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January 19, 2007

Blogger Rachel Moran probably brutalizes the homeless for kicks

Yesterday, Prominent Tampa Bay blogger Rachel Moran wrote a post a about the lighter side of brutalizing the homeless.

It all started when Rachel, her sister, and two guys called Eddie and Mark went out for drinks at some Tampa bay bar. Eddie, ever the raconteur regaled his friends with a story about punching a homeless guy:

Eddie also had an interesting story to tell about a homeless man, in Naples, who asked him for a dollar. Eddie told him no and got in his Caddy and the homeless guy started punching the glass, so Eddie got out of the Caddy and the homeless guy punched him in the jaw and Eddie left the homeless guy twitching in the street.

Then some dude with bad hair came up behind her sister:

He told us this story at Mastry’s during the second round and when he was done, me and Lil Sis went up to the bar to order more. I was waiting for the bartender to come around when this scraggly-haired homeless guy comes up behind Lil Sis.

He had his claw extended at her and he was probably about to touch her hair, because she is startlingly platinum blond and the light at Mastry’s flickered an excellent, sexy pale blue onto her hair, like she was in a video game where she was, like, the leader of a gang of fierce cougar-girl mutants or something.

You got that..right? He was probably going to touch Rachel's sister's hair. Probably. So Rachel ordered him to back up. He froze. An argument ensued.

Long story short, Rachel and her friends kicked the shit out of a guy for probably being about to touch her little sister's hair. (Update: Upon rereading Rachel's post, it doesn't explicitly say that the kids hurt the homeless guy. I think some physical violence is implied in Rachel's description, especially given the reactions of the onlookers. But I was reading too much into the text when I concluded that they did serious physical harm to the guy in the bar.)

Other people in the bar thought it was hilarious:

At the bar, a man with an eyepatch said to his friend, “Now, that was good. That whole thing. That was why you go out on a Saturday night,” which made me imagine lots of exciting reasons for why he had lost an eye.

Then they all went back to their fancy drinks and Eddie told another funny story about beating up a homeless person:

At the table, Eddie was a little heated still and started to tell another story about how he had beaten up some other homeless guy.

The friends got to talking...

We have decided that the homeless problem in St. Petersburg is becoming entirely out of control. Part of the problem is that a bunch of idiot liberal ‘Burgers will just stand there and let homeless people ramble on at them and then fumble for money or let themselves get yelled at when they don’t have any. I seriously know girls who are, like, afraid of downtown during certain times now, which is horrendous, because, for Christ’s sake, this is St. Petersburg, not Manhattan.

Eventually, they hit on a plan...

We are thinking about proving this nuisance and need for civil action by making a short film called “Eddie Rolls on the Homeless,” whereby Mark secretly videotapes me and Lil Sis in a variety of situations to see how many homeless people approach us and, then, how many of these situations escalate into harrassment. Then, he’s gonna videotape Eddie in the same scenarios, only Eddie is going to beat up every homeless person who escalates the contact after being told that his panhandling is illegal and annoying.

In an addendum to her original post, Rachel insists that she was just kidding about the whole homeless baiting on video thing. Maybe she's kidding about the video, but her friend Eddie admits that he's brutalized more than one homeless guy already.

If these kids weren't rich and white, we'd call them what they are: A dangerous gang.

Tampa Bay blogger Michael Hussey is encouraging residents to call the local police if they saw the incident atMastry's in Tampa Bay last Saturday night or have any information about this Eddie guy and his self-proclaimed history of violence against the homeless.

Update: Police in St. Petersburg, Florida are also looking for three teenagers who allegedly shot and killed two transients on Wednesday.

Comments

Your story reminds me of a visit I took to Jacksonville once, except instead of homeless-baiting it was queer-baiting. My friends got jumped; when I rushed in to try to break things up, I wound up being the one who needed stitches. All in all, I'm not too fond of the Florida scene. There are probably decent people who come from there, but unfortunately, it's the assholes who stand out (Floridiots).

I'm convinced that the vast majority of the people everywhere are decent.

Still, I'm equally convinced that a lot of really dark stuff goes on in St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay. Way more than I ever would have suspected. I did a story on Mel Sembler and the abusive "STRAIGHT, Inc" drug treatment centers. In the process I learned about corruption in local politics, corruption in real estate, corruption among the police and health authorities, it just went on and on...

