Oregon police are facing scrutiny on social and news media after a video posted to Facebook last week showed five Ashland police officers piling on top of a homeless autistic man because he had the nerve to inform them they were violating federal law by harassing and ticketing his friend for having a disability service dog in public.
Ashland police charged the man who goes by “Redwood” with disturbing the peace, interfering with an officer and resisting arrest, which are charges commonly used by police in contempt of cop cases across the country.
Human Rights Oregon, the group that initially published the video, accused Ashton police of habitually using city ordinances to target homeless in order to clear them out of town.
“Police in Ashland Oregon have been profiling and targeting people who are homeless and/or ‘travellers’, at the behest of the Ashland City Council (minus Carol Voison) and the Asland Chamber Of Commerce,” they issued in a statement published along with video of the arrest.
The incident began when Redwood informed a cop at Lithia Plaza that he was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by harassing his disabled friend about his service dog.
That portion of the interaction wasn’t captured on video, but Human Rights Oregon reported witnesses said the man began video recording the events with his cell phone after an Ashland cop approached him and physically poked him in the chest for showing concern about how the officer was handling the situation over the service dog.
The cop insisted the man was lying about his service dog and proceeded to write him a citation for illegally having the dog in a public place, which the man didn’t want to accept, according to a statement released by police, who claimed that Redwood was the one who approached officers in an aggressive manner.
But the video doesn’t support that claim and actually shows him sitting down where he can be heard verbally resisting the interaction, but not intimidating the officers with his size as they claim in their official statement.
Redwood, who is homeless and autistic but reportedly enjoys studying federal law and civil rights, told the cop issuing the citation, “Read your fucking laws, man.”
That’s when the video begins and several officers standing over Redwood, while two others simultaneously approach where he is sitting, and begin assisting each other in arresting him, forcing him to the ground while piling on top of him.
At that point, Redwood’s muscles locked up, which is a typical reaction to stress, fear and anger for those with autism. And he can be seen with a stiff posture as five police take him to the ground sitting on top of him and placing their knees on him.
As police are trained scream even when it’s not happening, they repeatedly yell at him, “Stop resisting!”
Since 2008, the ACLU has alleged the City of Ashton anti-camping are inhumane and issued a statement calling upon the city to address the underlying issues of homelessness rather than enacting laws to enforce against them, which cause more problems than they solve.
The Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon calls upon the City of Ashland to amend its “Prohibited Camping” ordinance from one that punishes poverty and homelessness into one that prods the city to provide housing for the homeless.
The city’s inhumane anti-camping law is inconsistent with the values of the Ashland, and the ACLU calls for immediate reform.
“The poor should not be punished simply for being poor, and that’s what this law does in Ashland,” said ACLU of Oregon Executive Director David Fidanque. “The city of Ashland – and all cities – should seek to address the underlying issues of homeless and poverty, rather than enacting and enforcing laws that target those who are homeless.”
“Police have a tough job,” said a Ashland-based activist for the homeless in an interview with ktvl.com. “And when we leave it to police to deal with community issues like houselessness, nobody is going to win.”
Although he wasn’t present during the incident, Police Chief Tighe O’Meara stated video did not truly give a thorough view of the entire altercation, and defended the arrest. He implied his officers did nothing wrong, because Redwood did not filed an internal complaint with the Ashland police.
In Los Angeles, between 2012-2014, 1,365 complaints were made against LAPD, according to the LATimes.
None were upheld.
Below is the video of the incident and below that is an audio recording that PINAC reader Donald Smith conducted with the Ashland police chief about the shooting.