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PPD Writes Homeless Man $400 Ticket for Open Container

The Pensacola Police Department has a penchant for picking on the less fortunate. Whether it’s blanket stealing or good ole fashioned tarp slashing, both the city and the county police forces like to do a little harassment from time to time.

Last Friday was no exception.

On June 13th after the weekly Food Not Bombs food sharing, two officers approached a homeless man named Kevin who was sitting on a park bench drinking a beer. Mike Kimberl of Sean’s Outpost was on the scene when the officers accosted Kevin. There were three officers and two cars and the officers were familiar with Kevin.

The officers issued Kevin a ticket totaling $400.00 for having an open container. If Kevin did not pay the ticket, he would be facing jail time.

Mike recalls asking the officers if they knew that Kevin couldn’t pay the ticket, and they responded yes. They would also issue a warrant for when that time came.

“Why not take him to jail now?” Mike asked the officers.

Even though the officers acknowledged they knew Kevin couldn’t pay, they responded that they were, “Just following orders.” Yes, that is a direct quote.

Here is a the summary of the ticket issued to Kevin by Officer M. Harmon:

kevinfined

If there’s silver lining to this story it’s that as the officers were leaving, Kevin told them that he had another unopened beer which by law they can’t take away. He told them, “Get on.” and that he would drink it when they left. Kevin then proceeded to drink the beer while Mike offered to say it was him and take the fine if they came back. There are also no plans to pay the exorbitant fine.

Every weekend, numerous people walk around with open containers downtown that are left alone by the city police, and Kevin mentioned this has happened before. Allegedly, every few months the officers will come by to harass him and write him a ticket he can’t pay. Then a couple weeks later they take him and throw him in jail for awhile. Not only is this method ineffective for discouraging Kevin from drinking, but it is costly for the taxpayers.

In the proposed 2015 budget for the City of Pensacola, around 20% of funds are dedicated to public safety. There is a cost for issuing the ticket, processing it, and for arresting Kevin. The police arresting a nonviolent man for doing what other citizens do with impunity is shameful for a city in such economic trouble. How many innocent people need to be thrown in jail at the expense of others?

Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome

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M.K. Lords interviews Mike Kimberl of Sean’s Outpost

In this interview, Mike Kimberl and I discuss decentralized solutions to problems like natural disasters. Pensacola suffered massive flooding when a storm hit unexpectedly two weeks ago with roads washing out, several homeless camps flooding, and even the county jail exploding from an unrelated gas leak.

It was a truly tragic situation, but Sean’s Outpost was on the scene immediately helping people while FEMA took a week to declare it an emergency area and respond with aid. Mike has been active with decentralized groups like Food Not Bombs and views the move by the City towards centralization to address the issue of homelessness as a threat to effective decentralized solutions.

Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome

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Citations Against Sean’s Outpost Dismissed But the Struggle Continues

When you fight for something your local government is trying to hide, you’re going to make some enemies. Sean’s Outpost purchased the property known as Satoshi Forest with the expectation that they would receive some backlash from not only the City of Pensacola and Escambia County, but also from residents in the Mayfair community where it is situated. The plans for Satoshi Forest were simple but controversial; turn the property into a campground where the homeless can reside free of interference from the police.

In the months since Escambia County first cited Sean’s Outpost for code violations on Satoshi Forest, there has been a lot of concern over the future of this property. Even though recent inspections by the health department proved the conditions at Satoshi Forest were not in violation, the county maintained that there were violations under their dubious definitions. It didn’t help that residents view Satoshi Forest as a place that will bring crime to the already economically depressed area.

There are philosophical debates to be had in all this; where do human rights have a place when it comes to public property? If it is illegal to camp on public property, why is camping also being restricted on private property? Luckily, the residents of Pensacola have shown their support for the work Sean’s Outpost does but the fight is far from over.

Last Tuesday, there was an evidentiary hearing before Special Magistrate Janet Lander that was to determine whether Satoshi Forest was in violation of current codes with what the county called “nuisance conditions.” The county claimed that tents were unpermitted structures that needed to be torn down until proper regulations were in place, that there was trash creating unsafe conditions, and that these violations should prohibit people from camping on the private property. After pictures were shown and code enforcement visited the property remarking how clean it was (it was previously used as a dumping area for trash), two of the five charges were dropped.

During the hearing, the county presented inadequate evidence of violations prompting magistrate Janet Lander to remark, “Tell me why I should not dismiss the case for lack of evidence that violation exists.”

Transcript of Special Magistrate Lander's comments
Transcript of Special Magistrate Lander’s comments

The rest of the transcript shows Mike Kimberl’s testimony and the county struggling to prove that tents are unpermitted structures and that Sean’s Outpost is in violation of Land Development code for having people camping there for unspecified amounts of time. The county was grasping at straws trying to shut down Satoshi Forest, but not even the magistrate was buying it.

Fast forward to yesterday, April 22nd 2014: Special Magistrate Lander dismissed the county’s case against Sean’s Outpost. This is great news for the team, and we hope to continue to make progress on the property. Support is growing locally and Sean’s Outpost is much loved by the Bitcoin community.

