The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

How to Get Yourself Shot

Posted on | October 16, 2022 | Comments Off on How to Get Yourself Shot

Say hello to Steven Joaquin “Zhoie” Perez (a/k/a “Furry Potato”), a transgender YouTuber who specializes in “First Amendment audits.”

You may not have heard of this phenomenon: People who record videos in public places — post offices, municipal buildings, etc. — in order to test {“audit,” as they say) the police response. These self-declared “auditors” are deliberately non-cooperative when confronted by law enforcement, refusing to identify themselves and sometimes insulting the officers who usually show up in response to reports of “suspicious behavior.”

“First Amendment auditors” seemed to emerge into the news in 2017 when two Michigan men, James Baker and Brandon Vreeland, showed up armed at the Dearborn police station:

The two men wanted to file a complaint about being pulled over earlier by Dearborn police officers, but also saw it as an opportunity to test the suburban Detroit department to see if its officers “honored” the Constitution and their right to carry guns. . . .
“We audit police to see how well they honor the Constitution and people’s rights,” said Vreeland, who was free after posting $1,500 bond late Sunday night. “We showcase police abuse and abuse of police power in the totalitarian police state that we live in.”

Baker and Vreeland were subsequently sentenced to jail, but the “movement” which they represent has grown. I never heard of this until the other day when I saw a video by a guy named Abiyah Israel who calls his YouTube channel “We the People University.”

The doctrine being promoted — i.e., that you don’t have to cooperate with law enforcement when, for example, they ask to see identification — reminded me of so-called “sovereign citizens.” And as it turns out, I’m not the only one who sees this resemblance:

[C]ritics, including domestic terrorism experts, say the tactics are intimidating — sometimes downright scary — and that the “auditors” seem intent on inciting authorities. And they fear that it’s just a matter of time before one of the encounters turns violent.
“I am definitely concerned,” said Bob Paudert, former police chief of West Memphis, Ark., whose son and another officer were gunned down by anti-government sovereign citizens during a traffic stop in 2010. “These are the same tactics the sovereign citizens use. The language they use, going into city office buildings, refusing to give their names but demanding you give yours, videotaping everybody.
“They’re harassing city employees and government employees, and they’ve got no legitimate reason for being there other than just to film. They’re trying to provoke these people to make an arrest or hit them or whatever. The problem is, the employees don’t know how to handle it. They’re not sure what to do.”
Sovereign citizens believe the government is corrupt and out of control; therefore, they do not recognize local, state or federal authority or tax systems. Not all are violent, but in recent years they have come to be considered a top domestic terrorism threat by the FBI and other government agencies.

The “auditors” deny any connection to “sovereign citizens,” but their apparent intent to provoke confrontation with law enforcement is dangerous. Certainly, I value my First Amendment rights as much as any American, but I also value not getting shot by cops. Which brings us to the case of Steven Joaquin “Zhoie” Perez:

[In February 2019], Perez got into an altercation that provoked a security guard at a Los Angeles synagogue to fire a shot that grazed her leg.
It was a bizarre cultural clash between a social media provocateur and a community on edge since the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting in October and rising incidents of anti-Semitism.
Perez filmed for 40 minutes outside the gates of the Etz Jacob Congregation/Ohel Chana High School building in the Fairfax District. As the security guard grew angrier, he filmed Perez in return, then pulled out his handgun.
“Get away from the door,” the guard said in one of two videos Perez posted to her “Furry Potato Live” YouTube channel. “You try one more time and I shoot you.”
The gun fired, and Perez repeatedly shouted that he shot her in the leg.
Police arrested the guard, Edduin Zelayagrunfeld on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
Perez was treated for her injury and gave a news conference later.
She is a self-proclaimed “1st Amendment auditor” — a phenomenon that started in the last two years. According to Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino’s Center on Hate and Extremism, the “audits” usually involve people provoking police or others near sensitive locations who might challenge their right to assemble or film in a public space.

Prosecutors declined to file charges against the security guard, perhaps because if you’re hired to guard a synagogue, you get a lot of leeway when dealing with suspicious strangers:

Videos that Perez posted to her YouTube channel, where she is better known as “Furry Potato,” show the guard repeatedly telling Perez to leave the area and constantly moving his hand toward his firearm, even though she is standing on a public sidewalk.
At one point in the video, Zelayagrunfeld threatens to shoot Perez if she does not move away from an entrance. The guard appears to have his weapon pointed toward the ground when a gunshot is heard in the video.
Before the shooting, Zelayagrunfeld had asked school staff to move students to a safe location, triggering a lockdown, according to the memo filed by the district attorney’s office. Taken together with recent surges in anti-Semitic hate crimes and the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh roughly four months earlier, prosecutors believed the guard’s “perception of Perez’s behavior as dangerous was reasonable.”
“Perez went to a Jewish school, and place of worship, dressed in all black and with a backpack secured to her body by a harness,” the document read. “As Zelaya told detectives, Perez’s backpack could have contained a bomb, and her attire could have concealed a firearm or other deadly weapon.”

See what I mean? The guard’s actions were “reasonable,” considering the circumstances. Perez is lucky to have been only grazed by a bullet.

Sooner or later, one of these “auditors” is likely to be a lot less lucky. Generally speaking, if a cop is going to shoot you, he’ll keep pulling the trigger until the magazine’s empty. Your “rights” don’t do you much good after you bleed to death. Your family might get a lawsuit settlement payoff, but you won’t be around to spend that money.



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