Houston Protests Heat Up As Activists Align For Police Accountability

 

Houston is known as one of the most diverse cities above being the energy capital of the world. However as diverse as the city is, there is an ugly truth that has been lingering for over 10-years in Harris County. Houston’s Harris County has not indicted a police officer for murder since 2004. This includes the numerous unarmed murders that have proceeded by Houston Police Officers and Harris County Constables. Most recently the Jordan Baker case is being reviewed by a Houston Grand Jury as a decision has not been made. The Grand Jury will reconvene on Thursday at 9 a.m. Baker was a 26-year-old unarmed black man who was gunned down by a Houston Police Officer in January 2014. The Grand Jury review comes at the heels of a global outbreak of protests against police brutality and police who abuse their power yet are rarely held responsible for their illegal actions. Houston has been hosting police brutality protests for years now however recently, the Galleria area has been a hotspot for activists and participants to focus their energies.

Houston protesters gather in the Galleria area urging for change in the lack of police accountability across the nation (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)

Houston protesters gather in the Galleria area urging for change in the lack of police accountability across the nation (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)

How Many Is Too Many In Death?

On August 9, 2014, unarmed Michael Brown was gunned down by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. On November 24, 2014 a Grand Jury no-billed officer Wilson. On August 5, 2014, John Crawford was in a Dayton, Ohio Walmart where he was shot to death by police officers due to a call made to 911 indicating that a black man was inside the Walmart branding a gun. That gun turned out to be a BB gun sold by that particular Walmart and Crawford was never a threat. The officers involved in that shooting were later cleared of any charges. Weeks later it was determined that the 911 caller lied about Crawford and has yet to be held liable for his role in Crawford’s death. On November 22, 2014, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was playing at a local park in Cleveland, Ohio when he was murdered by police in less than 2-seconds. Rice was playing with his toy BB gun when officers quickly pulled up and in less than 2-seconds, shot Rice to death. Video footage of the incident went viral and fueled further outrage of this nonsense killing of a child who was at a park, doing what children do. The individual who called 911 had strongly indicated that the gun that Rice was playing with was most likely a toy gun. Even with that information, cops still murdered a child which was recently ruled a homicide. There have been no charges filed against the officers responsible for Rice’s death. On July 17, 2014 Eric Garner of Staten Island, NY was murdered by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo who was later no-billed in Garner’s murder even though the murder was caught on video and the death was ruled a homicide. A twist to the incident is that the individual who filmed the footage of Garner’s death was recently indicted on a weapons charge. It is strongly suggested that the amateur video host was targeted by the NYPD. On November 20, 2014 unarmed Akai Gurley was murdered by an NYPD rookie Peter Liang after claiming to be “spooked” by Gurley in an unlit stairway. He called it an “accidental shooting”. As of December 6, 2014, a Grand Jury began their hearing on the case and to date there has not been a decision made. In November 2013, Alfred Wright turned up missing in Jasper, Texas, a city that is known for KKK activities and host several KKK cells. Wrights body was found with his eyes gouged, his tongue ripped out and his body tortured in ways that cannot be imagined. It is believed that Wright was a victim of a hate crime which isn’t surprising when we’re talking about East Texas. Since his body was found, authorities have not been compliant in resolving this murder, refusing to run a proper investigation from State Rangers to County authorities which have doing all they can to protect the true murder(s) of Wright. Protests led by the New Black Panther Party were staged in Jasper as they called for an investigation to Wrights death which continues to fall on deaf ears. As of August 2014, the New Black Panther Party demanded the release of Shane Hadnot, calling him a “scapegoat” according to Beaumont Enterprise dot com after being federally indicted. Seeing how little to no effort Texas authorities have given and knowing the dark history of the FBI, most likely Hadnot is the fall guy for Wrights murder and the true party responsible will most likely never be held liable for his death. Then we cross over to Trayvon Martin who was murdered by George Zimmerman who was working security detail the night that Martin was killed. Zimmerman had been found “not guilty” but has since arrogantly paraded around the country toting a weapon and acting aggressively towards individuals including his ex-wife which he pulled a gun to her head and threatened to kill her.

When you begin to combine the murders in recent months, it is heart wrenching to learn that in all cases, each individual involved in the murder have had zero accountability. Each walk away knowing they have killed a man with little concern of how others are impacted, especially the families. When you look at the big picture, you begin to look at statistics to see an even bigger problem we face in America: every 28-hours a black man is killed by a cop. Nationally, African Americans are arrested three times more frequently than their white counterparts. USA Today reports: According to University of South Carolina criminologist Geoff Alpert, to this day, there exists no national record of the number of civilians killed by the police — and of course, no complete racial breakdown of this information.

Said Alpert to USA Today:

“We’ve been trying [to get this information] for years, but nobody wanted to fund it and the (police) departments didn’t want it. They were concerned with their  image and liability.They don’t want to bother with it.”

Why do police agencies across the nation not want a national database that would keep up with real-time statistics? Maybe because these statistics would act as record keeping that would prove that we truly have police agencies that act in racial profiling including police who kill based on race alone. There are tons of reports and stories of minorities who have been victims of police harassment due to racial profiling at least once in their life. While we call on cops to protect and serve, many cops are out violating rights of citizens just because they know they can get away with it. Police departments are usually backed by police unions that are even more corrupt than your typical rogue cop. We’ve seen several unions come forward in defense of cops who kill, rape, violate, harass, set up and wrongly incarcerate individuals and more.

Houston has hosted several protests since the murder of Mike Brown from the Galleria area to 3rd Ward. Each protest continues to grow in great numbers. People are fed up with the biased justice system, lack of accountability, but most of all, because people are being murdered and the justice system continues to send a message to the world that in the United States if you have a badge and a gun, you are free to do whatever you’d like, which includes taking a life without consequences. Houston activists have been working feverishly to ensure that participants have a platform to voice their outrage of the obvious racist and biased system. In the background there have been strategy meetings, full on confrontations with local police and Houston City Council, engaging communities with the hopes of obtaining applications for grand jury participants and shutting down many stores in the Galleria Mall on December 6, 2014. Since then, Simon Properties (who is a publicly traded company) who are the property managers of the Galleria Mall, the 6th largest mall in the nation, have tossed out legal threats to Galleria protest organizers and subsequently spend quite bit of money on having professional signs made that indicated that if any protester enter the Galleria Mall itself or their parking lot, that each would be arrested and prosecuted for trespassing. These signs were posted everywhere outside the Galleria Mall. A few entrances to the mall were gated and locked as the 2nd week of protests ensued on December 13, 2014. Although protesters never entered the mall, they did manage to tie up traffic in several parts of the Galleria area. Several arrests were made on December 13th after Houston Police Officers refused individuals from crossing the street at a cross walk. Two people got tangled in the confrontation between protesters and cops which led to a wrongful arrest. Not that any arrests were valid. We’re talking about peaceful protesters and a very aggressive police force which the Houston Police Dept is known for. One woman who was arrested was seen lifted by her long hair by a officer on a horse then dragged her to the sidewalk with force. Two male protesters were choked each by a Houston Police Officer in that same confrontation. One photo showed where an officers hand is gripping the throat of a protester with force. Moments before this took place, several individuals overheard officers saying “I’m gonna get me one of them today,” “If they don’t like us then maybe they shouldn’t mess with us”.