I have a theory about crime that's exactly the opposite of the "broken windows" theory. Broken Windows says you crack down on petty little crimes in order to stop bigger crimes. That's bullshit. It's the corruption at the top that breeds petty viciousness on the bottom. When people realize that the privileged can take whatever they want, a lot of folks will either cash in, or give up.

That doesn't really strike me as a fair summary of the broken windows theory. I'm sympathetic to the position that the theory was trumpeted way beyond its usefulness or accuracy, but it's unfair to act like it's only a theory about criminal enforcement, and only a theory about preventing major crimes. You're omitting its more plausible and less objectionable components dealing with civic services, land use regulation, and petty crime prevention.

Long story short, Rachel and her friends kicked the shit out of a guy for probably being about to touch her little sister's hair.

Not all that surprising...our government invades countries and kill tens of thousands of innocent people on pretty much the same basis. Why should the individual citizen be expected to behave any better?

Also, I've reread this a few times and I'm still confused. It doesn't sound like they beat up that particular homeless guy. It sounds like they threatened him and one guy lunged at him and the homeless man left. Am I misreading it? Has it been changed?

I'm waiting for the Ayn Rand quote.

She's "prominent" to herself at least. That Wikipedia userpage was originally a vanity page, meaning that she wrote it to make herself look noteworthy enough to be on an online encyclopedia. This is bad form, needless to say.

I'm not intending to comment on the bulk of this, as this Rachel Moran seems to indeed have some severe psychological issues, but I wanted to take issue with one characterization:

“Long story short, Rachel and her friends kicked the shit out of a guy for probably being about to touch her little sister's hair.”

Whether or not Rachel is screwed up and abusive, failure to withdraw after attempting an unwanted touching may well constitute assault, and at the very least harassment. I'm not sure how Florida's statutes handle it specifically, but the use of force looks justifiable on that one.

Zed,

By Rachel's account, I don't think there necessarily was subsequent use of force, but let's assume arguendo that there was.

Why would the content of Florida's assult statute make the use of force justified? I don't follow the logic there. Assault might make someone subject to prosecution, it might make them subject to a civil suit, but it definitely doesn't make them subject to a period of permissible retributive shit-kicking.

The post reads like it was written by an average high schooler.

He had his claw extended at her

Carnivores' claws are homologous to human fingernails. The word "claw" is only appropriate if the person in question had abnormally long fingernails and was about not to touch Rachel's little sister's hair but to scratch it. If Rachel is trying to say he was about to sever some hairs with his claws, she should work harder on her comprehensibility.

she is startlingly platinum blond

Platinum is grayish. Fifty-year-old men have platinum hair; stereotypical models' hair is golden.

the light at Mastry’s flickered an excellent, sexy pale blue onto her hair, like she was in a video game where she was, like, the leader of a gang of fierce cougar-girl mutants or something.

Besides this sentence's running on far longer than it should, similes like "the leader of a gang of fierce cougar-girl mutants" must never see the light of day.

We have decided that the homeless problem in St. Petersburg is becoming entirely out of control.

Using the word "become" when you mean "get" is even worse than overusing the word "get." Things become out of control only in the minds of kids who hope to become an A on their midterm but become off to porn instead of study.

for Christ’s sake, this is St. Petersburg, not Manhattan.

I don't know what parts of Manhattan she's been to, but the ones I've been to have very few homeless people. I don't venture deep into Harlem, but I hang around West 125th Street a lot, and see far fewer homeless people than Rachel is implying I should.

Aeroman, you might be right.

Maybe I over-read her statement that "Eddie didn't take kindly" to the bad-hair guy insulting his woman.

Here's the whole passage:

“Hey. Back the f*ck up off my little sister now,” I said, and still no raising of the voice, no threatening physical gestures, but Eddie, perhaps still smarting from the touch of the violent homeless, picked up on what was happening, and he was up outta the chair in a minute, followed by Mark.

“Hey, what’s up? Didn’t I tell you to f*ck off before?” he said, much more forcefully than I had spoken. “I’ma do something now. I told you to get away from here.”

The homeless guy stepped off and Eddie lunged at him, “No, f*ck that. I told you -”

I put my hand on his chest and the homeless guy toddled out of Mastry’s and into the street. As it turned out, the bum had already been at the table indicating that Lil Sis was too much of a rapier blade for his taste and she should put on some weight and Eddie didn’t take the slight to his lady love very politely.

At the bar, a man with an eyepatch said to his friend, “Now, that was good. That whole thing. That was why you go out on a Saturday night,” which made me imagine lots of exciting reasons for why he had lost an eye.

