Tag Archives: police

Now Couldn't Be the Right Time

It seems as if every time a dozen or so people are murdered and six or so dozen are shot up in a movie theater, high school or college campus, the wacko leftist peacenik liberal elites start spouting that anyone who believes automatic weapons should be legal is either stupid, crazy, a mass murderer wannabe or has length challenged privates, and that our right to bare arms and bear arms, which even that Obama-loving SCOTUS Judge Roberts, admits that we have, has limits and that we shouldn’t be able to carry at airports, high schools, day care centers, bars, church and places where the President will be.

All the while, those reasoned and highly compensated voices from the heartland are reminding us that this is not the time to reflect, but is the time to grieve, remember the victims and praise Jeezus that we were not in the theater that night. This is the time to watch and listen to cable and entertainment news so we can learn every salacious detail about the shooter, and every emotion felt and articulated by neighbors, teachers, employers, lovers, movie critics, Batman fans or childhood friends who hadn’t seen him in 20 years. This is the time to be reminded of why an insanity plea doesn’t make a murderer innocent.

 Houston Gun ShowThis is the time to come together and not discuss if it makes sense that anyone can order 6,000 rounds of ammo, body armor or hundred-round clips on the internets, tax free. There will be time to talk about unregulated gun shows. There will be time to remember the police killed in the line of duty by Americans exercising their rights and time to appreciate the irony that the men and women whose job it is to protect us have been forced to become more and more militarized to be safer from all of our guns. There will be time for old 60 Minutes reruns where they buy hundreds, or even thousands of guns right there on teevee with no questions asked. There will be time when we will all pay attention to the drone of the Muslim Brotherhood’s moles in Congress as they finally admit that they want to declare Sharia, take away our God given and constitutionally protected freedoms by denying us our right to protect our homes and loved ones from suspicious looking people wearing hoodies. There will be a time to compare our gun deaths with other civilized countries, Somalia, for instance.

There will be time to remember that guns don’t kill people. It is people who are the problem. Ironically, more than half of all gun deaths are not from people protecting themselves. More than half the gun deaths each year are from people killing themselves — often the spouse or child of the gun owner. Suicide, not homicide.

Now is not the time. We need more perspective. More dead. More wounded. No, now couldn’t possibly be the time. It is an election year and the NRA doesn’t lose elections.

According to news accounts, now might be the time to go to the local gun super store, or better yet, a gun show (favored by felons, gangs, terrorists and the mentally ill), and stock up on guns, ammo and the latest bulletproof fashions – perfect for date night. But if you are one of those special gun owners who just can’t seem to maintain a healthy relationship, consider skipping the movies this weekend. The Olympic shooting competition is starting.


An afterthought for your entertainment: “The Sing-Along Second Amendment” by Roy Zimmerman

Park stories

“There’s something about white people,” Bull said as he sat down beside me on the stone wall overlooking the shopping gauntlet of the Saturday Green Market in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, “they want everything.”

Bull’s given name is Tony and I’ve know him for three years. As one might suspect, Bull didn’t get his nickname for awkward moments in a china shop. In his mid-fifties, he’s affable, homeless and pretty much knows how to stay out of trouble with the homeless police*. Bull went on to tell me, while punctuating each phrase with a pause and a laugh, “You know, money’s no good for holding on to. It’s got to keep moving. That’s why they do it – always buying stuff.”

I had a decision to make. Do I patronize him by agreeing and just letting the conversation go silent, or do I give him the respect to answer him thoughtfully? I chose the latter and tried to tell him how some people had unimaginable amounts of money and how those people just wanted more and more of it.

Bull looked down, shook his head side to side and began speaking louder, as Bull does, when he seems to feel confused, “I don’t know about that…” Reaching down to pet my geriatric, hair-factory of a beagle, Bull rubbed too hard and the dog gave out a loud whelp as hounds do to embarrass their owners. “Your dog’s blind, right? No? Can’t hear? I know something’s wrong with her. Anyway, how’s your wife doing? I haven’t seen her in a while. You doing OK?”

While reassuring him that we were fine, Bull and I became sandwiched by other spouse watchers and waiters on the bench-hieght wall. The recent interlopers were sitting close enough to hear, but far enough away to observe. I wondered to myself if these newly arrived “social peers” were there for the shade, to judge Bull, or to judge us both. I often get feelings like this and know it comes from my mom’s lifelong and often conflicting curse of inferiority and her strong, but simple sense of right and wrong. As I’ve aged, my rational side knows well their decision to sit down had nothing to do with either of us. Most people, especially young people, are oblivious to the homeless.

Feeling the new eyes upon him, Bull then turned his questions to a safer subject, “Lee, tell me this, do you believe in Jesus and God?”