Several Houston activists are arrested by Houston Police Officers on December 13, 2014 (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)

Several Houston activists are arrested by Houston Police Officers on December 13, 2014 (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)

Which brings me back to a time where a Ferguson Solidarity protest was held in 3rd Ward back in August 2014 where protest participants overheard an officer on his horse recite, “Why don’t we just use the horses on them” as the other officer laughed off the statement. Moments later, three female Houston activists were assaulted by the very same horses participating in the action that day, led by Houston Police Officers. Another concerning and aggressive Houston officer who has been leading officers at the recent anti-police brutality protests is an officer we call Officer Peach Skull. You can usually see him toting a bullhorn, yelling and threatening protesters. He offers no peace in these protests and definitely isn’t looking to bridge the gap between the common people and the police force. He, along with police officers across the nation do not seem to understand that there needs to be a level of trust initiated. Houston protests have been nothing but peaceful all along however Officer Peach Skull and a number of his fellow officers treat peaceful protesters as if they are criminals or hold criminal intent. I myself have been a victim to Officer Peach Skull’s threats. The December 13th protest held at the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak led to hundreds of protesters stuck on one corner. As protesters attempted to cross the street to gain more visibility, I noticed that when the cross walk became available for individuals to cross the street legally, Peach Skull and a few officers prevented protesters from crossing the street for at least 5-seconds then would allow individuals to walk through. Of course participants would find themselves still trying to cross the street when the time ran out on the crosswalk when Officer Peach Skull would get on his blow horn and begin yelling and threatening protesters for being in the street illegally. I quickly confronted him on his actions which led to threats led by Peach Skull and his clique. I was more than willing to go to jail if it meant calling him on his tactic. Once I made it clear to all surrounding officers, local news media, and protesters held at the corner of his tactic, the officers began to allow the protesters to walk the crosswalk the moment it was deemed legal to walk.

If the Houston Police Department wants to earn the trust of the many, they might want to start with local activists who come in peace and while the majority might be passionately vocal concerning police abuse, not one protester has acted in violence nor have any protesters acted criminally. There is no reason for Houston officers to get their kicks on antagonizing participants of these anti-police brutality protests. These peaceful protesters are fighting for a better community in the hopes that these murders led by police officers will be held accountable. That officer will not be allowed to abuse their power. That officers cannot simply use horses against activists, or pull/drag women by their hair or choke activists just because they can. That officers cannot use tactics which can essentially get good people arrested because an officer isn’t playing fair.

Houston Galleria - Black Lives Matter - Protesters gather in the Galleria area spreading social awareness  (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)

Houston Galleria – Black Lives Matter – Protesters gather in the Galleria area spreading social awareness (Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)

The Galleria protests will continue Saturday, December 20, 2014 at Hines Park, Wall of Water as a meeting place at noon. The key is to continue to spread social awareness by any means necessary. Those who’ve been participating in local protests have no intention of backing down and are looking to keep the momentum as the movement continues to sweep America. If you’re interested in participating in Saturday’s action, you can link the Facebook event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1509678505972362

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local Activists Prepare Actions Over The FBI’s Cover-Up Concerning An Assassination Plot To Kill Key Activists of Occupy Houston

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Key activists of Occupy Houston were once targeted by a sniper group while the FBI continues to withhold information about the assassination plot.

January 2013 an article was written concerning the early stages and findings: “Occupy movement nationwide targeted as an assassination plot unfolds: FBI gives no warning” which gave little detail about an assassination plot that surfaced after FBI documents revealed the following:

An identified [redacted] of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary. An identified [redacted] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. [Redacted] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.

January 2013 article here:  http://www.sheredore.com/?p=214

OCCUPY HOUSTON’S BACKGROUND

The article detailed Occupy Houston’s findings back then and this is now. Nearly three-years since Occupy Houston began, the assassination plot concerning key activists of Occupy Houston has become a hot topic once more, especially for those deeply involved with activism and the community. Occupy Houston is an extension of Occupy Wall Street that thrived in September 2011. The Occupy movement ignited after the Arab Spring in the Mid-East sparked protests all over the globe by individuals and groups who clearly had enough of corruption within their government and the role that major corporations played with political leaders. Occupy Houston jumped on board and hosted their first rally on October 6, 2011, just three-weeks after the start of Occupy Wall Street (OWS).

Houston is the 4th largest city in America which has a population of nearly 4-million (including the surrounding suburbs) and is considered the Energy Capitol of the World. Houston has the 2nd highest number of Fortune 500 companies after New York. These corporations include:  Phillips 66, ConocoPhillips, Sysco, Halliburton, Marathon Oil and National Oilwell Vargo just to name a few. Occupy Houston along with Occupy extensions throughout the U.S. were assembling on public space while forming several actions that protested corporations, banks and political leaders who intentionally depleted the nations economy, used their financial powers to obtain special favors from Congress and of course the infamous 1%, 85 of the worlds wealthiest people. In fact, the 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest individuals on the planet. Combine the highly imbalanced scale where it concerned minimum wage workers vs. the corporate elite, including our nations government who had passed a bill that gave an $800-billion bail out via tax dollars to banks and mega financial groups. Congress approved the $800 billion bailout quickly and quietly.  Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and seven other U.S. banks were paid $32.6 billion in bonuses by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2008 which went to a handful of bank executives meanwhile the majority of the nations people were hit with job losses that had a negative rippling effect for individuals personally and America’s economy. It is no surprised that The People were fed up and wanted to do something about the growing problem. Occupy was born. Although mainstream medias perpetrated a very negative view of the Occupy movement, those who were personally involved and those who supported Occupy had first hand knowledge that while imperfect, Occupy was attempting to make positive changes within the country. Occupy worked hard to ensure that voices were not silenced, giving people an outlet and even breeding new activists. With all the positive energies surfacing with a true will to do good in society, Occupy Houston was appalled upon learning about an assassination plot. Even worse, the FBI failed to inform Occupy Houston of the plot which added speculation among local activists.

MEET RYAN SHAPIRO

Ryan Shapiro is a researcher and an advocate for animal rights groups. Shapiro is most known for his FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to government entities and has almost become an expert concerning FOIA requests. When the U.S. government has refused to process those requests or provided data that is highly redacted or presumed to be manipulated, Shapiro has pursued repeated litigation that has been widely publicized. Shapiro currently has more than 700 active FOIA requests and four pending lawsuits with the FBI. Most recently Shapiro has been in the media worldwide concerning Occupy Houston and the FBI. Shapiro learned of the assassination plot aimed at key activist of Occupy Houston and initiated a FOIA request through the FBI to obtain more information on the assassination plot. The FBI responded by giving Shapiro heavily redacted (information intentionally blacked out by the FBI) documents that gave Shapiro no information concerning the plot. Shapiro filed a suit against the FBI for a violation of FOIA itself. The FBI had identified 17-pages that concern the plot but only surrendered 5-pages however little to no information was obtained by Shapiro or his FOIA attorney, Jeffrey Light. FBI FOIA Chief David Hardy defended suppressing the information in a motion to dismiss Shapiro’s lawsuit. The request concerned material that the FBI had given to local authorities who were investigating “potential criminal activity” by Occupy Houston protesters. The FBI was working with them to assess potential terrorist threats posed by Occupy Houston and determine whether it had advocated overthrowing the US government. The FBI and the Department of Justice invoked the Bureau’s “general investigative authority” and its “lead role in investigating terrorism and in the collection of terrorism threat information” as a basis for its exemption from FOIA, but this did not convince Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

At no point does Mr. Hardy supply specific facts as to the basis for the FBI’s belief that the Occupy protestors [sic] might have been engaged in terroristic or other criminal activity,” Collyer wrote in an opinion that denied part of the FBI’s motion to dismiss. “Neither the word ‘terrorism’ nor the phrase ‘advocating the overthrow of the government’ are talismanic, especially where FBI purports to be investigating individuals who ostensibly are engaged in protected First Amendment activity. -Judge Collyer

Collyer gave the FBI until April 9th to provide a more detailed explanation for its exemptions, which the FBI can submit to the court under seal and can keep it sealed if the Judge chooses. Meanwhile April 9th has passed, Occupy Houston has knowledge of the latest information concerning the April 9th court date however out of respect for Shapiro, Occupy Houston has chosen to keep silent on the matter and awaits more information by Shapiro and his attorney which is soon to come.

