[an error occurred while processing this directive]

The Evolution of the Peaceful Streets Project
by Julie Wilson

Antonio Buehler is a name that most of you have probably heard by now. He's become an Austin legend most notably for his activism and founding the Peaceful Streets Project (PSP). Not only does the Austin Police Department know him well, but they can't stop arresting him.


The Incident

While most of us were celebrating the end of 2011 and the new beginnings of 2012, Antonio Buehler found himself in a situation where he witnessed two Austin police officers Patrick Oborski and Robert Snider acting with excessive force towards two females that appeared to be stopped on suspicion of DWI. Buehler stepped in and starting taking photographs documenting the incident. Without warning officer Oborski made his way towards Buehler and aggressively backed him into his truck and forced him to the ground while another officer threatened to shock him with a taser device. Buehler was then arrested. He was taken to the BAT mobile where he agreed to submit a breathalyzer. He requested to see his score of what he knew would be 0, but officer Oborski refused claiming that Buehler had actually broken the breathalyzer and was the first person to ever have done so.

It seemed that Oborksi was searching for a reason to arrest Buehler. Oborski escorted him back to his patrol car in which he privately warned Buehler not to interfere with police and that he was going to learn a lesson. During the booking process Buehler learned he was arrested for spitting on a police officer. The official charge was harassment of a public servant, a felony. That charge can carry a sentence of 2-10 years in state prison. Little did Buehler know this was the beginning of a national movement.


Antonio Buelher before the Peaceful Streets Project

Buehler is a West Point Grad who served in Iraq and earned an MBA from Stanford University. The liberty movement in Austin proved too appealing to resist so he relocated to the capital in 2010. His activism focused on expanding liberty through anti-war activism, political activism, and educational freedom activism. He also works as a teacher at the Bronze Door Academy and helps families choose the best education options for their kids.

The initial humiliation and shame of being charged with a felony was menacing. Not only did he now have a public mug shot on the web, but he also lost time, money and even civil liberties. His right to carry a firearm was suspended during his pending felony case. This left Buehler unable to exercise his right to self defense because of a fabricated story by an APD officer.


Recognition

Buehler is now recognized by nearly 95% of the APD. Occasionally he'll come into contact with an officer who doesn't know him, but that's a rare event. Most people that are victimized by the police do not get notoriety; let alone are supported by the community. The media's willingness to cover his story and the community's support all played a role in bringing his victimization to light. Buehler says he believes there are cops out there that feel he was treated unjustly. For these cops, Buehler encourages them to come forward, voice their discontent and start exposing their criminal behavior.


The Silver Lining

Buehler says "Despite the fact that I've lost a lot of liberties, freedom, time and money; I do feel that I've put these past 15 months to good use. Considering my focus was on expanding liberty before I got arrested, the things I've done since have fallen in line with that goal." He even claims he's the luckiest guy to be charged with a false felony. According to Buehler, "We can't be free if the police can arbitrarily arrest us, kidnap us, or kill us. The local law enforcement is a greater threat to our civil liberties than any terrorist organization, or even the federal government."

Following Buehler's arrest, third party witnesses began coming forward with video evidence proving his innocence and revealing that Oborski's report had been fabricated. People began coming out in numbers offering their support. Many began telling their own stories of police abuse and misconduct. It became clear that the problem of police abuse was far greater than Buehler had once thought. With the help of a few fellow activists he launched the Peaceful Streets Project (PSP).


Repercussions

It took an entire year for the Grand Jury to hear Buehler's case. After deliberating for nearly four weeks, they no billed Buehler on the felony charge but slammed him with four misdemeanor counts of failure to comply. Officer Oborski got off scot free. The witnesses and video evidence somehow proved not enough to indict Oborski. Although there were no expectations, many hoped to see the officer indicted for tampering with a government record. If this had happened, he would have been the first Austin cop to be criminally charged for police misconduct.


Outreach

PSP's main objective is to build and coordinate teams to film cops. Filming is an attempt to capture and expose police brutality and misconduct. PSP also holds citizen rights training and operates the police abuse complaint department (PACD). PACD offers assistance to people being released from the Travis County jail. Most of the arrestees are citizens who have committed low level non-violent crimes; many are students. They often emerge sleep-deprived, disoriented, dehydrated and hungry. The PACD offers a telephone, directions, rides, food, water, cigarettes and even provides them with an opportunity to share their stories of police abuse. These accounts are collected and released onto the web. This portal allows the community to hear the victim's side of the story. It also sheds light on the way the local police department is behaving.


Goals and Objectives

Fast forward 15 months and The Peaceful Streets Project is alive and thriving! Although PSP does not have an official membership list, it does have over four thousand Facebook followers, hundreds of volunteers and thousands of email subscribers. PSP co-organizers help with various tasks like podcasts, fundraising, graphics, organizing cop watches and facilitating the PACDs. Some of these co-organizers include Joshua Pineda, John Bush, Harold Gray, Richard Boland, 14-year old Nathan Blond and Samantha LaRoe. The project has spread outside of Austin and currently has active teams in Houston, Dallas, New York City and even Sandusky, Ohio.

Buehler encourages the public to recognize the dangers associated with the police, just like you would associate danger with a lion or a rattlesnake. However, he also hopes to see the public stand up and assert their rights. Through education and awareness, Buehler seeks to change the culture of a community who views the police as their allies. He wants the public to be cognizant of police interaction and take the proper precautions to protect themselves.


Revolutionary Change

The Peaceful Streets Project has woken up the public to police brutality. Prior to the PSP, no one was holding the police accountable. Not only has Buehler and his volunteers single-handedly changed the public's perception of police, but they have created an avenue for citizens to directly act and hold the police accountable.

Although Buehler's felony charge first seemed like a bad dream, it's managed to evolve into a nationwide movement bringing awareness and exposure to criminal cops. Local activism, filming, know your rights training and organized protests have all proven to be effective tools in the fight for freedom from corrupt police.



Pin It       del.icio.us