In between the afternoon and evening protests at Slidebar in Fullerton over their role in the Kelly Thomas killing, the only people left buzzing around the area were a group of homeless men. They walked leisurely around the Fullerton Bus Depot or sat on benches in the shade, and while they were completely aware of and acquainted to one another, most stood on alone.
Out of nowhere a friendly looking woman with a straw sun hat and a worn-in, red dress walked to the area where Thomas was murdered next to the bus depot driveway. She carried a rather giant bucket of chalk. Susan Brodbeck is a self-proclaimed chalk artist who visits the site once a day or more to draw and talk to people about Thomas. She is eccentric and even a little strange as she adds, "Way to go Kings" next to all her other Thomas related work, but she is very sweet. Her approachable nature makes it easy for curious strangers to learn more about Thomas and how they can help keep his memory alive.
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While the other bus depot locals may not seem as immediately friendly as Brodbeck, who comes and goes to the area, they are fighting for Thomas too. Larry, a veteran with shoulder-length white hair, speaks openly, albeit scattered, about the night he walked unknowingly onto the scene of the crime. He was coming back from buying dinner when he saw the yellow tape and pool of blood.
"I don't cry in front of people," he said. Yet he said has cried that night and ever since for Thomas.
Larry claimed that he has made it his goal to help bring down the six officers who murdered Thomas, and that Fullerton is "turning into a bad town." However, he said that Slidebar was not his issue to deal with.
Larry floats from topic to topic and can be a little hard to follow at times, but he introduces Curtis, claiming that the man "knows a lot."
Curtis is a tall, very buff, and dark, black man. He is clean cut and soft-spoken. Were it not for Larry's introduction, one would never know Curtis was homeless. He sat on a bench at the bus depot right where the Thomas killing began.
He looked at Slidebar's involvement differently that Larry's, and saw it as a detail in a crime scene. He said he believed that Slidebar may have not been a direct accomplice in Thomas' beating, but that we have to acknowledge its involvement--not doing so would be ignoring crucial evidence.
Curtis prints fliers with Thomas' face that demand "Change 4 Justice" and he keeps copies of them nicely organized in a leather binder inside his leather briefcase.
"If you were to think of someone this would have happened to," Curtis said, "Kelly would have been the last guy."
Yet the more we learn about the brutality that occurred that night, the clearer it becomes that this could have happened to anyone. Slidebar could have called to complain about any of them. The fury could have very well been unleashed on Larry, Curtis, or any of the other local homeless men, and yet Thomas, the least controversial of them all in their mind, was the one chosen.
Now, excuse my soapbox standing but...
This only goes to further show that the threat was all on the officer's end, and whoever was on the other side of their fists, feet, batons, and taser mattered none. This fact reveals the complicated and contradicting place that the homeless occupy in society.
This contradicting identity can sometimes place the homeless in a realm where they are not treated like humans, so it is curious to wonder if the voice of the homeless at the bus depot make a difference at all. They do if people will only stop to listen. It doesn't take long to peek in at the lives of the people who live there to see that nothing Thomas could have done would have disturbed Slidebar's drunk crowd enough to warrant a complaint--and even a real one at that.