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Occupy Houston’s One Year Anniversary at Houston City Hall
(Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)

OCCUPY HOUSTON CHOOSES TO FIGHT BACK

Upon learning about Shapiro’s lawsuit, activist of Occupy Houston began assessing the information that was pouring in by different medias all over the world. While Occupy Houston had little knowledge of the assassination plot in early 2012, the more recent information learned by activists forced several communicate and realize the importance of this issue. To be called a Domestic Terrorist and have knowledge that there was a true plot to assassinate, to literally murder individuals for practicing their First Amendment right, became very real for Occupy Houston. On March 19, 2014, Occupy Houston filed a FOIA request through the FBI concerning the assassination plot. On March 25, 2014, Occupy Houston issued its first formal statement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Occupy Houston activists demand FBI release assassination plot details

We want to take a moment to thank everyone for your concerns regarding information released about the FBI’s knowledge of assassination plans that targeted key participants in our movement. These plots involved the execution of members of Occupy Houston through coordinated sniper fire.

We want you to know we are ok, we are not afraid, and we are not going to run from this. We, Occupy Houston, have launched a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the documents, and are awaiting a response before deciding our next moves.

Occupy Houston activists collectively stand together and have made it public that we are running our own investigation of the assassination plots after learning that the FBI not only had knowledge of these plots but actively refused to inform Occupy Houston activists of the details. These extremely suspicious acts lead us to question whether the plot(s) were a government sanctioned plot or that of an independent entity.

Let’s be clear: a terror plot such as this one put our lives in danger. The FBI has refused to inform us of the details. The FBI felt it was best to not only keep this imperative information from us but continues to heavily redact documents that would answer our inquiries. The FBI is actively shielding a vicious plan to murder us under the all-too-familiar guise of national security.

Throughout the time that Occupy Houston physically occupied Tranquility Park, it was made clear that the Houston Police Department, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the Houston FBI, Dept of Homeland Security, Austin Police Department (who infiltrated and set up Occupier activists from Houston, Dallas and Austin) and other government agencies were not interested in respecting peaceful democratic assemblies, and in fact they used the most undemocratic and violent methods to suppress our movement, here and all over the country.

We thank our supporters who have stood by our side since 2011. Occupy Houston has formally requested the documents as of March 19, 2014. We demand the FBI immediately release all information pertaining this case.

We would also like to thank MIT student Ryan Shapiro for his continued support and attempts to obtain these documents, which were previously denied by the FBI. Mr Shapiro, we appreciate your passion to stand up to government entities who work feverishly to defame and criminalize democratic movements that belong to us, the people.

On March 30, 2014, Occupy Houston collectively agreed to pursue information from local government agencies via TPIA to find out if local government agencies had any knowledge of the plot. March 31, 2014 an OPEN RECORDS REQUEST was emailed to the City of Houston, Mayor Annise Parkers office.  Occupy Houston requested “identifying information” that dealt with any document concerning Occupy Houston and the Mayor’s office. a little over a week later, Occupy Houston received a response from the Mayor’s Director of Communications advising “We have no documents responsive to your request.” (See email below)

On Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 12:06 PM, Evans, Janice – MYR wrote:

*****,

We have no documents responsive to your request.

Thank you,

Janice Evans

Chief Policy Officer

& Director of Communications

Office of Mayor Annise Parker

However Mayor Parker’s office wasn’t being truthful. Twice in 2012, Occupy Houston was given information by the very same individual,  Ms. Evans, in response to TPIA requests. One of the requests answered by Ms. Evans gives Occupy Houston a PDF file that had attached documents concerning Occupy Houston in late 2011 through early 2012.  (See below email from  Ms. Evan’s obtained in February 2012)

From: “Evans, Janice – MYR”
Date: February 27, 2012 6:46:36 PM CST
To: **** *****
Subject: RE: Open Records

Mr. *****,
I received your payment today. Attached are the documents we are able to release at this time in reference to your January 30, 2012 TPIA. We also have documents ready from your February 10, 2012 request. I will be sending a cost breakdown for them tomorrow. Other documents are still being withheld pending an opinion from the Texas Attorney General. You were previously copied on the correspondence from our legal department regarding that.

Janice.Evans wrote:

Dear Mr. *****,
Sent via electronic mail to an******@gmail.com

Re: Your Texas Public Information Act request dated January 30, 2012 for All email correspondence, sent to and from the Office of the Mayor, on any publicly funded computer, or any other computer or electronic device that is used for official city business, that mention the following phrases:

“Occupy Houston ”
“Occupy Wall Street”
“Protesters”
” Tranquility Park ”

In response to your above-referenced request received by the City of Houston on Monday, January 30, 2012, the custodian of records has located 88 pages of responsive documents. The fee for these documents is $8.80 for the cost of making copies. See the attached sheet for a breakdown of the charges. You may send your check or money order payable to the City of Houston to my attention at P.O. Box 1562 , Houston , TX 77251 or you may bring the payment in the exact amount listed above. The documents will be released to you once payment is made.
If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact me by phone at (832) 393-0800 or by e-mail at Janice.Evans@houstontx.gov

Thank you,
Janice Evans
Director of Communications
Office of the Mayor

Why would the Mayor’s office tell activist that they don’t have any documents that was requested when two-years ago the very same Director of Communications sent Occupy Houston documents dealing with communications by the Mayor’s office concerning Occupy Houston? Could it be that Mayor Parker had knowledge of the assassination plot and is attempting to cover-up evidence? Parker’s office had received Occupy Houston’s official statement on March 25, 2014 which would give the Mayor’s office days to strategize on how to deal with the Occupiers if an open records request were to be made. Occupy Houston is working to gather more information and is interested in pursuing legal avenues concerning the denial of documents that come by our local government.

Several Occupy movements all over the country had been met by brutalities that came by local law enforcements in various cities. It was evident that Occupy was a threat to the 1%, local and national government, major corporations and banks. Occupy Houston activists were not engaging in plans to use any kind of domestic terrorism or violence. To date the FBI has made no arrests, no charges filed, have yet to identify the entity that wanted to assassinate key activists and what is most disturbing is that the FBI is working feverishly to protect an entity that wanted to kill peaceful protesters. It is troubling that our own government felt threatened by a group that have been making positive changes within the communities of Houston, Texas, shortly after their February 2012 eviction from Tranquility Park. While Occupy Houston moves forward to get answers, the situation that surrounds Occupy Houston should raise red flags about the FBI and all law enforcement entities tied to the government. For merely practicing your First Amendment Right: To peacefully assemble and freedom of speech, it is enough to get you killed, literally, and our government will do anything in their power to protect the assassins. Please stay tuned to the latest. You can reach out to Occupy Houston via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OccupyHouston or you can link to Occupy Houston’s website: https://occupyhouston.org/

(For more information on the FBI documents that was obtained by PCJF in early 2012, please see the link below. These are NOT the documents obtained by Mr. Shapiro or his attorney Jeffrey Light)

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/549518-fbi-ows-documents.html

Thanks:

Ryan Shapiro

Jeffrey Light

Burnell McCray

Vice Media

 

Credits:

Vice Media: https://news.vice.com/articles/the-fbi-is-hiding-details-about-an-alleged-occupy-houston-assassination-plot

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_Shapiro

Occupy Houston Photos: Burnell McCray, Houston, Texas

Occupy Assassination Documents provided by Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) by FOIA request: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/549518-fbi-ows-documents.html

 

 

 

 

 

Mayor Parker’s Real War on the Homeless

Roughly 100 - 200 individuals have participated with a food sharing group located in downtown Houston.