Who goes on on a Saturday night to see someone tell people to get away from their sister? I'm thinking there was at least some violence here.

>but become off to porn instead of study.

Ah, you just want to become it on with her.

Ugh. I left my comment on their blog, but I'll just say here that conservatives excel at this sort of over-hyped and absurd fear of "lawbreakers" like the homeless.

Ugh is right. It's certainly possible to imagine that someone can feel threatened by a homeless person, as much as by any other person, but you do get the feeling that this is catty sneering and cheap violence. A class of people that it's okay to bash. I sometimes wonder at the lack of empathy, the dull-witted lack of consciousness, broken only by the dim awareness of glee at another person's suffering, that seems so pervasive in our society.

Aeroman,

"Justifiable use of force" is a legal term of art (a phrase with a specific legal meaning), but even taken in the general case, it is generally considered justifiable to use force to remove a credible criminal threat to oneself, one's family, or one's property. In this case, there was the imminent threat of battery to another at a minimum, and given Eddie's previous encounter, he could probably persuasively argue that he had a fear of imminent injury to himself by the time he "lunged".

The appropriate Florida statutes are here. Florida is a little odd in that it seems to cover defense of the self and property (including another's property) without covering defense of another individual, while at the same time having the lowest "castle doctrine" threshold for justifiable use of lethal force of any state I've ever seen.

Again, I'm not commenting on the general attitudes or problems of the people involved, but just on that one specific case and the way it was characterized.

Moran's blog post really is offensive, but even though you've re-read the story and don't find a clear account of anyone in the bar being beaten, you've decided to let stand your original characterization: "Long story short, Rachel and her friends kicked the shit out of a guy for probably being about to touch her little sister's hair." Since there isn't evidence to demonstrate this, I think you should update your original post with a retraction of this particular point.

(cross-posted at Feministe):

What’s most deeply disturbing about this post is that Florida has had a couple of highly-publicized murder cases in the headlines for a year about teens in Ft. Lauderdale who murdered some homeless guys last year. Instead of waking up Floridians to a very disturbing lack of humanity in its younger generation, the incident only appears to have inspired copycat crimes of hatred:

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/16441434.htm

I live about 30 minutes from St. Petersburg and what probably inspired this insipid creature was this public protest over the police slashing the tents of homeless people in 2 “tent cities” today:

http://www.baynews9.com/content/36/2007/1/19/216636.html?title=City+cuts+homeless+residents%27+tents+down

This is an ongoing conflict in our state. The wealthy retirees and the middle-aged gated-community dwellers are becoming increasingly hostile to the poor, the working class, and the homeless here. They want their lawns cared for, their children raised, their laundry, cooking, cleaning, and beauty care provided cheaply, but they don’t want those of us who do these things to live among them nor do they want us hobnobbing or socializing with them either.

Property values, taxes, and insurance have all but taken care of that. A recent study I read (sorry, can’t find that link) suggested that in another decade or so, us working class folk here in Florida will face a commute of over an hour since we will not be able to afford to live anywhere near where we actually work.

That their children now view the homeless, even the ones who are veterans and mentally ill, as sub-human is not surprising at all to me, though it makes me fear for the future of my home state.

Its like "A Clockwork Orange" without the verbal dexterity. In fact, you get the idea that these people see themselves as characters in a boo- no, make that a video game.

"...it makes me fear for the future of my home state."

Best indications are that the future of Florida lies with the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. No offense to you, Priscilla, or other decent Floridians; the Gulf after all is going to swamp the city of my birth also. Still, the thought of all those gated communties under the waves gives me a pleasure at times that I'm not entirely proud of.

There is no evidence that violence was inflicted upon Hairtoucher. This chest-thumping attitude toward the homeless is weak (thump your chest about something genuinely threatening) and suggests a lack of confidence. Also, I wouldn't let their dads' bank accounts keep me from classifying them as a dangerous gang. Go for it, Lindsay, what has money to do with it?

I think a fear has to be reasonable before you may go on the offensive, not just in your own scared mind. Also force must be minimal (i.e., no beat down).

--This is an ongoing conflict in our state..The wealthy retirees and the middle-aged gated-community dwellers are becoming increasingly hostile to the poor, the working class, and the homeless here. They want their lawns cared for, their children raised, their laundry, cooking, cleaning, and beauty care provided cheaply, but they don’t want those of us who do these things to live among them--

A mostly valid point. I really hate the "gated community" model that has firmly taken root in Florida and other places. Give me the multiple hassles of NY living any day.

