Sunday, October 16, 2011

RLSH Community Reacts to Jones Case

Phoenix Jones in court.

For the last week I've been writing about Phoenix Jones, an incident I witnesses and the aftermath. Jones has always been a controversial figure in the RLSH world. Some love him, some hate him and some aren't quite sure what to make. Opinions on last week's incident have varied quite a bit. Some think it is no biggie, others have speculated it is the beginning of the end and could lead to a strong anti-RLSH campaign.

I asked a random group of RLSH to share their opinions of the Jones case based on my testimony of the event (which you can find in an entry from Wednesday.)

DARK GUARDIAN/ RLSH of NYC/ member of the New York Intiative

I believe he acted inappropriately in this instance. He rushed into a situation and reacted with very poor judgement. He maced a group of people who were not attacking him. He was not acting in self defense and the police have rightfully charged him with assault. This is an example of what not to do as a community crime-fighter. It should be a priority to de-escalate situations and work hand in hand with the police to garner the smartest and safest outcome. I stand with the police and want everyone to know he is not a true reflection on what others like myself do in our communities to help.

EON/ RLSH of California

Phoenix Jones was unprepared to deal with the situation and didn't handle it well. I don't think he's a bad person, I don't think he had malicious intent, I don't even think he did anything criminal. To be honest, I even kinda like Phoenix Jones at this point.

He just didn't handle it well... and I'm not talking about morality, I'm talking about skill. It was only a group of rowdy drunks. There's no reason for that to lead to running in around in terror thinking defenseless members of your group are going to get shot and ultimately to being arrested. There are SO many ways to avoid something like that: effective teamwork, a nearby vehicle, standing out of arms reach and issuing a verbal challenge before engaging, etc etc etc.

THE WATCHMAN/ RLSH of Milwaukee/ admin/ member of The Challengers

In regards to the recent incident in Seattle leading to the arrest of Phoenix Jones by police, I find it difficult to know just what to say. Much of my opinion must be based on speculation because I was not present and the evidence presented to me is not very clear. It is nearly impossible to determine the facts based on the video alone, and I know firsthand that the media does not always have the facts either, so I must also refer to what I've been told by my trusted friend, Tea Krulos, and try to filter through everything else.

I find this reminiscent of most other stories involving Phoenix Jones. There is a great deal of media coverage and heated internet conversations, and a lot of whispering to one another behind closed doors, but it is far too often based on speculation and biased opinions.

It is impossible for any of us to know with absolute certainty what we would do in any situation until we are in that same situation ourselves. However, I know how I have dealt with other situations in the past, and I do carry pepper spray on my own patrols, and I can tell you that I have not once used pepper spray to break up a fight. The analogy I have used in discussing my belief in the matter is this: trying to stop a crowd of people from fighting by spraying pepper spray on them is like trying to keep a forest from burning by dumping napalm on it.

I think it is great to have people out there trying to keep their communities safe, but they need to use their heads when doing so. Regardless of what was happening that night, Phoenix Jones and his aggressive style clearly seemed to make it worse rather than better. While it was likely a problem that needed immediate attention, I think it was handled poorly. It is important to keep your cool and be level-headed in situations such as these. People need to be cooled down, not have fuel thrown on their fire. Still, a call was made, which is better than to have stood by and done nothing.

I find the actions of the police that night to be even worse. Statements should have been taken from all involved, and evidence should have been viewed. All of the people there should have been treated equally. Instead, it appears that the police only cared about knocking down just one man, Phoenix Jones. As a proud supporter of local law enforcement, I hate to see things like this happen. All too often a few bad cops, or even just a few bad decisions made by cops, make cops look bad. I believe those police officers did a disservice to all police officers. It is reasons like that that so many people hate and fear the police rather than respecting and honoring them.
The Watchman


Heroes in the Night: Did he do the right thing?

Yes. He clearly saw that there was more than one altercation going on and that several people were involved. At least one person was even knocked to the ground and kicked. There was NO TIME for verbal de-escalation (and I am a huge supporter of de-escalation). He had to break up the combatants immediately before the situation became even more violent- possibly leading to more injuries, or worse.

He did not hose people with the pepper spray, but directed it only at those involved in actually fighting. AND only after calling out warnings for people to break it up. These facts are not disputed by actual eye witnesses, or the video, only by people who were not there and who interpreted the video incorrectly.