Roughly 100 – 200 individuals have participated with a food sharing group located in downtown Houston.

 

July 2014 will mark two years since the City of Houston implemented one of the most unpopular city ordinances in Houston’s history: the Anti-Food Sharing Ordinance. In this ordinance, groups and individuals are not allowed to feed 5 or more people in a public space without special permission from Mayor Annise Parker’s office. Failure to follow the ordinance can land a person with a $2,000 fine and/or jail time. This ordinance was petitioned by 33,000 Houston voters and followed by hundreds of homeless advocates, volunteers and individuals who pleaded with Mayor Parker and City Council to throw out this inhumane ordinance. My personal dealings with Mayor Parker was usually followed by the rolling of her eyes at me and sarcastic statements she’d offer as a rebuttal to my plea. It always amazed me that a person of her profession and a person who was supposed to be for the people, would never answer me directly. Her manners were very high school like. Fast forward to 2014 where the anti-food sharing ordinance is still a hot topic and a discussion which Mayor Parker cannot escape. Mayor Parker was interviewed on NPR Houston Matters on 3/31/2014 which questions were asked of the Mayor concerning the feeding ordinance. Below is a rundown of her responses and rebuttals about the ordinance. I will insert my feedback in parenthesis so that we can stay on course.

Mayor Parker was interviewed on NPR (Houston Matters – 3/31/14)

1) She claims that sharing food with the homeless keeps them homeless and “encourages” homelessness…  At the same time that she claims to want to improve options for nourishment for homeless in the city.

(Let’s look at improving the nourishment for the homeless in the city. Is this why Star of Hope Women and Children’s Shelter was known to serve inadequate foods which included undercooked rice, undercooked chicken, expired canned goods, day old bread and milk that was on the verge of expiring. Certainly not milk with an expiration date weeks away like you’d get at your local grocery store. Here you have the Director of Star of Hope whose salary is over a quarter of a million dollars annually but we cannot provide healthy and well-cooked food to those who are in need? Not to mention the MILLIONS IN FEDERAL FUNDING that is offered to homeless initiatives. Mayor Parker has not produced one document that would indicate that food sharing among volunteer groups and/or individuals had gotten any homeless individual sick or hospitalized. In fact the issue was brought up directly to the Mayor by myself and a few volunteers requesting the city’s data that would back up the Mayor’s claim. To date, Mayor Parker has yet to produce evidence that there is a nourishment concern when it comes to volunteer food sharing groups or individuals. I strongly recommend that if Mayor Parker is truly concerned about nourishment of the homeless, then she might want to start with city shelters. She’s been made aware of the conditions at Star of Hope. She’s yet to check on those conditions at that shelter to date. Is Mayor Parker truly concerned about nourishment of the homeless?)

2) She continues to claim that food sharing groups (she identified churches and FNB (Food Not Bombs) — specifically FNB, the only group identified by name) are being redundant, and wasting resources and overlapping efforts while others go hungry because we do not submit to City coordination – the mechanism for which she never specified.

(Interesting take Mayor Parker. Many homeless that I encounter tell me that they don’t usually get to eat until food sharing groups or individuals come out and donate food to those in need. The homeless would rather starve than to go to city shelters and eat. I think that is a huge red flag for the city. I’ve also asked Mayor Parker for data to back up her statement about the wasted resources brought on by volunteer groups like Food Not Bombs and she has none. Go figure!)

3) She completely sidesteps First Amendment issues of freedom of assembly and religion.

(I think this statement should stand alone. It’s obvious and evident.)
4) She claims to have reduced homelessness in Houston by 25%. Details not specified.

(Now this is something that really boils my blood. First off, the city implements “Homeless Counts” annually in collaboration with the Homeless Coalition. In 2013, myself and a rather decently sized group wanted to see for ourselves whether this homeless count was truly taking place or was it an effort by the Mayor’s Office and the Homeless Coalition to alter some numbers on paper for the sake of millions of dollars in federal funding. Well, myself and two others went to the locations downtown and found no evidence of a count taking place. Other chimed in later in the night from Southwest Houston to South Houston to North Houston that at those locations that the Homeless Coalition provided, homeless counts were not proceeding there either. I was also made aware by a volunteer worker of the Salvation Army that a lot of data obtained is data these shelters have in place already. Information that can be old and/or altered. I never once saw one person initiating a homeless count and neither did my comrades. The Mayor concludes that she was able to bring homelessness down by 25%. When I learned of this “new information” last year, I consistently asked Mayor Parker’s office for evidence of the decrease. To date, Mayor Annise Parker’s office had NOT been able to provide me with the data… again. I also asked for the data via the Homeless Coalition which I was not given the data as well.)

 

What we have here is a politician (Mayor Parker) dancing around the questions as she famously tends to do when she cannot answer the question honestly. We have a Mayor who likes to recite a lot of assumed “knowledge” of issues concerning the homeless and volunteers/volunteer groups but does not have any hard data to back up her claims. This isn’t a case of a circumstance that became an issue yesterday. This has been an issue for over two years now yet the Mayor cannot submit any actual proof behind what she says. If people pay close attention to politics, then it is easy to see that the bottom line here is money. Big oil companies and builders are located in the downtown area which the city calls the “downtown district”. Face it, no one wants to deal with the pesky homeless person begging passerby’s for money hence now the city has made it illegal to panhandle. No one wants to see a bunch of poor people lining up to eat food made by volunteers hence the reason the city made it illegal to feed the homeless. People don’t want to see homeless people resting on public property hence the reason why the Houston Police Department’s harassment, citations and arrests of the homeless is now at an all-time high. Homeless Advocates like myself and others have become targets of the Houston Police Dept’s harassment and then there are infiltrators who’ve inserted themselves in the lives of well known activists only to issue report backs to the Mayor’s office. This is what we are faced with in Houston today. How great would it be to completely remove the homeless from the downtown region and satisfy “stakeholders” altogether? How can the city make this happen? Easy. Throw a bunch of money into campaigns and add some kickbacks…  In return, the Mayor initiates ludicrous ordinances such as this. Recall I said that this is about money. Profit before people. Making money off the poor. All the above specifies the obvious and through today, Mayor Annise Parker still cannot issue honest feedback on why she is attacking the homeless.

Information gathered by an interview on Houston Matters 3/31/2014

http://www.houstonmatters.org/segments/segment-a/2014/03/31/mayor-parker-answers-your-questions

SW Houston Apartment Tenant: Can I please have my front door back?

(Photo Credit: Johnny Hanson / Houston Chronicle )
Jacqueline Greene and her three children were forced to live in their home where in Southwest Houston, management of Villa de Cancun removed her front door for late payment on rent. The single mother and three children were without a front door for three days, putting the family in danger of criminal acts and endurance of Houston’s recent frigid temperatures.

December 13, 2013 – Houston, TX: Single mother, Jacqueline Greene and her three children who reside at Villa de Cancun Apartments, 9400 block of Woodfair in Southwest Houston, risked criminal dangers and endure the cold temps for three days, this because Greene was late on her rent payment. Management at Villa de Cancun removed her front door due to the late payment of rent. The Houston Chronicle first broke the story last week and the story has since, been gaining traction.

