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Escambia County Cops Attack Homeless Camp in Pensacola, FL

On Saturday evening, I received a phone call from Mike Kimberl of Sean’s Outpost. He had gotten a report that Escambia County sheriff’s deputies had walked through the back entrance of a homeless camp located on DOT property and cut down tarps that were hung to protect tents from the elements. The officers aggressively entered the camp from the back, though there were clear entrances in the front parts of the camps. The officers, later identified as Mark Smith and S. W. Melton, were allegedly wearing all black with no identification visible. According to eyewitness accounts, one of them had on a t-shirt that said POLICE printed on the back.

They then told the people camping there that they had to leave immediately or face arrest–with one threatening to bring a paddy wagon the following day if they hadn’t moved. After more intimidation, they changed the time to leave to 24 hours as it was already dark out and some of the residents had health problems. The first appearance of the officers was after dark around 5:45pm, but they reappeared around 10:35 pm to continue the intimidation.

The second time deputies Smith and Melton arrived, Mike and fellow Food Not Bombs activist Jimmy Brewski were there to talk to them and videotape the encounter. You can hear a portion of the audio of their exchange below.


It is interesting to note that this particular camp is occupied by men and women above the age of 50 who self-police to keep out drug and alcohol users. They have been in the area for over a year with some there for two years. The following day we went to the camps and interviewed them. Their names are John, Donna, Debra, George, Kelly, Gypsy, and Old School, though there are a few others near the camp that weren’t interviewed. We went down a dirt road to a secluded spot by some train tracks–far out of public view and tucked away in a wooded area. The campers were visibly distressed and fearful; regretting that they had missed church because they hadn’t been able to sleep after the police showed up.

There is some incongruity between their version of events and the officers’ in the recording.

Police repeatedly say they chopped down the tarps for officer safety, but then go on to say they were fearful of booby traps set by the residents to protect their space. Entering from the back of the camp, that could be a valid concern, but there were clear entryways in the front of the camps. The officers also mention they had been to the campsites before, but the residents all agreed that they had never seen these particular officers before that night. Other earlier encounters with different officers had been peaceful according to Jim and Donna.

When the police aggressively burst into the camps uninvited and unidentified, there was shock and confusion. George and Kelly had dogs that were restrained, and due to the track record of county deputies killing dogs, remained fearful of leaving the dogs to go find a new place to relocate. To set the record straight, the dogs in that linked story were running away from the deputies when they were shot and had not attacked them at all. Escambia County deputies also have a penchant for making up stories and using “officer safety” as an excuse for domestic terrorism. Below are the interviews we conducted.

Debra, John, and Donna

George and Kelly (this video also goes into their personal histories)


After we had interviewed Debra, John, Donna, George, and Kelly, the same officers showed back up to assess the camps. By this time, the residents had packed many of their belongings. We videotaped the encounter and the demeanor of the officers was very different than the previous night. They ignored Mike and I as we taped and were polite to those they talked to–even indicating they could stay longer since they were making progress. We kept following them and they left shortly thereafter. Here is the brief video from that interaction:

After the deputies left, we ran into Gypsy and Old School and they shared their thoughts on the event the night before. Gypsy was very upset and has health issues exacerbated by stress. She also shared some of her history. Her story was particularly sad, and is a reminder that homelessness is just one devastating life event away for anyone. With the attack on Old School several months ago resulting in the loss of nearly half of his skull, she was particularly on edge. He remained fairly quiet in the video, and even though they have submitted leads to the county on his attacker, they were not pursued.

Gypsy and Old School

Kelly had written some poignant thoughts on the matter that she asked me to publish. Here are the pictures of her handwritten note, and I also transcribed it for those interested in getting in touch with her and Gerald. She hits on several key points about how the homeless are treated in this country. Kelly's letter first pageKelly's letter page two

I’m not a homeless person, I am an American Refugee running from poverty. I work a job, I pay taxes, I buy food and support the local economy.