Phoenix went out of his way NOT to spray, or engage, those not involved in the actual fighting.. Even to the point he allowed himself to be attacked multiple times. He assessed the situation, took immediate action to break up the violence and prevented further injuries. At no time did he intentionally inflict harm upon anyone not involved that I saw. Some people standing close by caught peripheral spray, but this wasn't harmful, and was a lot less dangerous than if he waded into the fight and started throwing people around on the ground to separate them.

This is going to piss a lot of people off, but in the same situation, I probably would have done the exact same thing.

HITN: What lessons can the RLSH take away from this?

People need to stop pre-judging and armchair quarterbacking. So many people have been waiting for Phoenix to screw up that they howled in delight and mis-interpreted the evidence even when they looked at it in slow motion.

This situation also shows how dangerous what we do is. For some it's not so hairy, but for Phoenix and his team it was a nightmare that could have ended worse. Preparation is key, and having a clear head and calling out directions during the whole thing showed leadership and tactics. People forget that several of Phoenix's team have military backgrounds. They didn't go haywire and bash people which is something that sadly many people in the current community might have done when confronted and attacked.

Mr Jones didn't run in seeking glory. He went in to stop a potentially volatile and violent situation. Nobody who wasn't there knows what might have happened had he not stepped in. And his team backed him up. It wasn't one man, but a TEAM effort, with their leader out in front where he should be.

SKY MAN/ RLSH of Seattle

HITN: If you were in that situation what would you do differently?

Me personally? I dabble in street patrolling and am still studying the, well, for lack of a better word, “proper” ways of going about it. I started out my career as an RLSH focused solely on charity and humanitarian work... I have no previous fighting or self-defense experience. This is why I set up the rule for myself of never patrolling alone. I'm glad PJ doesn't practice this either a whole lot, though I have heard that he does from time to time and I'm concerned for him.... no matter how much self-defense training of personal protection devices you carry with you you can't prepare for every situation or eventuality. This ain't Adventure Comics!
I wouldn't have rushed in and gotten in the middle of a fight that I was outnumbered in... straight up! Would I have intervened if my approach and presence hadn't stopped it? Of course, just not with the “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality.

HITN: What do you think of him being charged with assault?

Ridiculous!Though bear mace is potent stuff and once sprayed its trail is quite lasting! When the main defendant was interviewed by KING 5 news, which I made my feelings known about on FB, I wasn't surprised to hear that she and her friends were standing around WATCHING a fight take place. So she felt the aftereffects of the bear mace... I consider her apathy and non-interventionist philosophy more wrong that what PJ did.

Also, the arresting officer may hold a grudge against PJ, for whatever reason... but he doesn't hold that grudge against PJ alone! I remember a few months back in the summer the same officer criticized me and my associates for doing a homeless handout and calling in the cops to notify them of a situation across the street from where we were doing our outreach.
Sky Man

BRIDGES/ RLSH of Seattle

In a nut shell, I think he did the right thing for the wrong reasons.

I also think that what he did has repercussions for all of us. In addition to having to deliver reality checks to the guaranteed crop of newbies that pop up in response to all the media attention (only now instead of being influenced by Kickass, they're going to be following a real person's example and think that they can get away with way more than they actually can), I'm also worried about even worse RLSH relationships with SPD (and possibly other police departments) and possibly even a reevaluation of current legislation. I would not be at all surprised if the future holds changes in self-defense/citizen's arrest laws or judicial management of those laws that make doing what we want to do harder. These laws are intentionally a little grey so that ordinary citizens don't have to be experts to feel safe in doing the right thing - recent (and probably inevitable future) abuses of these laws might cause a shift towards more strict rules.

Time will tell.

The one thing I know for certain is that this incident demonstrates a critical problem for the RLSH - being able to admit making a mistake. PJ may be the most egregious offender, but there are definitely others who are hot on his tail. Hell, I struggle with it.

Keep in mind, I'm not saying that everything PJ does is bad. Far from it. I've met/patrolled with/ and argued my fair share with the guy. I can tell you that he is very passionate about what he does, as well as charismatic. I'd be completely remiss to gloss over the massive public and financial support he has developed that allows him and the RCSM patrol as much--if not more than, the most active members of the community. Finally, he has given this community/movement/clusterfuck an immense amount of media exposure.

This last contribution is what makes his denials of and attempts to cover up his flaws (and other's lack of recognition of those flaws) so dangerous.

As someone who's been wrong about more things than I like to admit (part of the territory of being headstrong and fond of being "right") I fully understand how hard it is to admit fault, or to justify and trivialize other's criticisms because "I've done so many great things!" The thing is, even the most brilliant, accomplished people make mistakes. What separates the good from the great is their ability to adapt and learn from their mistakes.

