A Basic Human Right

On January 26, a homeless man was brutally assaulted in Allston, according to a female eyewitness who threw herself in front of the man to protect him. The man, Michael Hudson, was being brutally beaten; one of his attackers was actually slamming his head into the sidewalk. Police arrested two men who grew up together and played college football—one was the tight end for Boston College last season—for the crime.

This is just the latest in a series of assaults on homeless people that have occurred over the last few years, the information highway is littered with stories of homeless people being beaten, raped and murdered by so-called normal human beings. Just a few weeks ago in Seattle, home of the newly crowned Super Bowl champions, a homeless man was beaten by three people when he dared to sleep on the firefighters memorial, and two of the assaulters were firefighters. Here in Massachusetts, assaults on the homeless happen more frequently than most people think, many are never reported or are chalked-up as just homeless on homeless crime.

As a formerly homeless person I’ve seen my share of so-called normal human beings beating up homeless people who are unable to defend themselves, and like Michael Hudson, were doing nothing more than panhandling. What really sucks is these two jerks were released on their own recognizance. Meanwhile, Hudson is still suffering the effects of the beating and has no memory of the assault (a similar outcome also took place in Seattle). You can believe had Mr. Hudson defended himself and bested these two bullies, not only would he not be out on bail, he’d most likely be in Bridgewater for a psych evaluation.

So how do we stop guys like these two from assaulting homeless people, and make sure that whoever assaults them stays locked up. You folks have heard me say this before, Homeless Hate Crime Legislation, plain and simple. Assaulting a homeless person should be considered a hate crime. Now I know there are those that think it’s silly to have such a thing, That homeless people come in all shapes, sizes and colors and are already covered under the Hate Crime Law. Okay, so why does it keep happening? No one thinks hate crime when a person of color or of a different sexual orientation, who happens to be homeless, is attacked. Name one case. It just doesn’t happen that way, and that’s the point. These attacks, mostly committed by young people, aren’t exactly a huge priority. So these young people, like the two that attacked Hudson, don’t believe beating down a “bum” is a serious offense, and when they are released without bail, they have reason to believe that, being released without bail is for non-serious, non-violent crimes.

A hate crime tag, or a least a stronger response from DAs and Judges would solve that problem. More support from local advocates would help as well.

There’s not a lot of that from local advocates when it comes to hate crime legislation. Part of their argument is that homeless people would have to be accepted as a class, and as a class, homelessness would then be accepted, which isn’t a good thing. Hell, it’s accepted now. People who happen to live on the street have a right to live there without getting their brains beat in. So for me, any argument against hate crime legislation is a moot point. To me it’s a basic human right, like breathing. Then again housing is supposed to be a basic human right. We all know how that worked out.

 

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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