Donna, our friend Mary Anne, and I went for a walk in downtown Tucson last night, something we’ve done hundreds of times over the past three years. The Monday evening event is sponsored by several downtown businesses and usually draws 200 or more runners and walkers.
There are plenty of homeless people in the downtown area as well, but they generally shy away from the walkers and runners on Monday nights. On the rare occasions when they panhandle runners and walkers, the cops are usually right there to move them along.
The annual gem and mineral show is in town and our city’s had a lot of visitors. The activists who organized Tucson’s Occupy campouts several months ago decided to organize the downtown homeless population during the gem show, basically to shine a spotlight on Tucson’s failure to address the problem. They set up an Occupy-style homeless camp in a park in the heart of the downtown section, a strategic location gem show visitors would have to walk past several times a day … and coincidentally right in the middle of the Monday night running and walking route as well.
We walked past the homeless camp last night. It was crowded but quiet. We ignored them, they ignored us. There was a large group of woman walkers ahead of us, and I noticed how they bunched together as they passed the camp. But there wasn’t any trouble. The cops weren’t especially visible, but I sensed they were all around.
As in any city, we share downtown with the homeless. Three or four blocks from the homeless camp, in a residential area between the Children’s Museum and the Masonic Temple, there was an angry crazy homeless dude, confronting and swearing at everyone who passed, getting right up in their faces, yelling and making gun-shooting gestures with his hands. He was a block ahead of us, accosting anyone who tried to get around him on the sidewalk. The group of women walkers ahead of us turned off the route and took a shortcut over to the next block. I told Mary Anne and Donna we’d better follow them and save ourselves some trouble.
When we got to the next block the women had stopped and were debating whether to call 911. I told them I would, since there were many more walkers coming along behind us. As soon as I told the police dispatcher I was calling about an aggressive crazy person she said “Yup, know all about it,” and I saw a cop car pulling up in front of the man. Someone … probably more than one … had called him in already. I don’t know what the police did with the guy. I’d like to hope they took him to an emergency room where he could get some Seroquel, because he’d clearly missed a few doses. But I’m afraid I know better than to wish for happy outcomes.
Cops, city cops especially, deal with the homeless constantly. A lot of the homeless are hopelessly damaged, and many are like the guy we ran into last night. I can understand how frustrating it must be. While I haven’t personally seen any police brutality, I know it happens. A lot. A few years ago our hash house harrier club did a trail through downtown Tucson. We stopped for a beer check in Armory Park, where there are always a lot of homeless. One of them saw us drinking beer and, after finding out there’d be more beer at the end of the trail, decided to tag along with us. Good runner, too: he kept up with the pack all the way to the finish, a good three miles away. He got talkative after a couple of beers and told us about being homeless in Tucson. One of the things he told us is that the police routinely beat up the homeless people they roust, and that he’d been beaten by cops many times. On the street, in the back seat of police cars, in jail.
When people say they want the homeless problem to go away, I wonder if they know what they’re really asking for.
Speaking of law enforcement and our justice system, here’s an exchange I had with a friend on Facebook. As you can see, I’m in a sour mood and badly in need of cute kittens.
Hey, remember my post about POW/MIA poster worship? I heard from a Gozor poster worshipper on Twitter!
Yup, time for cute kittens, definitely. What, no cute kittens? The hell you say. Oh, well, here’s our old lady Chewie doing her two favorite things: drinking from the faucet and leaving mats of hair on freshly-laundered & folded dark clothing. She’s eighteen and we indulge her. Click on the thumbs to see ’em larger:
© 2014, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.