The September 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee

 
 

National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website

 

 

In this issue:

Alarming Rise in Hate Crimes

Wave of Murders of Homeless Are A Warning Sign

Bumfights: An Incitement to Hate Crimes

Hate, Violence and Death on Main Street USA

Brazil Murders of Homeless Go Unsolved

Social Security Is NOT in Crisis

Time for Health Care for All

Cindy Sheehan's Unanswerable Question

Lawsuit Against California Hotel

Tribute to the Love Lotus Gave

A Mother's Plea for Homeless Son

Poor Leonard's Almanack: Carl G. Jung

Sept. Poetry of the Streets


ARCHIVES

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

 

 

 

 


 

Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Bumfights: An Incitement to Hate Crimes

The video exploitation of homeless people sinks to new lows with "Bumfights III"

by Michael Stoops, National Coalition for the Homeless

Homeless people are subjected to demeaning acts of brutality and humiliation in the "Bumfights" videos.

The release of the widely distributed video "Bum Fights" in 2001 has led to a proliferation of bum videos. In these videos, homeless people are goaded into violent fights and coerced into performing degrading and dangerous stunts for money, alcohol, or food. The video producers also use parodies of famous TV shows to demoralize homeless people. Six different videos have been produced in the past five years: "Bum Fights," "Bum Fights 2," "Bum Hunts," "Bum Show.com," "Bag Lady Beatings," and "Bum Fights III."

Craig Walton, a professor of ethics and policy studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said, "Even if the homeless aren't forced to perform, it's inaccurate to describe people without adequate shelter, food or clothing as having choices."

Dehumanizing videos such as these add to the trends of violence and mistreatment of people who suffer from homelessness. According to the May 13, 2004, issue of the Las Vegas Sun, Jeanne Corcoran, production manager for the Nevada Film Office, called the producers of these videos "cockroaches (who) only come out at night. None of us in the government sanction or support this type of exploitation."

Meanwhile, Sgt. Eric Fricker, Las Vegas supervisor of two Metro Police officers who work with homeless people, said he was trying to "educate the homeless and talking to advocates in order to stop future filmmakers."
The first video released in 2001, "Bum Fights," was banned in several other countries. It has been condemned on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. The filmmakers of the video, Ty Beeson and Ray Laticia, initially faced seven felony and four misdemeanor charges for the production of the video. The final court verdict required them to serve sentences of 250 hours of community service and three years probation.

Yet "Bum Fights 2" was still released in 2003. Since last year's report, "Bum Fights III" has been released.

Bum Fights III: Felony Footage

The release of "Bum Fights III: The Felony Footage" is the third installment of the Bum Fights DVD series; and its release in 2004 portrays the most degrading, sickening, and offensive material to date about the country's homeless population.

Homeless men, women, and children are coerced into performing dangerous stunts for money and drugs, reinforcing negative stereotypes about homeless people and homelessness. The footage portrays homeless people as drug addicts, alcoholics, bums, and, worst of all, worthless. The filmmakers continually mock and demoralize homeless people by filming degrading scenes.

In the video, a homeless man named "Bling Bling" smokes crack in various crowded settings such as a casino and a public river. "Bling Bling" is later "rehabbed" by being chained to a light post, taunted, tortured, and teased with money and crack just out of his reach. As he goes through withdrawals from his drug addiction, the filmmakers inch a plate of goods closer and closer to him. "Bling Bling" is finally rewarded with drugs when he bungee jumps off a tower into a swimming pool.

A homeless man (Donnie) gets spanked on his birthday by a prostitute and another homeless man named Rufus. These two individuals repeatedly and severely spank this homeless man with sex whips in the buttocks, genital region, and across the forehead. Throughout this process he is gagged and in pain.

In another scene, a homeless man runs in a marathon pushing his shopping cart while being antagonized by the crowd. While running, he asks for donations from the crowd, mocking panhandling.

Numerous fights caught on amateur film are shown throughout the movie. Many of these fights are the brutal beatings of a single individual by two or more people. Several individuals continuously attack a homeless man by striking him in the face. The victim is screaming in pain.
Many homeless individuals are shown vandalizing properties, such as kicking garbage cans and defecating publicly. Still other homeless individuals are seen in the video doing illegal substances on the sidewalk or in public bathrooms.

A man named Rufus uses profanity against Bruce Helgland, the district attorney of San Diego, who is trying to shut down "Bum Fights." Rufus is later shown getting a Mohawk haircut with hair dye. He shaves his eyebrow and reveals a painful tattoo written on his stomach that reads "Bum Life."

Other demeaning scenes in "Bum Fights III: The Felony Footage" include the following:
A homeless man runs into a big piece of glass and is later shown bleeding.
A homeless man punches another man in the face and repeatedly kicks him even when he is down.
A homeless man jumps off the roof of a house onto a piece of wood.
A trap is set to lure homeless men by putting a $20 bill on top of a slippery painted pole. Homeless men step on each other's heads and backs trying to climb up the pole to retrieve the money.
Homeless men and women are pretending to have sex on the sidewalk in a scene the filmmakers dub "Bum Luving."
A homeless woman is being interviewed but is quickly called a "shitty interview" because she expresses her appreciation for homeless people.
Several individuals beat a single homeless person and the victim pleas for the attackers to stop.

Stop Selling Hate

Even more disconcerting are the major corporate retailers who have found it acceptable to sell these videos and DVDs in their stores and on the internet that show homeless people participating in the acts of self-mutilation, drinking urine or Windex for money or alcohol, and fighting. For a current list of the vendors and/or online stores selling these videos, please visit the website of the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) at www.nationalhomeless.org.
Fortunately, a few corporations (Amazon.com, Borders, Ebay, and Best Buy) have stopped selling the disturbing videos in response to NCH's request.

These videos are sold by retailers who depend on their public image, yet find it acceptable to traffic in violent and dehumanizing films and videos. They are taking advantage of a vulnerable, minority population to make a profit.

The first video, "Bum Fights," grossed over six million dollars in one month, and the more recently produced videos continue to bring in profit at the "expense of the homeless people who are exploited and aren't paid one cent," said Michael Stoops, acting executive director for the National Coalition for the Homeless.

In years past, films such as these were relegated to the adult video world, less reputable stores, or some dark corner of the Internet -- not sold and displayed in the brightly lit shelves of retail stores.

The National Coalition for the Homeless considers the sale of these films as approval of this illegal behavior, and possibly encouraging the further development of these exploitative films. It perpetuates the rise of hate speech and hate crimes and violence directed against homeless people in the United States. NCH will continue to monitor these videos.

If you discover the distribution of such items in your community, take personal action by contacting your local retailer. Call or write the store to demand the following:

1. That they immediately stop selling these videotapes or DVDs and destroy the current inventory.

2. That they turn over the profits from the sale of these violent videotapes to an agency of their choosing that serves homeless people.

Please also send a copy of your letter, e-mail or fax to:
Michael Stoops
National Coalition for the Homeless
Phone: (202) 462-4822 ext. 19
Fax: (202) 462-4823
E-mail: mstoops@nationalhomeless.org


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