On March 19th, 2015 I was on a holy mission. The tyrannical city commissioners of Gainesville were preparing to vote into existence an ordinance that would make sleeping in any public place illegal. A civil war was brewing, spearheaded by the landowners, the rich, against the homeless, the poor. The landowners lobbied to have this ordinance brought about, to utilize the power of LAW, via the FORCE of the police, to exile the homeless from their neighborhood, because they were lowering the value of the land, costing them money by existing.
A rally was being held at city hall that afternoon, and I intended to get as many people to attend it, or at least know about it, as I could. I got up early and dressed myself as flamboyantly as I could. My friend Michelle had recently given me a new cloak. A glorious thing, just my size, shimmery silver with a hint of green. I named the color of it "tinsel". And I had my trusty magical staff, a birthday gift. It was a two-feet long piece of polished oak with a blue grip in the center held on by amber suede cord wrapped about the entire piece. One end held a smooth jade for working with complexity, and the other held a white quartz, for order and structure and creation.
Fully equipped for a day of magic, I set out into the town. I walked up university ave, crossing over whenever I saw a passerby. I approached everyone I saw at a careful pace, announcing my intention loudly "Hey, did you hear about the protest at city hall!?" I would shout. Most people got interested. Some were too busy. If they were busy, I let them go without complaint. I said "God bless you!" and continued on. I talked to dozens of people. When I got near to Mother's pub, I saw a police cruiser u-turn and park a bit of the way from me. I am terrified of the police, so I ducked into Mother's and popped out the back door. I walked for a ways and then suddenly had the terrible feeling that I was going to be accosted regardless, so I took my staff out of my back pocket and dropped it on the ground. Almost immediately thereafter I heard cops flooding the alleyway with shouts of "freeze!" and "hands up!" I froze and put my hands up, of course. There were guns pointed at me. I was terrified.
There were perhaps eight cops around me, including one out of uniform who was dressed like a biker. They swarmed around me and grabbed my arms and put me in handcuffs. They did not tell me what I had done wrong. I heard them say "we should cuff him to be safe." Though I know I had not made a single threatening move. One came in front of my vision and pointed to my staff lying, non-threatening on the ground. He asked "what is that? is that yours?" His question was so angry that I was even more afraid and I answered "I don't know what that is, sir." This response further angered him and he said "Are you kidding me? We saw you with it! You're lying to me and it's illegal to lie to the police, did you know that?"
What went through my head at this time was "why did you ask me if it was mine, if you knew?" The answer, in retrospect, is that he was testing me to see if I would be fully cooperative and would tell him everything he needed to know. Bullying is an excellent interrogation tactic, although, of course, evil as hell.
What I said, however, since I was terrified, "Yes, it is mine. I'm very sorry that I lied. I swear I will only tell you the truth about anything else you ask." He replied "You'd better."
One of the cops behind me informed me that I was being detained because they heard reports of someone matching my description who was scaring people, and the reason they drew their weapons on me and handcuffed me was because they thought I had a sword. The undercover cop, the biker, came into view and said "That's not a sword, it's a wizard's staff." The other cop, the one who demanded my honesty was confused by this, and asked me if it was a weapon. I tried to assure him that it was not.
The next 20 or so minutes are foggy as I was very scared and the questions came on like lightning. They asked about my travels, my interactions with people, the purpose of my clothes, specifically my cloak. I told the truth about everything. Including that the purpose of my clothes and staff was to attract attention. One cop said something like "I have to admit, it is a nice cloak. What color is that?"
I had at least two other cops come by and berate me for having lied about the staff in the first place and informed me that they would not return it unless I admitted to the truth about it.
At some point I said "Am I allowed to carry it?" The biker cop answered first "Sure, you can carry a stick around as much as you want." Then others chimed in: "you can't be wearing what you're wearing. It's fine at the medieval faire, but not fine in the real world. You're scaring people, and that's why we're dealing with this right now." At this point I was shaking so badly that one cop shouted "You better calm down sir, I won't have you having a heart attack on me!" I tried to calm down.
One cop informed me that they had a report of my chasing after someone who had to run inside to escape me. That was an obvious fabrication. I didn't chase after anyone all day. The only running I did was to escape the police, which attempt, it turns out, was ridiculously justified.
"So you're going to give me my staff back?"
"Yeah, but you can't carry it around with you."
"um... then what should I do with it."
"well, you'll have to stash it somewhere. And the cloak too. If we find out you still have it with you we're going to come arrest you. Okay? We're taking off the cuffs now, get rid of that stuff."
I thanked them and walked to a convenient grease barrel that was nearby. I wrapped my staff in my cloak, hoping to save at least one of my items from greasy doom and put it in the barrel. I continued my day, slightly less ebullient.
The next day I went back to the barrel, and both items were gone. I have a terrible suspicion that one of the cops saw where I had put them and took them for himself. Envy is just as easily felt by police officers as by anyone else. They are humans, who have been told that they can do just about anything they want. They are the weapon of the law and therefore not subject to it themselves, at least not as much. Power is dangerous if it's not properly earned.
I don't blame them, individually. I learned a lot of humility that day. I fear them, yes, but I forgive them too. What I don't forgive is the government bodies that vest all this power into the police, and do not adequately train them to wield it. People are being brutalized everywhere in this country, bullied, killed even. And what happens to the cops? They are humiliated at best. Whereas pot dealers are getting sentenced to years in prison. That disparity of power is very similar to the disparity between the poor and the rich. The police represent the law, which has been taken over by the rich. And now the rich want to attack the poor directly, exile them to "grace" a homeless shelter set up as a relocation camp for the downtown homeless denizens. It's location is adjacent to the Alachua County Jail. This is not a coincidence.
Rage against the machine, my friends.