there was a moment in time when i could have very easily have been kelly thomas. when i think about it i always hope that if it had happened it wouldn't have been as severe or as malicious as the case was with him. but then i think it very easily could have been. this happened before i was homeless or even thought much about being homeless. it didn't happen in wilmington or the state of delaware. it happened when i was working, in another state, in another time. i'm not going to name the city because i don't want to put a blemish on the other police officers in that city. however, it wasn't an isolated incident. i had witnessed it happen to homeless people, more than once. one day i was drafted into a rather dirty job of cleaning an area that i worked in. normally i didn't do clean up work, but this was a special project and some of us were drafted into doing it. i lived close to where i worked and particularly close to where this project was. it was a beautiful day so i rode my bicycle into work instead of driving. when i was finished i headed home. i had on some pretty ragged clothes and i looked a mess because of the work. i was on a bicycle. i looked homeless. on my way i passed two police officers on bikes who said in passing.....you have to walk your bike in this area. now i was only about twenty feet from an exit off this area so i sort of duck-walked my bike to the edge of the exit. twenty feet. the bike officers pulled along side of me and told me to get of the f---king bike. i didn't say anything, but i did get off. they stood one in front of me and one behind me. the one in front of me was rather young....i knew he was part of a new group of officers that had recently been hired to boost up the presence of the police in this highly visible, high profile area of the city. he pulled his ticket book out and looked at me and asked...are you stupid. didn't you fu---ng hear me to tell you to get your ass off your bike and walk it. i replied that i was only twenty or so feet from the exit and was duck-walking the bike. he aked again...are you stupid? he moved closer to me. i watched the officer behind me move a step closer. the young one poked his finger into my chest and asked again...are you stupid? you think you can just come and go here and do whatever you want? i really don't want you in this area. he started writing the ticket. he asked if i had identification. i answered yes. he again asked if i was stupid? he asked if i had anything in my pockets. i answered nothing unusual. he went thru the list of things you aren't suppose to have... a knife, needles, drugs; etc. i again answered no. he asked again...are you stupid...i asked you for id. do you have any paper.....he was referring to a warrant. since i had to be drug tested....hair clip....and run thru the national crimes system computer for my current employment....i wasn't worried for a second. i just answered no. he said...i think you're fuc---- stupid and you might have paper. i pulled out my identification along with my work identification. i said...well....i'm not stupid...and i work here every day. i see you every day. i also see your supervising sgt and speak with him....every day. he knows i'm not stupid if you'd like to radio him....or better yet....i have his number in my cell phone if you'd like me to call him. i'm sure he'll tell you emphatically i'm not stupid. he looked at my identification, realized i worked for a state agency and that i indeed was probably out there every day. he took a step backward, closed his ticket book, and handed me back my identification. the officer behind me relaxed and looked at me. i looked directly at him.....for a minute. the young one said....next time try to walk it. i answered....i'm not stupid.....i'll remember. they rode off.
my point is this. they thought i was homeless. i was in an area where the homeless population was concentrated. i was in some pretty ragged, dirty clothes. i had a hat on. i was carrying a small backpack with some work items in it. i was a target. the verbal abuse was meant to goad me into a response so they could either ticket me for a higher violation, arrest me...or worse. i have no doubt if i had given the officer any reason....one reason.....at that moment in time i could have been a kelly thomas. he was angry. he was resentful. he was spiteful. he was intent....on something. i was angry. i felt encroached upon and ...the only word i can think of ..is violated. but if i had responded in the tone before i handed that officer my identification, i have no doubt what could have happened. quickly...and easily for him. i related that story to his sgt. a couple of days later. he was visibly angry and apologetic. i moved on, but every now and then i thought about it.
when the kelly thomas case came up, i thought about it....alot. i know what happened. i know how it happened. i know what caused it. i don't know the exact circumstances, but i know the larger details of how and why and when it can happen. if it can happen to kelly thomas, if it can potentially happen to me because i looked homeless....then it can happen again....and again. i'm not criticizing police officers in general. but i am very strongly saying that any police officer, under any circumstance, under any condition...anywhere.....who abuses their authority and fails to give the same rights and protection to anyone...should be prosecuted where needed and discharged with no chance of rehire...immediately. homelessness is not a crime. homeless people commit violations of the law like anyone else. but they should not be targeted for any less or any more punishment than anyone else. and particularly an individual officer, who is sworn to protect and serve should not become judge and jury and carry out punishment due to their frustration at or with the homeless.
for those of you actively protesting the events of the kelly thomas case, keep it in perspective. it was and is about a violation of that man's civil and human rights. it was and is about the failure of the police offiicers to do their duty without causing any needless harm to individuals. it was and is about the fundamental failure of the entire system to afford kelly thomas the same rights and protections simply because he was homeless and a perceived nuisance. it was and is a total miscarriage of justice. it was and is a failure of the mental health system that kelly thomas somehow fell between the cracks of assistance that he needed. it was and is a failure....of all of us.
rest in peace kelly thomas....maybe for the first time in your life.
if it can happen to kelly, if it can happen to me.....it can happen to you. that is the true lesson to be carried from this
see you around town