Wednesday, Feb 4, 2009
My brother, who lives and tends bar in Pittsburgh, called last night to inform me that Pennsylvania taxpayers apparently are getting quite the value out of their “homeland security” dollars. Not only was the Southside area of the Steel City militarized with police in riot gear, but a couple of his buddies were treated to the full wrath of the police state on Sunday night after the Super Bowl.
I spoke personally to two of my brother’s friends, who described in explicit detail how they were assaulted by police despite minding their own business, or at least doing nothing that would warrant the initiation of a violent confrontation by our noble “protectors.”
Dan, who happens to be my brother’s housemate and prefers to remain partially anonymous, told me he was standing outside a bar just prior to midnight smoking a cigarette — it’s illegal to smoke inside bars in Pittsburgh — when he was confronted by cops in riot gear who “looked like storm troopers from Star Wars” and shouted at him to get back in the bar.
Dan noticed that the police were merely part of a contingent of dozens of officers who were lined up in the middle of the street, and he told them he was just outside smoking a cigarette because he wasn’t allowed to do it inside.
“One cop shouted ‘Get back in the bar now!'” Dan recounted, “and as I was backing up toward the wall he grabbed me by the back of my coat and my belt and threw me into the door of the bar.”
Incredulous at what had just happened, Dan tried to get his wits about him while the “owner or manager of the bar just told me to try to calm down and ‘let it go.'”
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Dan admits that he was drunk — his Steelers had just won the Super Bowl, after all — but “I wasn’t running around the city acting like an idiot,” he said.
“I’ve never been much of a police hater,” Dan continued, “but now I don’t have too much respect for them.”
For the record, Dan is 38 years old, 5′ 9″ tall, and weighs about 150 pounds.
Now it’s all becoming clearer. The police must have just been throwing Dan back into the bar to protect him from all the riots taking place downtown after the Steelers rallied to beat the Cardinals. Oh, wait…
As if that incident wasn’t bad enough, it gets even worse.
I next spoke to Ernie Linsenbigler, a 23-year-old who was dropped off in Southside Pittsburgh along S. 20th St. by his mother so he didn’t have to drive.
“I had about six beers all night, from about 5:00 to 11:00 p.m.,” Ernie told me. “I was walking down Carson Street to meet my ride and saw a bunch of police on horses, in riot gear and helmets, and with auto rifles.”
Euphoric after his team’s victory, Ernie said he walked up to one of the officers and joked, “I want to report an assault,” and after pausing for the punchline continued, “on Kurt Warner by the Pittsburgh Steelers defense!”
Demonstrating the compassion and personality we’ve come to expect from agents of the state, the cop responded, “Get out of here! I hope you f***ing die!”
As Ernie continued down the street he noticed a gang of storm troopers — “probably 30” — lining the road. He had to get through the barricade to cross the street to meet his ride, and just as one officer made an opening wide enough for him to pass, another “yells ‘Turn around!’ and grabs me by the shoulder, and before you know it I’m facedown on the ground with about four officers’ knees in my back.”
I asked Ernie if he did anything to these officers that could have elicited this sort of response and he insisted he had not. Short of an act or threat of physical violence, this sort of police aggression is assault, plain and simple.
Ernie said he was handcuffed, searched, and put into a paddywagon with a few other men, where they were forced to wait almost an hour before being taken to a police station. Upon arrival at the station Ernie was strip-searched with about a dozen other guys.
“Thank God there were no cavity searches,” he said, “but they took my boots after it was over and gave me these disposable ones or whatever.”
After the search — and after several hours had passed since his initial detention — Ernie and the men were taken to another room, where the police photographed them and forced them to submit to digital fingerprinting. During this ordeal, Ernie overheard one of the cops telling a fellow officer rather smugly that he’d “picked up about 62 other people tonight.”
Once police were finished logging Ernie’s physical information into their database, he and the men he was rounded up with were “marched out” of the building.
“I wasn’t even told what I would be charged with,” Ernie told me. “They mentioned something about a ‘failure to disperse’ charge and that papers would be coming in the mail.”
Ernie was arrested/detained/confiscated from public streets he pays for around 11:30 p.m. and didn’t get out of the police station until 5:30 a.m. Monday morning.
For what it’s worth, Ernie Linsenbigler is 5′ 10″ tall and weighs 150 pounds “soaking wet.” He too told me that prior to Sunday night, he was the type of person who would walk up to a police officer and thank him for what he did.
“Not anymore,” he said.
Pittsburgh Police, where the new motto oughta be: “To punish and enslave.”
This article was posted: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 4:56 am