How many empty houses are there in Pensacola falling into disrepair? I cannot afford the $1600 it takes to move into a house never mind the utilities. Do you think maybe that’s why there are so many empty houses being vandalized by discontented people who are angry?

1939: Kristallnacht: the German SS broke windows and started rounding up the Jews. Aren’t we in the same boat? Did not America join in the fight against this kind of tyranny? Have we fallen so far? 70 years ago we stood up against intolerance, ignorance, and hatred; what has happened to us as a nation? We have turned into that which claim we are against–ignorant and tyrannical.

Wearing a badge does not make a person right and this kind of “round up” is against every principle in our Constitution.

Secretary of State John Kerry gave Syria $370 million dollars in their fight against oppression–how about funneling some of that money to your own country? It is not America’s job to fix the world, it is America’s job to care for its people. I’m angry that the American people have become apathetic about their government. It is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people–not special interests and lobbyists.

Poverty is NOT a crime; it is a circumstance. Everybody is but one paycheck away from being homeless–think about that. You yourself could be standing right next to me any day now.

I am an honest, law abiding citizen of the USA. I care about people; all people. I love my country. I still believe we are the best, last hope against oppression. I do not love bullying and strong arm tactics. I lost a lot of family in the wars throughout the years fighting against tyranny and injustice; and today I find myself in the midst of it. I think its a damn shame that American Citizens have become victims of Kristallnacht.

Kelly Marsden and George Wells

The campers shared their stories of how they got where they were, and it is important to remember that homeless people are human beings with the same rights as the rest of us. They don’t choose to be homeless to evade taxes, nor is their homelessness always a result of drug addiction. They have gotten caught up in the gears of life and struggle every day to get free. None of them ever expected to be homeless, and while there are some criminals, aren’t there criminals among us all? I can’t read through a comment section about homelessness in Pensacola without coming across hateful vitriol from the citizens, and they feel free to attack those most in need of love without acknowledging that war criminals and extortioners are free to walk among us.

The barriers to getting off the street are real. When you can’t even offer to fix up a dilapidated home so that you can have a chance to live in it or get a job because you have a felony for a victimless crime, how can you pull yourself up by your bootstraps? When you live in a city that has outlawed homelessness and even blankets to keep you warm, where can you go when the cops bust up your only place of refuge? The people interviewed admit that they knew they were on state property, but the irony is that people want the state to do something about these problems of poverty. Would not unused, undeveloped, hidden state property be the best place for them to stay until they find more permanent residency?

Father Nathan Monk, a local homeless advocate, created a petition to overturn a City of Pensacola ordinance that prohibits the homeless from attaining blankets that went viral. The petition is now over 10,000 signatures. We are seeing some progress from City Council and Mayor Ashton Hayward with the ordinance possibly being overturned, but some have expressed doubt at Mayor Hayward’s genuineness.

Sean’s Outpost attended a hearing earlier today to determine the status of the permitting process of Satoshi Forest and whether or not people would be allowed to camp there. The judge ruled that we could move forward with the permitting process and had to allow a health inspector and Escambia County code enforcement to enter the property during normal business hours once a week to monitor conditions. While it is still a concern that the county wants to prevent people from allowing others to camp on their private property, this ruling was a breath of fresh air. The next hearing with the county will be March 25th.

Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome

 

 

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Shire Sharing’s Amanda Bouldin Provides Thanksgiving for the Needy with Bitcoin

I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda Bouldin at this years Porcfest X, where we hula hooped together and I experienced her delectable homemade ice cream. Amanda is also very active in New Hampshire and started Shire Sharing, an organization that provides Thanksgiving meals for the needy through donations. She details in this interview how Bitcoin has made the process easier to provide for those who in need and how agorism is an excellent alternative to government welfare programs for helping the downtrodden.

Amanda on the radio show Girard at Large
Amanda on the radio show Girard at Large

What is Shire Sharing?

