio flashes a peace sign while exiting the Travis County Jail.

Flanked by allies, Antonio Buehler exits the Travis County Jail on Sunday after his second arrest for filming police (Photo: Sarah Dickerson @ChapeauDefee, used with permission).

Since the formation of the Peaceful Streets Project, members have continued to film the police and report to the Lonestar Liberty Bell. While individuals are encouraged to film the police whenever possible, in order to promote their visibility the PSP gathers as a group on weekends to patrol 6th Street, Austin’s nightclub district. Copwatching there is frequently chaotic, especially after 2am when the bars close and mounted police are sent in to clear the area.

Though some officers are respectful of being filmed, others have grown more hostile; they make arbitrary demands about where copwatchers can stand while filming, shine flashlights at their cameras or even become directly confrontational. Last Wednesday, YNN reported on these encounters, including the following ominous statement by the Austin Police Department:

In a statement released by the department, APD leaders say they are, ‘Aware of pattern of behavior with Antonio Buehler that could be of criminal nature. Based upon that and other pending matters, the Austin Police Department is unable to discuss at this time.’

Saturday night on 6th Street, Buehler and other copwatchers began to film police making an arrest. An unedited video of the encounter shows police growing increasingly concerned with Antonio’s presence while ignoring other cameras. According to eyewitnesses, the police asked the arrestee if he was bothered by being filmed; about seven minutes into the video, a voice can be heard saying “Yes, I want to press charges!” after which police abruptly place Buehler under arrest. He remains calm and peaceful throughout.

Antonio Buehler was charged with interfering with police and released Sunday night on $2,000 bail. Speaking to a small crowd of media and supporters from the Peaceful Streets Project and Occupy Austin, Buehler said:

APD is going to claim that I interfered with what they were doing. … We never engaged with a single officer. The only time we talked with an officer is when they came up to us. … However, some people … have an issue with people watching them doing their job. So then they go ahead and fabricate false threats and they fabricate interference and they use that to push us around and yesterday I guess it finally caught up to me. I met someone who was a little more unbalanced and immature than other cops who just resorted to pushing us around and yelling at us.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this. I’m pretty sure that [Austin Police Chief] Art Acevedo is not going to have the courage to do what’s right and discipline his officer and make sure these charges are dismissed. … I’m sure they’re going to lie just like they lied with the New Years Eve case. But we’re going to keep fighting it.

I will update Firedoglake with further developments as the Peaceful Streets Project continues their important work.