Friday, May 24, 2024

Part 1; Have a Book and a Beatdown…

September 2, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( It’s happening everywhere:

• In Toms River, N.J., five high-school students were charged with beating a 50-year-old homeless man nearly to death with pipes and baseball bats — throwing hockey pucks at him for good measure — as he slept in the woods.

• In Butte, MT, a 53-year-old homeless man was killed at a Greyhound bus depot because he refused to give another man a cigarette, according to court records. The man’s skull was fractured by his attacker.

• In Spokane, WA, a one-legged, 50-year-old homeless man was set on fire in his wheelchair on a downtown street; he died as a result of his injuries. Police charged a 22-year-old man with first-degree murder in his death.

• In Nashville, TN, a homeless woman sleeping on a boat ramp was shoved into the Cumberland River, according to witnesses. Two men were charged with homicide in her drowning; authorities say the attack was unprovoked.

The homeless of America are under attack at record rates. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, of 142 homeless people who were attacked in 2006, 20 attacks resulted in death. This was a 65% increase from the previous year, when 86 attacks resulted in the deaths of 13 people.

In its November 2008 study, “Hate, Violence, and Death on Main Street USA,” the NCH documents that from 1999-2007, 774 acts of violence were perpetrated against the homeless. Of these violent acts, 217 resulted in death; the remaining 557 were non-lethal attacks, which basically means the victims didn’t die. These reports were collected from 235 cities in 45 states and Puerto Rico.

In Fort Lauderdale, FL, three men mercilessly beat a homeless man sleeping on a bench on a college campus with baseball bats, an attack caught on videotape.

In Los Angeles, CA, a homeless man was beaten with an aluminum bat as he slept on the sidewalk, an attack which cost him the sight in one eye and put him in a coma for three weeks.
And in Detroit, MI, a homeless man was kicked off a chair and onto the floor as he slept at Detroit Public Library by a DPL security officer. I witnessed that one personally.


On March 7, 2009, I was doing research for a writing project at the Main Library when I looked up and saw a security guard approach a gentleman who appeared to be asleep in a chair. The gentleman was unresponsive to her attempts to rouse him from his sleep. I suggested to the guard that he may be on meds; many Detroiters are on prescription medications and this would explain his unresponsiveness.

After a few more attempts to rouse him from his sleep, and when she thought I wasn’t looking, the security guard delivered a low, quick side kick to the sleeping man’s legs, causing him to slide off his chair and topple over onto the floor. He landed on his head with a loud “smack!”. I cried out and ran to where he had fallen. The man never awakened.
And so it began.


Just as she delivered the kick to the man’s legs, the security guard looked up and saw me looking at her. This prompted her, like a guilty child, to walk toward me as I ran toward the man and explain to me that he was drunk (as if that could possible justify her kicking him). The man lay there on the floor, still unresponsive. After a few minutes he began to awaken, and then he sat up. I asked him if he was alright, did he need any help, etcetera. I was concerned because of the sound his head made when it hit the cement floor. He sat up and was talking and once I was satisfied that he was not seriously hurt, I went back to my seat where I could watch out of the way.

The security guard did radio for help, but, strangely enough, disappeared off the floor immediately after the incident. After another ten minutes or so, a male officer came to the area and stood watch while waiting for a second officer, who joined him near the man, who was still on the floor.

After twenty minutes or so of enduring his insults, the guards were able to get the man to his feet and escort him from the library. Yes, he did smell of liquor when he passed me. However, the sight of the guard kicking him onto the floor was so disturbing to me that I went home and e-mailed Uzoma Oenymaechi, Director of the Main Library, and complained bitterly about what I had witnessed. And what did I do THAT for?

End of Part I. In Part II we look at the role of corporations in violence against the homeless.

Patricia Calloway writes Citizen Pat’s Blog at She lives in Detroit, Michigan.

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