Shire Sharing is basically a bunch of libertarians (and anyone else who wants to be involved) putting their principles of voluntary charity into practice. Right now it exists as one annual project only; we provide Thanksgiving dinners to as many impoverished NH families as possible. Shire Sharing has and will continue to do other smaller projects as they present themselves: a fundraiser for the NH Food Bank that netted over $500; a fundraiser for Chris Lopez, a liberty activist, to get a new wheelchair– $500 came in in less than 24 hours; food drives for needy NH liberty families; backpacks stuffed with essential items for the Manchester homeless. Shire Sharing can be anything so long as it’s voluntary and we do it ourselves, connecting directly with those in need.

What was your motivation to start Shire Sharing?

In 2011, my father passed away suddenly from an aggressive cancer. He had been doing a similar project every year for Thanksgiving called the Basket Brigade for at least 10 years in Dallas, Texas, where I’m originally from. After he died, which was in April of that year, when Thanksgiving was rolling around I realized his tradition might die with him. I thought I would like to honor him by doing the same thing in New Hampshire. I actually wasn’t sure if it would succeed– I was nervous and unsure of the outcome. I was stunned when over $1,000 poured in and we fed about 50 families the first year. My dad did one basket his first year. In its first year, we were calling SS the Basket Brigade but Ian Freeman, perhaps jokingly, said that the name was too militant. In 2012, Jason Talley came up with the name Shire Sharing and we ran with it. It was originally meant to be a one-time Basket Brigade to honor my dad, but it’s become so much more.

How many people are working on this project with you?

I don’t really have an answer. We get donations from everywhere all over the country. The majority of support comes from local liberty activists. When it comes to Thanksgiving, it’s a huge project that requires hours and hours of work; last year about 50 volunteers showed up to help get the Thanksgiving deliveries ready. I had about 15 people out making deliveries in their cars, and probably 30 people doing the “bulk” deliveries. To clarify, when we make deliveries for Thanksgiving the system breaks down to two methods: for the addresses that fall in the same apartment complexes, we load a U-Haul full of food and a bus full of activists. We drive this caravan to each complex, disperse, and make lots of deliveries really quickly. However there are addresses that are more spread apart, and for those I build routes that activists drive in their own cars.

Volunteers load up a truck to deliver food to the less fortunate.
Volunteers load up a truck to deliver food to the less fortunate.

Have traditional organizations known for private charity reached out? What about food manufacturers?

The local Market Basket grocery store has been super supportive. They gave us a great price on turkeys last year and they’ll be doing the same this year. They also store all the perishables for us (I don’t have space for, for example, hundreds of boxes of eggs) so that we can just swing by with the U-Haul on the day of delivery and load up. I find the families through Lutheran Social Services and Friends of Forgotten Children. We have the support of groups like FoodNotBombs, BitcoinNotBombs, AntiWar.com, CopBlock, Peaceful Streets Project, and the NH Liberty Alliance.

What has been the reception by the community in NH outside the Free State Project?

There’s a local radio show called Girard at Large, conservative in nature and run on a Christian station, which often invites me for interviews about SS. Here and there, locals hear from liberty folks and get involved one way or another. Other than that, no one really notices; it spreads through word of mouth. There are a few grumpy liberal types that believe that Shire Sharing aims to eliminate the welfare system and is offering only one Thanksgiving meal per year as a replacement. They’re known to say, “What do you do for people the other 364 days a year?” The haters are definitely out-numbered by supporters.

I think humor has a place in and is even necessary to activism (especially to moderate stress levels). I read you recently held a comedy show to raise funds, how did that go?

It went swimmingly! The event raised $845 toward the project, and because the venue was free and the comedians worked for free, every cent goes into the project! It was a really fun evening and the performers were top-notch. I suppose this is an example of another local group that supports SS– Laugh Free or Die is the organization that set this up at the suggestion of a local comedian.

shiresharingHave you encountered any hurdles in fundraising or any other parts of the project?

