Cell phone video captured at a bus terminal in Ft. Lauderdale shows a police officer throwing a homeless man to the ground and slapping him for trespassing. However, the incident is not an isolated one.
In the video, which was posted to YouTube on Sunday, Officer Victor Ramirez grabs Bruce Laclair by the arm and pushes him to the ground. Laclair tells the officer that he needs to pee, as Ramirez repeatedly tells him to get up. Then, Ramirez slaps Laclair, saying, “I’m not fucking around with you. Don’t fucking touch me,” before proceeding to handcuff him.
Ramirez was “relieved of duty with pay” on Monday. Laclair was released on bail hours later.
Watch the video:
Florida’s effective criminalization of homeless people has been widely publicized in the past year. During National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in November, a homeless man was arrested for protesting Ft. Lauderdale’s discriminatory policies at a meeting to honor the special week. The city prevents homeless people from displaying their possessions in public, and sleeping on public grounds. A 90-year-old man was also arrested in the city for feeding the homeless.
But discriminatory policing of the homeless population is not limited to Florida, and has actually lead to the deaths of several people. Last year, James Boyd was illegally camping in the Albuquerque foothills, when he was approached by officers. After Boyd surrendered, officers shot him dead with six rounds of bullets. Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man died several days after he was brutally beaten by police who’d approached him for looking at letters in a trashcan. And earlier this month, Antonio Zambrano-Montes was shot and killed for throwing rocks and running away from officers, sparking outrage within the immigrant community in Pasco, WA.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, the criminalization of homeless persons violates their constitutional rights. For instance, prohibiting access to basic necessities constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Property seizure laws may subject the homeless to unreasonable searches, which violates the Fourth Amendment. Entering the criminal justice system also has disastrous consequences, since criminal records make it more difficult for individuals to find employment.