Sarasota, Florida -- Sarasota, a Gulf Coast city of 53,000 full time residents, is known for
its arts scene and nearby beautiful beaches. But some homeless and the
American Civil Liberties Union say authorities are trying to harass the
homeless into leaving town.
Surveillance video shows a Sarasota police officer knocking down a homeless man and dragging him across the pavement. The footage was obtained by
the ACLU highlights what some say is a class struggle in this city of high-end
condos overlooking sparkling waters.
"The ACLU found that
officers were texting each other back and forth about bum hunting, hunting for
bums in the city," says ACLU spokesperson Michael Barfield. "At night, during the day, in city parks. And making jokes
about having to beat them up or get into a fight with them."
The organization has filed multiple lawsuits against the city, claiming that
authorities are try to harass the homeless into leaving town.
See Also: Homeless arrest video sparks calls for change
"We have an active internal affairs
investigation and we're going to thoroughly investigate this case and bring it
to a conclusion," says Bernadette DiPino, who is being sworn in as Sarasota's new police chief on Friday. "But I'm not at liberty at this point to discuss it because
under state statute, it's a confidentiality clause that's involved."
The alleged abuse doesn't surprise some of Sarasota's homeless population.
They say a burgeoning number of wealthier folks don't want them them near their
for a long time we've had a lot of issues. The fact that we have a lot of wealthy
people downtown and they're not quite used to dealing with the lowly and
downtrodden," says homeless man Steve McAllister.
been homeless. I've been a vagrant and now I'm a bum that's being hunted by bum
hunters," adds James Franklin Jr.
For their part, police say offer more services to the homeless than other
cities, including referring them to social service programs.