Hurdles? Everything is a hurdle except for fundraising and finding volunteers. That’s the easiest part! The hurdles have been Excel, Google Docs, maps in general… basically anything that requires my brain. [laughter]

What is the most difficult part about Shire Sharing?

Hmm. That’s hard to say. It’s too rewarding to really be a hassle of any sort. People have a natural, ingrained desire to be productive; my job is a total bore, and for a few months a year this is my outlet. If anything, the hardest thing is to decide what side-projects are worthwhile. People come to me with ideas and I don’t want to be in the position of saying no when I should have said yes; similarly, I don’t want to say yes when I maybe should have said no. Mistakes are made, but one thing I realize is that the biggest model we have for charity work is completely flawed –the government welfare system. I’m still searching for the best way. Think outside the box!

Bitcoin has been used to fund many other charity causes, has accepting Bitcoin for Shire Sharing significantly affected the amount of donations you’ve received?

Absolutely. Since the price of Bitcoin is destined to go up over time, it’s an easy way for me to hold donations long-term without much of a security risk while somewhat side-stepping that whole “inflation” thing. Furthermore, I believe people who’ve been holding onto BTC for a while are apt to donate more in BTC than they would in FRNs because they bought them for far less than they’re currently worth.

What do you like about accepting Bitcoin for donations as opposed to other forms?

It’s very simple for me to store. Checks and cash require a bank run, minimum. When I want to change BTC into FRNs to move the project forward, I just call a friendly local BTC enthusiast and it’s a done deal.

Is Bitcoin usage in general pretty widespread in New Hampshire as far as vendors willing to accept them?

I don’t know much about that- many, many people accept them for local agorist operations – but as far as a brick & mortar store, I only know of the Pão Cafe in Newmarket, NH.

Where can people learn more and donate?

ShireSharing.org!

You can view a video of Amanda from 2012’s Shire Sharing Drive here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3c3bLqi-eUk

This is another excellent opportunity to show the world how Bitcoin and the crypto-currency community are solving real problems that government simply can’t. I wish Amanda the best on this years Thanksgiving drive and hope to see the even more growth next year.

Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome

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Eroding the Police State – Pete Eyre, Antonio Buehler, Jacob Crawford, Ademo Freeman, ParcFest X

Learn about the efforts of Cop Block, Cop Watch, and Peaceful Streets in this 2 hour conversation. Filmed Wednesday afternoon in the media room at PorcFest X.

Learn about the efforts utilized by those active with Cop Block, Cop Watch, and Peaceful Streets, and join in an informal conversation to make more-likely a reality where the need for these projects is non-existent.

Pete Eyre went to school for law enforcement but ultimately concluded that he could have a bigger impact through the libery movement. He began as an intern at the Cato Institute, then as a Koch Fellow, and later as an employee at the Institute for Humane Studies and the then-principled Bureaucrash. After four years working in the libertarian think tank world in DC he hit the road with Motorhome Diaries and later Liberty On Tour. He’s now active with Free Keene and Cop Block. Cop Block is a decentralized project supported by a diverse group of individuals united by their shared goal of police accountability through audio and video recording and sharing.

Antonio Buehler is an advocate of liberty and channels most of his activism through the Peaceful Streets Project and Buehler Education. Antonio believes that the greatest threat to liberty to the average person is their local police force, and he believes that the greatest way to spread liberty will be through a new generation of homeschoolers. To combat the local police he launched the Peaceful Streets Project in 2012 with the goal of creating a cultural shift where individuals understand their rights and hold law enforcement officials accountable, and communities protect and serve each other. Last year the Peaceful Streets Project was named the Best Grassroots Movement in Central Texas and has since spread to nearly a dozen cities nationally. To spread liberty through education Antonio launched Buehler Education to promote alternative education and help families homeschool their children. Antonio focuses on learning styles to inform parents’ decisions on education and college admissions for those students who plan to go to college. Antonio was educated at the United States Military Academy at West Point, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and will receive another degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2014.