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


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.

Alarming Rise in Hate Crimes Against Homeless People in United States

by Michael Stoops, National Coalition for the Homeless

"Richie." Art by Tammy Grubbs for the National Coalition for the Homeless

Over the past six years, advocates and homeless shelter workers from around the country have seen an alarming increase in reports of homeless men, women and even children being killed, beaten and harassed. The violent attacks and murders are often directed against people precisely because they are homeless, and thus constitute hate crimes.

On May 28, 2005, Michael Roberts, age 53, was beaten to death with sticks and logs by a group of teenagers who admitted to beating the homeless man just for fun. The autopsy report indicates that Roberts died of blunt-force trauma to the head and body, and suffered a fractured skull, broken ribs, badly injured legs and defensive wounds on his hands. The teens returned several times to make sure the job was done.

In September of 2004, three Milwaukee teens murdered a homeless man at his forest campsite. The teens hit 49-year-old Rex Baum with rocks, a flashlight, a bat and a pipe, then smeared feces on his face. They continued beating Baum until they thought he was dead. One of the boys "hit the victim one last time to see if he would make a sound like in Grand Theft Auto," then cut him twice with a knife to make sure he was dead. They covered his body with plastic and rocks, hoping animals would eat him before the body was discovered.

More on this story

The Increase in Hate Crimes and Homeless Murders Is a Warning Sign

by Terry Messman

In the "Bumfights" video, a homeless man suffers a brutal punch in the face.

With growing fervor, government officials, merchants and the media have broadcast a message of intolerance that labels homeless people as unwanted outcasts. When the pillars of society vilify homeless people as a subhuman minority synonymous with urban blight, and when city officials pass laws aimed at banishing people living on the street, an extremely dangerous message is sent out that this is one hated minority that it is safe to attack.

The close connection between a society that disparages homeless people as less than human, and acts of violence and hate crimes against street people, was displayed for all to see on the streets of downtown Los Angeles in mid-August.

On August 16, 2005, two young men who told police officers that they had just watched the "Bumfights" video, went on a rampage on the streets of Los Angeles and savagely beat two sleeping homeless people with baseball bats. Ernest Adams, an elderly homeless man who was well liked and widely respected even by business owners and a U.S. appellate court judge who knew him well, was hospitalized in critical condition with severe head wounds.

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Bumfights: An Incitement to Hate Crimes

by Michael Stoops, National Coalition for the Homeless

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," "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."

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