To give a legal insight of Renters Rights per the Texas Attorney General Website concerning landlord/tenant relationships which include late/non-payment of rent and security, under Texas law, a dwelling must be equipped with security devices such as window latches, keyed dead bolts on exterior doors, sliding door pin locks and sliding door handle latches or sliding door security bars, and door viewers.

The Texas Property Code, Title 8 Ch. 92 Sec. 92.0081 also recites: a) A landlord may not remove a door, window, or attic hatchway cover or a lock, latch, hinge, hinge pin, doorknob, or other mechanism connected to a door, window, or attic hatchway cover from premises leased to a tenant or remove furniture, fixtures, or appliances furnished by the landlord from premises leased to a tenant unless the landlord removes the item for a bona fide repair or replacement.

While the management is quickly removing front doors of tenants who have been late on rental payments, it seems that the owner of Villa de Cancun, Jaikishin Bhagia, is in a bit of legal trouble himself concerning the very same property. In July, the Greater Sharpstown Management District sued Woodfair for five years of back taxes and penalties, from 2007 to 2012, amounting to more than $19,000, Harris County District Court records show. To date, the suit has not been settled. According to Houston Chronicle analysis, Villa de Cancun generated the second-highest number of calls to Houston’s apartment complaint line this year of the first 15 months of records.

The rundown complex of 329 apartment units was the subject of a city “habitability investigation” last year. In May, the owners received a notice of administrative violations with a $63,000 fine. An attempt was made to reach out to Bhagia, but was unavailable for comment. Meanwhile, as Bhagia sits on $19,000 in unpaid taxes and $63,000 in fines, we were able to obtain a satellite image of Bhagia’s 6,921 square-foot home located in West Houston.

(Google Maps)
Jaikishin Bhagia, property owner of Villa de Cancun, owns this lavish West Houston home who is behind 5-years on property taxes in excess of $19,000. Bhagia is accused of removing the front doors of tenants who are late in paying rent, violating the Texas Property Code.

Joshua Baker of Alief Homeless Outreach Project and a Houston activist first reached out via social media concerning this story.

“She owed money, I understand this, but there are legal avenues you can take to evict the tenant. Taking the front door is not it. They left three young kids in harms way,” says Baker.

This has local activists outraged. Several whom made calls to Villa de Cancun where a young woman answered the calls and expressed that the accusations were utterly untrue. The same woman declined further information and later refused to answer calls made to the complex later in the day. On social media, discussions of this case have left an upward of 200-comments entirely over the situation. Not everyone is supportive of Greene or other tenants who have been victims of these illegal management practices.

“I also think that its not a bad idea to remove doors from tenants who abuse the system, who enjoy the fact that it takes months to evict, and they thrive how smart they are and that they can get away with it.” – Igor Khaykin, Facebook

(Photo Credit: Johnny Hanson, Houston Chronicle)
Greene’s front door completely removed for late payment on rent at SW Houston’s Villa de Cancun Apartments located in the Sharpstown area.

At least three tenants have come forward citing that the management of Villa de Cancun have removed their front doors when they were late in paying rent.

Houston activists will be meeting on Sunday to discuss further action against Villa de Cancun and Jaikishin Bhagia. Residents are welcomed and strongly encouraged to participate. Activists want to send a message to Villa de Cancun and Bhagia that you cannot just go removing front doors due to late or lack of rental payments. Villa de Cancun and Bhagia have a right to utilize the courts to exercise use of the law when a tenant does not pay rent. These laws are outlined by the Texas Property Codes. According to these Codes, Bhagia is in violation of at least two of the Codes and in the least, putting a family in danger as well as their legal troubles with the City of Houston and the Harris County Tax Office. This is why it is imperative that residents get involved and most of all, understand their Renters Rights.

Note from the Writer:

When I first heard this story the night of December 12th, I immediately got upset as I thought to myself, “here’s another act of property management taking things too far and not being held legally responsible for their illegal actions.” Understanding that non-payment of rent does not give the tenant rights to their unit however after further research, I concluded that Villa de Cancun did not take the legal steps needed to evict the young mother of three children. You simply cannot remove the front door to the unit, leaving the family in danger. The Sharpstown area is not the safest of area’s in Houston. In the month of September, 81 calls were made to the Houston Police Department concerning crimes taking place in the vicinity where Greene and her children reside. Bhagia clearly had no concern for the safety of Greene’s family. What is more disturbing, Greene attempted to pay partial rent however the management demanded the balance in full. Greene was eventually given her front door but there is still concern that the management will return and remove the door at any time, for any tenant who is late in paying rent.

**If you or someone you know is having trouble with their apartment management and would like to know about the Texas Property Codes and/or their Renters Rights, please share this information:

http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/PR/htm/PR.92.htm

Credit:
Remington A – Research & Public Record findings
Houston Chronicle, Cindy George & Johnny Hanson
Google Maps
Texas Attorney General
Texas Statutes & Property Codes

http://www.houstontx.gov/police/cs/stats2013

A Living Wage: (n) A wage that is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living?

(Credit: Photo By STAN HONDA/Getty Images)

liv·ing wage
noun
a wage that is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living.

By now you have heard that individuals across the nation who have joined together, fighting Congress in raising the minimum wage from the federal wage of $7.25/hr to at least $9/hr. President Obama proposed pushed to increase the minimum wage earlier in the year, but Congress refuses to raise the federal wage. This has created an outcry by those affected most: the minimum wage worker. Activists have joined the fighting in standing in solidarity with the low wage workers while echoing the common sentiments over the last few years: income inequality that comes by the 1% which have directly impacted several the 99%-ers. Since 1979, the average income of the 1% has grown a staggering 240% while the average overall wages has grown a measly 13%. The great news is that the economy has grown nearly 62% over the last 20-years. The bad news is that with the growth of the economy and the many recessions that followed 1979, cost of living has sky rocketed while worker wages continue to a near flat-line rate.

A full time minimum wage worker will make roughly $290 a week before taxes. Congressional leaders make $294 in 3.5 hours according to the $176k salary standards for any leader holding a seat. GOP lawmakers are mostly opposed to any minimum wage hike. Republicans in Washington have argued that raising the minimum wage would hurt everything from small businesses to teenagers looking for part-time work, but several studies have contradicted their claims. It is easy to offer a rebuttal to people who practice hypocrisy daily. Small businesses being affected? How many of these leaders hold stocks in Walmart? Not to mention the numerous corporate kickbacks obtained by these same leaders from businesses who have crushed small businesses in America. Affecting teenagers looking for work? Well, it is a common misconception that the majority of minimum wage workers are teenagers. In fact about 3.6 million hourly workers earned at or below the minimum wage or less and 22% are teenagers (792,000) between the ages of 16 and 19 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

(Credit: Photo By Mayra Beltran/Houston Chronicle)
Fast food workers and supporters protest outside the McDonald’s at Kirby and 59 as part of the Fight For 15 national campaign on Dec. 5, 2013.

While 19 of the 50 U.S. states have increased or voted to increase the minimum wage, unfortunately Texas has ignored the issue. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) suggested that the minimum wage be done away with entirely.

I think it’s outlived its usefulness,” Barton told National Journal. “It may have been of some value back in the Great Depression. I would vote to repeal the minimum wage.

However, do not expect Texas leaders to present a bill that would increase the minimum wage. Texas Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have each expressed that increasing the minimum wage would deeply impact Texas as a whole. Unfortunately, each Senator has yet to prove the statements by facts or studies. Texas seems to be echoing the same rhetoric that comes by any “red state” standing in solidarity with the other.

States who have increased the minimum wage:

9. Massachusetts $8.00
8. California $8.00
7. Nevada $8.25
6. Illinois $8.25
5. Washington D.C. $8.25
4. Connecticut $8.25
3. Vermont $8.60
2. Oregon $8.95
1. Washington $9.19

Houston, TX – Remington Alessi stands up to a Houston Police Officer after wrapping “crime scene” tape around a local McDonald’s.