I would not include "homeless" in the same breath as "poor" or "working class".People without enough money but who work as hard as they can for the sake of their children deserve everyone's respect. I'd have more respect for them than I would for most of the gated community dwellers.

The word "homeless" is one that intentionally distorts different groups. If you've lost your house due to a fire or hurricane or impossible to overcome financial problems, you are homeless.

If you don't have a house because you don't feel like working, or don't feel like bathing, or because you're a degenerate drunk or junkie, then you're a bum. I wouldn't feign shock at that word, I will bet that the majority of readers here use it, as it is the most accurate word to describe the people referred to in Rachel Moron's post.

Here in Brooklyn, I have working class people in my neighborhood, and am happy to have them here.

Bums are another issue. They should not be abused, as the illiterate Rachel Moron seems to think they should be(though I'll say that anyone who punches the windows of my car had better stand the fuck by for future developments), but neither should they be allowed to congregate in our nation's public squares, hassling people for money.

Florida. like Hawaii has a problem that can only escalate, in that both states are now high cost/low wage environments.

Zed, you're not stating the law correctly at all. You say:

"Justifiable use of force" is a legal term of art (a phrase with a specific legal meaning), but even taken in the general case, it is generally considered justifiable to use force to remove a credible criminal threat to oneself, one's family, or one's property.

That's simply not true, in Florida or any other state I know of. You're completely omitting the "reasonable necessity" requirement. You're also using overly broad language to define what you may use force to defend against. The Florida statute itself makes it clear that the category is narrower than just "threats."

But let's focus on the first one. The relevant text is this:

“Hey, what’s up? Didn’t I tell you to f*ck off before?” he said, much more forcefully than I had spoken. “I’ma do something now. I told you to get away from here.”

The homeless guy stepped off and Eddie lunged at him, “No, f*ck that. I told you -”

The urban dictionary defines "step off" as "back away from a confrontation."

This was a crowd of young people surrounding one homeless man, who didn't move forward and started retreating. Force wasn't reasonably necessary to prevent the use of unlawful force, so force wasn't justified. Your construction seems to allow force any time it occurs in some sort of temporal proximity to a perceived threat, regardless of if the threat has passed, regardless of if the threat was perceived reasonably, and regardless of if there are equally effective, less violent alternatives. But that's just not the law of the state of Florida.

"fierce cougar-girl mutants"

"Fierce", well maybe in their own minds.
"mutants", she might be onto something there.

Thanks -

"made me imagine lots of exciting reasons for why he had lost an eye."

And what the hell is that about? I don't even want to know where she's going with "exciting". This is one very strange girl. By "strange" I mean "pathological".

Thanks -

Lindsay is right about Rachel being a Prominent "Tampa Bay blogger." Then I could fall under that same category. But no one gives a shit about a prominent Tampa blogger. Rachel gained a lot of attention for getting kicked out of Stetson Law School for writing about her drug use. That and getting caught for posession of weed. I don't care about the weed or care for it. But I learned from blogging that I lot of people have got shitcanned from their jobs from what they write on their blogs. It's not fair, but it happens.

People thought Rachel was making up the partying until she got busted. So, if she says that she plans to have a homeless man beaten on-camera then it should be taken seriously. She doesn't seemed concerned about blogging getting her into trouble.

Still, I'm equally convinced that a lot of really dark stuff goes on in St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay. Way more than I ever would have suspected. I did a story on Mel Sembler and the abusive "STRAIGHT, Inc" drug treatment centers. In the process I learned about corruption in local politics, corruption in real estate, corruption among the police and health authorities, it just went on and on...

Lindsay, were these centers in Tampa? If so then send me the article. Anything else you want to throw at me about Tampa corruption is more than welcome. This is a city spening millions to build Riverwalk. It's just a big sidewalk overlooking the polluted Hillsborough River. Talk about pork.

Alon Levy, your review of her writing was priceless.

Here is the phone numbers of the St. Petersburg police department. If anyone feels the need to complain about Rachel's activities. This isn't a free speech issue. She is planning assault (and may have been involved in another incident) online. The webmaster is still letting Rachel blog there.

District I
(southern
St. Petersburg)
551-3181

District II
(north and northeast
St. Petersburg)
551-3182

District III
(western
St. Petersburg)
551-3183

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