Evergreen Grad Sues Olympia Police for False Imprisionment
BY JOSH WOLF
I spoke with Evergreen alum Paul French (aka Strife) about why he is suing the Olympia Police Department. French spent two months in prison and argues that he was falsely convicted of assaulting an officer. He is currently suing the OPD for damages. His trial starts on March 11, 2014 at the Federal Courthouse in Tacoma at 9 a.m.
Josh Wolf: Why are you suing the Olympia Police Department?
Paul French: I’m suing the OPD for falsely charging me with felony assault against officer Sean Lindros at a Police Brutality Protest on April 8, 2010. The crowd of 29 of us were surrounded in a well-coordinated takedown and smeared as violent anarchists in the press so I never had a chance for a fair trial. I was almost unable to walk during my Evergreen graduation and all the stress led me to have a nervous breakdown so I ended up taking an Alford Plea and served two months in jail for a crime I didn’t commit.
JW: What was the protest about?
PF: The protest was part of the West Coast Days of Action. It was a response to an escalating epidemic of police violence and racism against people of color and homeless people from the Bay Area in California up to Seattle, Washington. Personally, I marched that night to commemorate the life of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man who was shot to death by police while handcuffed, lying on his stomach in an Oakland Subway on New Years Day in 2009.
JW: What was your involvement?
PF: I was at the protest to pass out flyers that explain about racial profiling, the criminalization of the homeless, and the prison industrial complex.
JW: What are you up to now?
PF: I’ve been writing articles for the local paper Works In Progress and doing public records requests for my case and the upcoming trial of a military spy named John Towery in June. Towery supplied intelligence to law enforcement that led to false arrests, excessive force and harassment of the anti-war/anarchist movement around the Puget Sound from 2007-2009. I am also working on a new hip-hop album called “Metamorphosis” which will drop this summer.
JW: How did you meet attorney Larry Hildes of the National Lawyers Guild?
PF: I met Larry Hildes at a Police Accountability Forum in late 2011. He works for the Guild and I was impressed with their history of defending activists against state repression. I told him about the 12 police contacts and five tickets I received in a two month span and sent him public records that showed a pattern of profiling by Washington State Patrol and Olympia Police in the lead up to a performance I gave at the Washington State Capitol in April 2011. In their operation plan, the cops specifically mentioned the anniversary of the police brutality I attended, and in emails they mentioned my home address, details about my vehicle and referred to me as the “white rapper,” stating, “He performed at 1600 [hours]… 81 peopled rushed the governor’s office and they had to lock down the offices… they left fairly quickly after that… No physical confrontations…”
JW: Do you think the OPD targeted you? What proof do you have?
PF: The military spy’s boss Thomas Rudd warned Olympia Police about the protest in an email he sent to OPD’s Tor Bjornstad on April 6, 2010. Minutes before being corralled in a dark empty lot with 28 other people, a stranger who was not arrested, and who had shown up at my house a few weeks prior to the protest, handed me the protest banner. After the takedown, Sean Lindros identified me as “the kid with the banner.” There was a white unmarked jeep with California plates that pulled up at the scene shortly after. During the booking process, my roommate heard some of the arresting officers joking about the hip-hop group I was in: “I guess Thought Crime Collective’s not playing tonight.”
JW: What is community/grass roots organizing? Why is it important?
PF: Community organizing involves a campaign of direct action, effective communication, and outreach to build strong ties with others who are trying to make the world a better place. Grassroots organizing is important if we are serious about creating a new world free of oppression and exploitation.
JW: What is the significance of the case for Evergreen students and Olympia?
PF: When an anarchist has to take the cops to court for breaking the law, we live in surreal times. I hope to gain some closure, and use my settlement to re-invest in local organizations that helped make me the person I am today. I will also be producing a documentary about the port protests against the Iraq war that inspired me tremendously in 2006-2009. My aim with this case is to break the wave of repression in the northwest and embolden people who have been driven into silence by this dehumanizing campaign of surveillance, harassment, and false charges. I hope my case illustrates to Evergreen students that if you are determined to change the world and care passionately about the causes you believe in, no matter how powerful the foe, no amount of repression can stop you from achieving your goals. My case will expose a larger pattern of spying and profiling by police that will help hold the authorities accountable for their abuses before they spiral further out of control.
You can follow French’s case on his blog: http://strife-101-life.tumblr.com/