My turn to laugh awkwardly, “That’s two different questions, Bull.” If you are asking me if I believe in the historical figure of Jesus, whose followers, hundreds of years later, recounted wonderful and life-giving sermons and tales of what we are asked to believe of his life, sure. And if by God, you are asking if I believe that there is some powerful force in life greater and outside our lives that connects us all, I do.“

Hearing my ”I do“ and not processing the parsed phrases, Bull seemed reassured and said, while patting me on the shoulder, ”Good. Good. I don’t know why I thought you weren’t a believer. That’s good. God bless you.“

In the middle of it, my wife walked up with her market bag filled with gourds of every color and shape, ”Hello, Red,“ she said as she faced that moment every immune-surpressed Southerner fears – the requisitely polite handshake or hug from someone who lived on the street. Fortunately her bags prevented either.

”This is Bull,“ I said to her. ”Red is someone else entirely, though Red Bull is a very funny guess.“ Then sensing her dilemma, I offered, ”A fist bump is always appropriate.“ Watching a middle-aged white woman, never known for coordination, attempt to fist bump with arms filled with gourds, is great sport and a true test of my ability not to laugh at someone, but Terri’s always a good sport.

Able to easily multi-task while fist-bumping, Bull offered with a genuine smile, ”Hello, Miss Terri. Looks like you’re going to be doin’ some fine cooking. You going to cook any of that for me?“

”Maybe so, I’ve cooked for you before.“

”I remember,“ Bull said, ”you made me a birthday cake last year.“

I glanced at one the interlopers within earshot expecting an acknowledgement of her kindness – oblivious.

###

*A note on how to stay out of trouble with the homeless police: Keep moving. Don’t hang out in a group for long. Keep up with grooming and wear clean clothes. Stash your possessions during the day and don’t been seen carrying bags. Stay away from the types of people who might feel threatened (those alone or with children). Smile and mention God in your short conversations with strangers. Be polite. Never resist a police officer. And keep moving.

City police have an almost impossible job and I have nothing but respect for their efforts. Sworn to uphold the law, part of a team, at the whim of politics and every “taxpayer” they meet, they also owe it their own families to survive each day. I often hear complaints from homeless men of profiling and excess force – while it might seem true, most of what seems “profiling” are reaction to citizen complaints or inappropriate public behavior. Charges of excessive force are most often a situational reaction of drunkenness or rage. There are exceptions and there shouldn’t be.

Homelessness is terrible problem. I sincerely wish that giving money to someone panhandling was an answer. It isn’t. Often if makes things worse. If someone is hungry, give them food or directions to a shelter. Homelessness is a societal problem, an economic problem and a political problem. If you want to help the homeless, I encourage you to contact an organization in your community and help them.

Lessons of War

copsMIDTOWN ATLANTA, Ga. – Sunday evening, two third-floor loft dwellers were attempting to enjoy the remnant of their weekend, when war broke out.

The young men had their windows open only to find the fresh evening air fouled by the sounds from a crueler side of life coming from the park bench below them. This was not the first time they had been bothered by the loud and constant talking. They knew their choices. They could have turned up their TV again, or closed the window. They could have attempted to negotiate with the men on the bench to quiet down. Or, as they had done before, they could have complained to the police. They just knew they couldn’t ignore it. That, and the Hawks had just lost to Cleveland.

There is no confirmation on how long they deliberated, but it is assumed their IQ’s  and judgment declined with their continued alcohol consumption. They decided to act. Taking a dozen eggs from the fridge, they took positions on their balcony. With shock and awe, they attacked.

The homeless men on the bench were taken totally by surprise. For a brief moment, they laughed with and at one another. Had they been given a chance, they probably would have requested their eggs prepared differently. But as the bombardment continued, their levity turned to anger. Their disorientation to resolve. They knew that their unknown enemy had the strategic advantage of the high ground, but they had to make their stand. They had no place to go. These men of the street had no weaponized food products to return fire, so they acted with instinct. Grabbing what was close at hand, they counter attacked with rocks.

Rocks thrown at a high target in darkness are not known to be precision weapons. This was again proven.

It was unknown to the men at the bench, that the commotion had attracted the attention of the City of Atlanta Policeman who lives one floor up and one apartment over from their target. The egg tossers had retreated to the safety inside when the officer came out on his balcony. Using his training and experience, he quickly assessed the situation. Two men. Black. Mid-thirties to mid-forties. One about 5’7“. The other about 6’1”. Agitated. Probably intoxicated. Yelling and throwing rocks at the apartment building. He recognized the men as Bull and Red. But before he could announce himself, an errant rock hit him and drew blood*.

The risks of war can never truly be estimated. But in retrospect, what happened next should have seemed inevitable. Within moments, the sounds of sirens could be heard. Seconds later, flashing and colored lights from thirteen Atlanta police cars broke the darkness.

Encircled by more than dozen or so of Atlanta’s finest, Bull and Red should have done as they were told, but they were angry and felt justified in their actions. The police, they felt, should be after those punks who started it. They wanted desperately to tell their side of the story.

