Ask a Homeless Person: What can the tragic murder of a homeless man by an L.A. cop teach us?

Horrific video released in March captured an LA police officer shooting an unarmed homeless man to death. And unfortunately, all over this country, homeless people live in constant fear of violence and harassment from the police.

So we asked our members – what do people need to know about relations between the police and the homeless? What can this tragic incident in Los Angeles teach us?
Here’s some of what they had to say.
“Police treat us like animals. They don’t care what happens to us. We’re an easy way for them to fill their quotas… or we’re target practice.”
“The shelters aren’t any safer from the cops. Three times in the past week, the cops have come through my shelter. They threw one woman up against the wall and twisted her arm behind her and said ‘you still got something to say?'”

“Shelters are like police states themselves. I prefer to be on the streets, rather than in a shelter. At least on the streets, when trouble comes, I have somewhere to run to.”

“I still get traumatic flashbacks about this – one time, I fell asleep on a bench at the West Side Piers, and when I woke up there were guns and flashlights pointed in my face, and officers yelling at me. They put me in the van – wouldn’t let me take my cart, which was full of my belongings. I was still so out of it and half-asleep I couldn’t say or do anything. Down by Battery Park I started to get my wits together, and I asked if I was being arrested. They didn’t say anything, then said ‘No.’ Then I asked if I was free to go, and they pulled the van over and let me out. By the time I got back to my cart, though, people had stolen most of the valuable things I had with me.”

“I got out of the subway late at night and there were no public restrooms, and I had to go to the bathroom. So I went into the bushes so I wouldn’t bother anyone, and six cops came at me with flashlights and guns pointed, asking me what I was doing. I felt like it was pretty obvious.”

“I was sleeping in the ATM vestibule of a bank on Madison Avenue, when someone called the cops on me. The cops told me to get out of there. I told him I was a customer of the bank and I wasn’t going anywhere, and when the manager came in in the morning he’d be buying me coffee and a donut. They grabbed me by the shoulders and threw me out onto the sidewalk.”

“I was in Penn Station late at night and I saw the police messing with a homeless woman. I had gotten training from Picture the Homeless in how to document police misconduct, and I had a Flip cam from PTH, so I took it out and started filming. The policewoman told me to stop and I said it was my constitutional right to document this. She told me to keep on filming if I wanted to be arrested.”

“Out in Kentucky while I was living there, the cops were demolishing a tent city where homeless people lived. I was filming it, and they told me to stop, and when I wouldn’t, they arrested me and put me in what they called a behavior-modification chair – they put me in restraints on the ankles and wrists and head, and strike them at regular intervals so it messes with your pressure points.”

“This kind of thing happens all the time. We need more people to help document police brutality. People should lighten up with the selfies and start using their smart phones to shine a light on this kind of behavior.”