Locally in Houston, fast food workers have protested twice in the past 4-months, demanding the federal minimum wage to increase from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour which is considered a “living wage.” From 1998 to 2007, the FLSA remained at $5.15 an hour. In 2009, the FLSA rose to $6.55 an hour and finally in 2010, the FLSA went up to $7.25 an hour. If minimum wage had grown at the same pace as it had for the top 1 percent of income earners over the last 24-years, the minimum wage would be close to $33 an hour. On a more reasonable level, if the minimum wage kept up with the rise in productivity, the minimum wage would be at $22 an hour. This means that over the last 20-years, an average of $7/hr that has risen by productivity increases which have been denied to the employee, who is essentially the reason why productivity has grown. It isn’t hard to determine where the financial difference is going.

Dialog from the Writer
“You served me a cheeseburger. How hard can that job be? Yet you think your worth that $15/hr living wage?” YES! The common assumption is that placing a Happy Meal on a tray and handing it over to a customer is worth nothing from a financial aspect. That is absolutely the case when we’re looking at a society that has continued to kept the poor down for far too long. McDonald’s income revenue for 2012 was $27.6 billion. McDonald’s employs 1.7 million individuals worldwide and 761,000 employees in the United States. McDonald’s would hardly be affected by the increase to $15/hr.
Recently, economists at the University of California, Berkeley found that 52% of fast-food workers rely on taxpayer-funded public assistance programs, such as food stamps and/or Medicaid.

“Taxpayers are subsidizing the low-wage model of these employers, who are making record profits in some cases.” – Dorian Warren, Associate Professor at Columbia University who studies income inequality.

Another example is the mega-chain, Walmart, who claimed $447 billion with a 24.9% gross profit margin in 2012 and employs 1.4 million individuals domestically. Walmart pays an average of $12.83/hr. Right before Thanksgiving, in Canton, Ohio, Walmart held a Thanksgiving Charity Food Drive for their own employees. Walmart spokesperson, Kory Lundberg, spoke well of the charitable event praising employees and bragging that the drive to collect holiday food for fellow employees shows just how much Walmart employees care about one another. Just how much did Walmart executives donate to this event? ZERO.

Instead of these businesses offering a living wage to their employees, these businesses put the burden on the tax payers, people like you and I, in covering cost of social programs like food stamps and Medicaid. The rhetoric “If you don’t like it, get another job” or “Why don’t you go to college and get a degree if you want that kind of money” comes by individuals who have absolutely no clue about defined economics and/or have been conditioned into this type of thinking that usually comes by political rhetoric, politicians and mainstream media. I commonly say, “Is that $15/hr really going to effect your every day living?” I am also concerned about individuals who settle for $15/hr after obtaining a college degree. We are living in an economy where gas averages $3.15/gal. Milk is an average of $3.00/gal. A loaf of bread averages $2. Produce costs are on the rise. Meanwhile the cost of living has risen at astronomical levels, wage pay remains low and society assumes that minimum wage workers are looking for a handout when that is not the case. Some individuals work these low paying jobs to make some money for leisure or to put a few dollars in their pockets, the majority of workers are employed in these jobs for basic survival. Many work 2 or more minimum wage jobs to make up the hours lost by being a part-time employee, only to make $15k annually which is below the poverty line. It is my thinking that if we raise the minimum wage to $15/hr, it would lower the unemployment rate, boost the economy and morale.

Food Not Bombs – Houston – Volunteers Needed!

December 11, 2013 – Houston Texas: Food Not Bombs – Houston has been feeding those in need for over 19-years. It is because of local volunteers that this has been possible. The group usually serves anywhere from 50 to 150 people. In some cases, FNB has served over 200-individuals. The holiday season is among us which means volunteers are or will be out of town. We have also seen Houston recently hit with the flu which has greatly impacted our volunteers as well.

This is your time to step up and help! It is as easy as showing up. We recommend individuals not bring food their first time joining us so that one can get a feel for how FNB functions. If you are intent on bringing a dish, please keep in mind that FNB is a vegetarian food sharing.

The cold temps have also impacted the homeless. We are requesting coats, blankets, gloves, mittens, winter hats, socks, shoes and sweaters be donated. You can also donate casual clothing if you have the means.

Date/Time: Monday, Wednesday, Friday’s at 8 p.m. Sunday at 7 p.m.
Location: Downtown Houston Library (Courtyard Area)
521 Lamar
Houston, TX 77002
(Parking is free)

For more information about Food Not Bombs, please link here:
www.foodnotbombs.com

Look forward to seeing you there!

The City of Houston responds to homeless man ticketed for searching for food in a garbage bin

Mr James Kelly was issued a ticket last week for “Disturbing the contents of a garbage can in the downtown business district.” This is a story that has gone viral, worldwide. People as far as the United Kingdom, have expressed their outrage concerning the Houston Police Department and Mayor Parker. The community has rallied together to show support for 44 year old Kelly who has only been in Houston a short time when he was issued a citation. Kelly admits that there has been a few times that an unknown individual buys donuts and intentionally discards them into the garbage bin located at Herman Square Park, which is a public city park near City Hall. Kelly said he has been able to enjoy the donuts a couple of times and that morning, he was rummaging through the bin, in the hopes to find the donuts that this good Samaritan leaves behind. This is when Office Richards approached Kelly and issued the ticket that has the public in shock and upset with the city.

City of Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland said he understands the public’s outrage but is defending his officer for issuing the ticket.

“I certainly understand the sentiments, but we still have to protect the homeless and we want them to be safe. There are certainly many places that provide food so people don’t have to dig through a trash receptacle,” said McClelland. He continues to say, “When someone is getting food out of the trash, it could be contaminated. We don’t want anyone to get sick or die.”

However, in early 2012, hundreds of citizens flocked to weekly city council meetings concerning the anti-food sharing ordinance where Mayor Parker and council members argued that they implemented the ordinance for food safety concerns. When Parker and council were asked repeatedly for evidence that would back up their claim, Parker and council admitted that there had been no testing nor reports that homeless fell ill due to inadequate food. If the city hasn’t initiated a test study on homeless who get sick due to tainted food by charitable giving, more than likely the city has not initiated test studies for tainted food left in garbage bins. The city’s excuse that they are concerned that the homeless will get sick or even “die” is just that, an excuse. It is election season where Mayor Parker looks to win her 3rd term. Any comment led by city officials concerning Kelly and this unknown garbage digging ordinance will result in the city acting like they are “concerned” however, actions speak louder than words.

Originally, the city had no comment the day following the public outcry concerning Kelly’s citation. After the city did some digging to try to save their image, they city came back stating that there was a charitable food sharing that was held downtown, around the same time that Kelly had received his ticket. But, how would Kelly have known about this food sharing? In meeting with the Houston Homeless Coalition last year, several advocates attended and asked specific questions concerning information hubs, that would certainly assist the homeless every day from where they can receive medical help, food, showers, shelters, housing but to date, the city has yet to set up these hubs in public places nor have they made these items available to homeless advocates and food sharing charities. How would Kelly have known that there was a food sharing in downtown Houston since these hubs have been denied to all involved? You would think that if Mayor Parker and the city leaders truly cared for the homeless, they would be working overtime to see that their needs are met in ALL WAYS. All these avenues have been brought up to the city in assisting the homeless and to date, Mayor Parker and the city continues to ignore advocates.

Days following the Kelly citation, the Houston Police Officers’ Union has stepped in and made a public statement.

Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, said tickets for violations of the ordinance are written only in response to complaints that garbage has been removed and left outside of trash containers.

“I know on the face of it, it sounds very cruel,” the union leader said, stressing that most police officers would not cite someone for simply taking food from a dumpster.

“It’s not officers being inhumane,” Hunt said. “It’s police officers responding to citizens’ complaints about someone removing garbage from their garbage can, and leaving it on the ground. It’s creating a mess.”

It seems that HPD and the Union is working feverishly to clear themselves of their tarnished image. Citizens who may not be involved in activism or advocating for the less fortunate, may not be aware that there are already separate ordinances in place for the concern listed by Ray Hunt. Had Kelly littered after rummaging through the garbage bin, wouldn’t the citation indicate “littering” as well? Kelly has strongly implied that he never let a piece of garbage touch the ground and that he was merely sifting the contents when Officer Richards approached him. The citation was issued at 9:30 a.m. Kelly was located at a public park. It is safe to say that several people tend to leave garbage laying around the park area. In fact, littering was never the concern in this particular case. However, each time the city addresses the homeless, their top complaints are generally food safety, homeless getting sick and littering. For days, littering has not been a topic until Hunt steps in with a rebuttal to save HPD’s image while defaming Kelly’s.

The attack on the homeless is obvious. From anti-food sharing to citations issued to homeless who are simply looking for food. It seems as if Mayor Parker is not a fan of Houston’s homeless along with council members who stand by her and the Houston Police Department. This citation has citizens furious for two reasons: Bullying the homeless is a “no-no” and the citizens have never heard of the citation until Kelly’s story went viral. HPD and the City of Houston have both indicated that this ordinance is specific to the downtown business district which seems to include garbage bins in public parks, garbage bins and public parks which you and I, the tax payer, pays for.

A spokesman for the Houston Police Department said its officers issue several citations for violations of the ordinance on a weekly basis, while Gwendolyn Goins, spokeswoman for the city municipal courts, said city prosecutors estimate such CITATIONS ARE WRITTEN LESS THAN ONCE A MONTH. As it seems again, HPD is once again, twisting the truth.

Could Officer Richard’s issued a warning to Kelly and let him on his way? Yes. Officer Richard’s did not and since then, the city has been scrambling to point fingers on everyone but themselves. It is time that citizens recognize that fear breeds ignorance. For some reason, the city fears these homeless men and women who have fallen on unfortunate circumstances. This is why the city is working to safeguard themselves and the downtown district from the homeless. These are members of society left out in the cold streets in a city operated by leaders who refuse to appropriately handle their circumstances and would rather smoke them out of the downtown region by favoring the builders and corporate interest rather than working for the citizens of Houston in helping the homeless humanely. This is why 34,000 signatures petitioning the anti-food sharing ordinance went ignored by Mayor Parker. Each voting citizen should be asking themselves right about now, “Should I be voting for a Mayor a 3rd term who has blatantly attacked the homeless in this manner?” It is one very serious question each should be asking during election season. If Mayor Parker is capable of bullying a defenseless group, then she is capable of doing just about anything. It is like the bully who picks on the student in school who is bound to a wheelchair, considered special ed (by district standards) and cannot defend him/herself. Mayor Parker has proven to be no different.

Kelly’s court date is next month and is represented by civil rights attorney, Randall Kallinen who has also been vocal in defending Houston’s homeless and fighting the anti-food sharing ordinance. I will continue to keep you posted as the story continues.

Homeless war veteran issued a citation for looking for food in a garbage can

“What?!?!” “How did that happen?” “Is that even a law?” “I have never heard of that ordinance!”

These were the responses I heard when I expressed my irate feelings over a local homeless war veteran, James Kelly, who was issued a citation for “dumpster diving” in downtown Houston days ago. As a volunteer of Food Not Bombs and HAP (Houston Advocate Program) my main interest consist of assisting the homeless in utilizing coats, blankets, toiletries and assisting individuals in cutting through the red tape they are often faced with concerning their benefits and more. Because these individuals are homeless, the city and county have a tendency to look down upon these men and women who just need a little help.

In working with Food Not Bombs, I met Mr. Kelly (who calls himself “Bear”) a while back. The first thought when you interact with him: he was a big teddy bear. He is well spoken, cares deeply for others and is highly intelligent. So it was to my surprise when I had arrived at the food sharing Friday night when Bear approached me with a pink piece of paper in his hand. He quietly asked if he could speak to me. We shuffled off to a remote area when Bear opened up a piece of paper, allowing me to read the text. I was appalled when I read the description, “DISTURBING THE CONTENTS OF A GARBAGE CAN IN THE DOWNTOWN CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT.”

Bear stated that there is an individual who purchases donuts and will intentionally discard a bag of donuts for the homeless to purposely find and eat. A gesture most likely done because the City of Houston has made it illegal for any individual or group to feed more than 5-people on public space without being fined up to $2,000 or could be arrested if one failed to comply. Mayor Parker and several council members passed an ordinance April 2012 which became law in July 2012, that made it illegal to feed Houston’s hungry without special permission from Mayor Parker. Months before the ordinance was passed by city leaders, hundreds of citizens flocked to weekly council meetings addressing their distaste and concern for the ordinance. One person after another was consistently ignored by Mayor Parker and Councilman James Rodriguez (District I) who once championed himself in stating, “treat our homeless with dignity, to be more efficient and to protect public property.” Rodriguez spearheaded the anti-feeding ordinance from start to finish with Mayor Parker in constant support of Rodriguez. The city indicated that there was a food safety concern then changed their concern to trash issues although Republic Trash Service had offered to pick up the trash at no cost to the taxpayer, as a way to show support for those who were AGAINST the food ordinance. There are also laws in effect for littering. Food safety concerns need not be pointed at caring individuals who work relentlessly on any given day to serve hot and healthy meals to those who are hungry, but the city should investigate Star of Hope Women’s shelter located on Houston’s east end of downtown. Star of Hope went on record at city council meetings offering their support FOR the feeding ordinance. Many would wonder if SOH cared so much for the homeless, then why would they support the feeding law? Simple: SOH is given funding in accordance with the number of people they serve, especially children. SOH loses funding if others around the city are caring for their needs. After investigating SOH Women’s shelter early 2012, food safety was my top concern as undercooked chicken, undercooked rice, expired can goods, day old bread and milk were served at the shelter. Several women and children would get sick shortly after eating their meals. I had even advised the Mayor’s office that the city needed to make an unannounced health inspection visit to SOH. To date, the Mayor has not responded to my inquiry after reciting my findings. Because Mr. Kelly’s story is gaining momentum and sparked an outrage among the citizens, Star of Hope’s Scott Arthur who is the Director of Public Relations went on record earlier today on 92 FM Houston News stating that many homeless do not utilize shelters because they do not want to adhere to rules and structure and that SOH is waiting by should the homeless need their help. However, this could not be further from the truth. Along with my investigation at SOH, it was disturbing to see so many homeless families mistreated by SOH volunteers and staff, almost treated like criminals. In bringing this matter to the attention concerning a few staff members who would act subservient and talk down to those in dire straights, I was met with finger pointing which positioned towards the homeless as if to say, they more than likely did something in order to be mistreated, snapped at, rudely spoken to and so on. Staff attitudes were not dealt with. SOH also tends to rely on “God’s work” in assisting the homeless as they hold weekly church services in their facility in which you either have to attend or one must get off the SOH grounds altogether, only being able to return after services are over. Seems hypocritical. Over and over again, many homeless stress that they do not utilize shelters because they are not only mistreated but made to feel as if they are not worthy of those things that make us feel special as a human being, and most of all, stripping their dignity. Star of Hope loses credibility as they should focus on their own issues rather than speaking of the homeless in this manner.

