Fullerton Homeless Talk about Kelly Thomas After Slidebar Protest

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.


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. 

He said that the guys in the area did not know Thomas that well, even though he had been around for a while. He said that Thomas tended to keep to himself, and if he ever faced an altercation he would just walk away. Some of the other homeless men didn't even know Thomas' name–only as “the guy with the long red hair.” 
“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. 

On one hand, they are seen as helpless, and yet on the other hand they are responsible for getting help. This teeter-totter makes it easy for people to look at the homeless in whatever way makes them feel the most comfortable. When Slidebar called the Fullerton police, they decided to see Thomas as just a nuisance to be dealt with. 

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. 

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