The police, on the other hand, only knew that these two drunk and violent men had hit one of their brothers-in-blue with a rock (not to be confused with Iraq). The situation had to be assumed to be dangerous. The police are trained to first stabilize a situation like this. They needed for Bull and Red to quiet and assume the position. When Bull and Red resisted, the police had no choice but to use pepper spray. When that was not sufficient, they then subdued the men with means deemed necessary.

eggBull and Red were taken to Grady Hospital for their injuries before going to jail. Disturbing the peace, public drunkenness and resisting arrest will be enough to keep them there for at least a few weeks. They both have prior offenses. If assault on a police officer is added, they could go away for years.

So what are the lessons of war? According to Curtis, who is also homeless, often in the park, and told me this story, the lesson is: “It’s stupid. You can’t win. Walk away. Just got to let it go.” Curtis also was quick to point out that, “those people [egg tossers] have lawyers and will always win.”

So here’s the box score:
Egg Tossers:
•    Total cost: less than a dozen eggs.
•    Achieved: complete objective.
•    Plus, they have stories to tell their buddies.
•    Remain anonymous.

Mark and Red:
•    Total cost: pain and suffering, plus at least a couple of weeks in jail, maybe more.
•    Achieved nothing, unless you count increased bitterness.

City of Atlanta:
•    Total cost: many thousands of dollars in police time, medical expenses, incarceration and legal expenses.
•    Achieved: one night of peace for the egg tossers.

The lessons of war? War sucks. Particularly for the powerless and those who have to pick up the pieces.

*There were conflicting reports on whether the officer was actually hit. Another eyewitness, Brian, claims that the rock actually hit the officer’s door and the entire event was  blown out of proportion. Brian also said that when the egg tossers ran out of their preferred ammunition, they resorted to throwing dinner plates.

Update: Now that he’s out, Red says they weren’t throwing rocks. They were throwing bottles.

The celebration is over in Piedmont Park

Park Bench

For 10 days or so after the election, there was exuberance. Their faces shone. New hope. Belief this was the time. Energy. Real joy. And, parties that would go late into the night at the bench outside my window. The conversation, always vigorous and boastful, now had a new topic: their future. One after another they pledged to get out of the park. This was the time.

In the weeks that followed, one after another kept the promise and left. One mended fences with his dad and went home. Another called his grandma and she sent a bus ticket. One finally got his ID so he could get his disability and could get out on his own. One was befriended by stranger who found him an apartment for couples so he could be with his current true love. One got on the list with the VA and was waiting. And another just left. I missed them. Those that could, left me an email address or a relative’s phone number, but life has taught me that we wouldn’t stay in touch.

Home-officed on the border of the park and primary steward for an aging step-dog who, along with me, requires morning and evening walks, I have had the privilege of coming to know and love some of the people who make a home in and around Atlanta’s premier park. Except for some brief weeks in the spring when the weather is perfect, the population in Piedmont Park is small when compared to areas South of North around St. Luke’s and the Food Stamp Office. On a given night, less than a dozen – almost always just men in young middle age, make their home in the park and in nearby vacant buildings. The stories of how they came to be here are all too similar: lost jobs; broken relationships; booze; a fight; prison time; no place to go they want to be or are wanted to be. They haven’t lost hope. They are waiting for something. Some are veterans. Some artists. Some artisans. Handsome men who still have their health. Men who look like they don’t belong here. Men who aren’t wanted here.

This is a relatively affluent area bordering old money and gentrified neighborhoods. The Conservancy who has taken on the redevelopment of the park from the city has, and is, spending millions to make and keep it a wonderful place and provide security 24/7. The Midtown Business Alliance wants no homeless panhandlers here and lobbies to make it so. The police, well, they have it tough. They answer to those that complain, but know their solution is not a solution at all. After all, what sort of society arrests people for being poor? It just makes it harder until most end up in prison at a greater price individually and to society than providing shelter, assistance and jobs. During the last year, my park friends were arrested for public urination, panhandling, vagrancy, lying to the police, public nuisance, public display, public drunkeness and so on. No, not a single drug issue with any that I knew.

It’s been quiet for a couple of weeks since they were away. The vet waiting for a spot spent a week in jail after being denied access to a bathroom and choosing to relieve himself behind the store – he’s pretty down and seeking solace in alcohol. My friend who finally got his ID and crazy check has been robbed and hospitalized twice in other areas of town and is back, but no longer has his ID, money or perspective. My friend who made up with Dad, well, fell out of favor quickly. Others haven’t come back and are remembered during the nightly bench conversations. The talk of Obama has stopped. He’s not even President, yet, and the hope’s gone here. The celebration is over.

But something else is going on. I’ve noticed it for the last couple of a weeks. Perhaps it just the season. It’s mid-December and most of the leaves are gone, so the park is more open. It seems that on each bench, there’s a newcomer. Better dressed and equipped, at least so far. Just sitting. Alone. Staring. Avoiding eye contact. Dejected. Seemingly embarrassed and awkward when spoken to. Future friends, I fear.

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