The struggle to help those in need continues, and this is not the end of the county’s harassment of Sean’s Outpost. While we had hoped that the ruling would alleviate some of the pressure on Sean’s Outpost, Escambia County filed a suit seeking a cease and desist order to remove all tents from the property until regulatory approval. This would mean throwing the twelve campers at Satoshi Forest out on the street where they could be arrested if caught sleeping on public property based on creative interpretations of current code.

The suit not only targets the corporation of Sean’s Outpost, but also the primary individuals involved in running operations; Jason King, Leslie King, and Mike Kimberl. In a copy of the Circuit Court Complaint and Summons Mike Kimberl provided me, the county alleges that Sean’s Outpost is in violation of codes regulating campgrounds, and cites the same violations that the Special Magistrate ruled were not violations.

It will be interesting to see whether the Magistrate’s ruling has any bearing on this other case. As Sean’s Outpost attorney Alistair McKenzie mentioned in the Pensacola News Journal article, “It just kind of seems like the county’s trying to get two bites at the same apple.”

This is typical behavior from the county as it seeks to not only attack an organization, but singles out individuals to harm financially. I will have more details on this situation as it develops.

If you are in the Pensacola area, you can show your support by coming out to the hearings or volunteering. If you are a fellow Bitcoiner in a far-away land, considering coming to Bitcoin in the Beltway where you can hear me and others speak on a wide variety of topics and from which 10% of proceeds will go to benefit Sean’s Outpost.

Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome

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Most Recent Inspection Proves Sean’s Outpost NOT In Violation of Codes

This week has been an interesting one for Sean’s Outpost. We celebrated our one year anniversary while at the same time learning that the Escambia Board of County Commissioners voted to petition for an injunction against Satoshi Forest that would force us to remove tents and other structures. The injunction was approved, but they will wait until the meeting with the magistrate on Tuesday before they issue it. Basically, the county wants to force homeless people off of privately owned property and back out on the streets where they can be arrested for not having a home as the camping ordinance is still in place.

They are claiming that Satoshi Forest is in violation of codes despite the fact that a health inspector and county code enforcement agent are paid every week to inspect the property. My friend and local political activist Jeremy Bosso covered the magistrate’s rulings in great detail and you can view his article here.

This is the same magistrate that county commissioners Gene Valentino, Wilson Robertson, and Grover Robinson threatened to fire and replace in this video.

We have repeatedly claimed that Satoshi Forest is abiding by all laws and Mike Kimberl shared the copy of the documents with me in our most recent interview. In their most recent inspection two days ago, it was determined by The State of Florida Department of Health County Health Department that the conditions at Satoshi Forest are satisfactory. I have been authorized by the attorney representing Sean’s Outpost to share this document as proof. Click on the link below and it leads to a clearly readable pdf that shows the county is fabricating claims of code violations against the property and Sean’s Outpost.

Satoshi Forest Inspection

Sean’s Outpost will be appearing before magistrate Janet Lander on Tuesday, March 25th at 1:30pm as she reviews the progress being made on the permitting process. If you are in Pensacola, please come out and show your support. As the county cracks down on us, the public has been vocally opposing their efforts on social media sites and local publications. They realize that this is not only a violation of private property rights but also extremely unethical.

Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome

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Update on Sean’s Outpost News–County Commissioners Caught Threatening Termination

I followed up with Mike Kimberl of Sean’s Outpost about the threat of an injunction from Escambia County Commissioners. He sat down to discuss the little he knows about the situation and elaborated on other events regarding the City of Pensacola’s role in curbing homelessness. Hint: it’s about what you would expect from a city trying to save face after being nationally known as the place who steals blankets from the homeless.

Also, we found video of the commissioners inquiring on how to replace and possibly terminate the special magistrate that ruled in our favor at the emergency hearing in January. While I am uncertain as to the legality of their conversation, I am certain that it is unethical to replace a magistrate just because she didn’t side 100% with the county. In her most recent ruling, Sean’s Outpost was permitted to allow campers to remain on the property as they went through the permitting process but had to allow (and pay for) a health inspector and county code enforcer to inspect the property weekly. While the team was disappointed, they have been compliant and the ruling was an objective middle ground with no reason to believe she favored us far more than the county. This is a segment from the longer meeting which discussed other local but unrelated issues.

I also wanted to give a special thanks to Derrick J of Peace News Now, The Angel Clark Show, and The Bitcoin Group for covering this issue on air immediately after I sent him the notice. He had me come on live to explain the news and read the previous blog post in its entirety. Derrick is an awesome person and invaluable source of breaking news that is meaningful and relevant to protecting our rights. He is always able to remain positive in the face of adversity and reminded listeners in this video of the accomplishments Sean’s Outpost achieved in the past year.

Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome
 

 

 

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Mike and Adam of Sean’s Outpost Encounter a Yard Bull

This weekend Mike Kimberl and Adam Richard of Sean’s Outpost Homeless Outreach were hassled by a yard bull (railroad officer) as Adam and another member were attempting to deliver food to a homeless camp. I interviewed them the other night to get their perspective. Bama, a wheelchair bound homeless man, was the subject of harassment by a railroad officer. When Adam and another member of Sean’s Outpost showed up to deliver food to a homeless camp across some train tracks, they told by the railroad officer that they would be arrested if they crossed over the tracks, which happened to most accessible way to reach the people in the camp. They later came across Pensacola Police Department officers.

Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome

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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