Moments after Mr. Kelly handed me his citation, I went to Facebook to express my outrage over the matter, requesting that we citizens assist him. Within minutes, Mr. Kelly had obtained civil rights attorney, Randall Kallinen. By Sunday afternoon, a copy of Mr. Kelly’s citation and story went viral. By Monday morning, media outlets were scrambling to get the story. The story was even listed on the Drudge Report. A story that has gained momentum and public outcry as the homeless continue to be targeted. It takes a soulless individual to pick on the less fortunate as we’ve seen Mayor Parker do in the last year. Even after the feeding ordinance became law, over 34,000 petitioned signatures were submitted to the city in the hopes to get the item on the November 2012 ballot & allow the citizens to vote however Mayor Parker dragged her feet and offered numerous excuses to why she would not get this done on time.

It is now election season as Mayor Parker is in the hopes to win her 3rd term. The dust seemed to have settled shortly after the petitions were continually ignored however today, the anti-sharing law is now the hot topic. If people are unable to freely give people food, then homeless will have to resort to looking in garbage cans in effort of finding something to eat. Now our homeless are targeted for doing that. At this point, one should question whether it is a good idea to have a mayor in office who can apply these kinds of laws on the homeless. As a political leader, that is about as low as one can go.

Occupy Houston General Assembly – Details – Jan. 6, 2013

8:00 p.m. General Assembly

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Jorge: MLK Day Parade coming up. Occupy Houston to get involved. Follow up to take place. Will have more information soon on how OH will participate in the parade on January 21, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.

Shere: David Rovics -Songs of a Struggle Concert held January 20, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. Location: 1031 E. 24th St. Houston, TX 77009/Admission: $10-Adults, $8-Students

Shere: MOVIE NIGHT: “Salt of the Earth” (An American BLACKLISTED movie) January 28, 2013 at 7 p.m. Location: 333 Jensen St. Houston, TX 77003/Admission is FREE

Capital: Walls of Hope PAC – Still taking donations via Pay Pal (under Walls of Hope PAC) in assisting with getting the homeless off the street immediately. Any charitable donations offers a motel room for any given night when donations are made possible. Still in need of a DONATED LAPTOP!

Jamin: Peaceful Streets Project Film at Eastside Social Center, January 13, 2013

Jamin: Press Conference Re: HPD at City Hall – January 15, 2013

Shere: “Struggles for Freedom” – January 25 – Evening (Exact time TBA) Occupy Houston will have their time to shine at an art gallery where photo’s of Occupy Houston’s work will be presented. Shere will be speaking on behalf of Occupy Houston in how OH started, moved forward and is still proceeding today. This is open to the public. Occupiers are welcomes to join in the event and speak as well.

PROPOSALS:

Shere: Would like to start a Homeless Advocate Program. This is to give a voice for Houston’s homeless. Several homeless people do not have the means to communicate with loved ones nor do they have the knowledge on how to take advantage of misc programs designed to help them. Many are having trouble in cutting through the red tape when they do apply for assistance and this is where Occupy Houston steps in to assist them when the city (and/or any given organization) fails to communicate or do their due diligence. This would require Occupiers to step in and fight on their behalf, make contact on their behalf, etc. (PROPOSAL PASSED)

GENERAL DISCUSSION

Shere: This is election year-locally. GET INVOLVED. Council members along with Mayor Parker, are up for re-election. Making the public aware of ordinances passed by the city (most unpopular-Houston’s feeding ordinance) is key in this election. We want people to make an educated vote come November 2013.

Occupy movement nationwide targeted as an assassination plot unfolds: FBI gives no warning

Recent revelations was buried deep within documents released to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), a human and civil rights advocacy organization, after the group filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. FBI unclassified and heavily deacted documents confirm the plans to possibly assassinate key members of Occupy Wall Street and movements nationwide which included Occupy Houston.
The link is below:

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/549518-fbi-ows-documents.html

Information on the alleged plot to kill off protesters appears in the trove of documents obtained recently by a FOIA request filed by the Partnership For Civil Justice Fund. On the page in question, marked “SECRET,” the FBI acknowledges:

An identified [redacted] of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary. An identified [redacted] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. [Redacted] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.

Letters of resignation requests have been sent to the Director of the FBI, Director Mueller. Outrage is pending as many look upon each other and wonder why it was that the FBI failed to warn us. Just as Houston police failed to properly protect Occupiers while at Tranquility Park, it looks to be the same for the FBI.

Occupy Houston Bank Divestment event

Many gather at Tranquility Park in support of Occupy Houston

Occupy Houston Energy Day Protest: Many used a one dollar bill to cover their mouths to perform how money has silenced their voices in this country

The Occupy movement was set in to be a leaderless transparent group of individuals who looked to call out CORPORATE GREED, CORRUPTION IN THE GOVERNMENT, LEADERSHIP, PRESIDENT, LOCAL CORRUPTION and addressing the needs of society who had been silenced for too long. Had the media report accurately, then several police agencies would be under fire for brutalizing protesters nationwide. Several Mayors would have been asked to resign after giving the orders for police to act against protesters. Various Congressional leaders would have been asked to step down since they didn’t work to protect those practicing their First Amendment all the while signing off on the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) a bill that can detain ANY AMERICAN CITIZEN without due process indefinitely.

NDAA Bill link below:

http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h1540/text

Derrick Broze (Houston Free Thinkers) along with Occupy Houston confront Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s office for signing an unconstitutional NDAA bill

Because the media has failed to recite true journalism, many are in the dark where it concerns how their constitutional rights are being dismantled. Several do not understand how these new laws can affect their future. Many are not aware of the workings of mega corporations (not pay taxes, outsourcing jobs over seas, taking advantage of tax loops holes that Congress refuses to close while collecting millions in tax refunds and billions in bailouts) and how our leaders intertwine with Wall Street which gives corporate greed a free pass to do anything they like and get away with it. Citizens refuse to believe that the government was and is responsible for the brutal out lash against Occupiers nationwide. Certainly the government did not want the people to take over the corrupted leaders of this nation while bringing out the true intentions of what America’s government is really about. Since the start of Occupy, documents have surfaced citing surveillance of members by Homeland Security and ICE. Now we learn that the FBI’s involvement, or lack there of. What is troubling is that the documents do not recite “who” was responsible for wanting to carry out these acts and the fact that the FBI had no interest in warning each Occupy camp outlined in their intel, is chilling.

Occupy members wanted to initiate real change. Obama’s “change” has come by the signing of the NDAA, HR 347 (http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h347/text), re-signing of Bush’s Patriot Act and several other bills that is a direct violation of the Constitution. The very same Constitution that Obama swore to uphold upon his entry as President of the United States. Media has failed us. Our President has failed us. Our Congress has failed us.

While the Homeland Security, ICE, local police, various mayors all collaborated together in effort to shut down Occupy, including Occupy Houston, essentially, they were unsuccessful. “They can’t evict an idea” still rings true. At this point, many should question our government, national/local leaders, wealthiest 1%, the Fed and President’s motive of the American people. Bringing these issues to light would be considered reason enough for Occupy to be met with such brutal force and close off any warnings from the FBI that any one or more people to incite death acts on these brave individuals who were standing up for the people who’ve been silenced long enough. Signing anti-constitutional bills into law that remove our First Amendment, using agencies to violently shut down the movement and controlling mainstream media should cause any one person to at least think on these efforts (more so, why they’d go to such great legnths to silence these groups) led by a government that expresses that you have Constitutional Rights and freedoms, until you literally use it.