Like most other aspects of growing up, learning to admit faults is a long, painful process that often looks really damn ugly. It's also necessary.

Hopefully that's somewhat useful to someone.


Comedian Seth Meyer, on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update: "Phoenix Jones, a self proclaimed costumed vigilante was arrested in Seattle after he allegedly used pepper spray on a group of people leaving a night club. Jones apparently became a superhero after he was bitten by a radioactive idiot."

Former Seattle mayor Paul Schell (on The John Curley Show):"I think you don't need vigilantes. I think you need to make it clear you need police to do a police job otherwise you have chaos. I'm sorry but- and there are always characters like you remember, John, there was this guy who came to every press conference convinced that police had killed Kurt there are characters and that's fine but when someone is taking law into their own hands acting like a vigilante and actually doing that, then it is no longer funny."

You've read these reactions, now I hope you'll add your own in the comments section.


  1. I will definitely echo that this is landmark to all RLSH/X-alts as to how to deal with a confrontation. I think bear mace to break up a fight is, a lot like The Watchman said, kind of a backwards way of doing it. I loved his legal team and the stuff coming around it, free street theater is the best thing ever. I loath the SPD recently for many reasons and this is just another on the pile. It was a waste of time and money to detain that man, and the officer who did so is a known bad apple.

  2. That's two mentions on SNL now... I guess if it ever comes up I have that particular trivia question nailed.

  3. Because there are some misunderstandings about what I meant by, " the same situation, I probably would have done the exact same thing."

    First, I don't carry pepper spray, or wear body armor. What I meant was, my first priority would be to separate those fighting as quickly as possible to prevent further injuries to those fighting.. and in such a way as to prevent injuries to myself and those close by.

    I found it disgusting that every last man involved took off, leaving behind their girlfriends. This did not strike me as the reactions of a couple of guys fighting in the street.. These were guys probably hiding something. The subsequent lies told by "Shoe Girl" on television and the radio, illustrated perfectly how people refuse to take responsibility for their behavior and actions.

  4. I see a lot of people question Phoenix Jones' actions. Most deal with how he rushed in, used mace, etc. My question to all RLSHs is how well do you know the law where you live?

    A lot of you probably are unaware that legally the "use of force" is justified to defend yourself and of course defend or save the life of another. Tactics can always be refined and of course many can sit here now and criticize this video in the comfort of your chair or home. The point is everybody would react different.

    I have also seen many videos of RLSHs breaking up fights or patrolling on you tube. I have seen some equally questionable tactics of RLSH's approaching drug sellers unarmed or with little to no protection, equally breaking up fights, etc. Either way, stepping in to break up a fight or stop a crime is the very same decision Phoenix Jones made. Some of you think "tactics" worked because you broke a fight up without getting hurt or in the fight. I call it luck.
    You all fall under the same degree of danger should the fight turn on you or you end up getting hurt.

    It's pretty clear Phoenix Jones was within his rights legally to do what he did but found himself on the wrong side of the law because the local PD had enough. They used the gray area of the law to make the arrest and oddly enough the only one I saw who was assaulted was Phoenix Jones who should have equally pressed charges against the other party. The bottom line is Phoenix Jones is doing what he is doing. It is clear that even though he was arrested for doing something good he still is not giving up.

  5. You know, if he didn't have a rubber suit he'd be known as "that guy who keeps pepper-spraying people".

    It's not as catchy as "Phoenix Jones", but it makes you stop and question why a rubber suit gives anyone the right to go around pepper-spraying people. It's not his first offence. He's done it over and over again.

  6. The mainstream ie CIA controlled media will never support RLSH. That alone is sufficient reason to support them.

  7. I don't have a problem with what he did, at least not fully. While he was legally within his right to defend those people with force, he's beeen doing this way too long be using tactics like those. That, in combination with his arrogance, is why he got on the wrong side of SPD and the wrong side of most of us.

  8. When did he use his state/city mandated authority to order people to cease and desist? Did he identify himself as a Lawful Officer of the Peace - with either badge or uniform?


    He HAS NO Authority to tell anyone to do anything. He can only attack and threaten. THAT is ALL that superheroes prancing around in their capes (talking to you Dark Guardian and your impotent "Megaphone of Justice") can do. An unknown MASKED man ran into a crowd of people (who some reports said were speaking Russian), yelled One believes incoherent "commands" (because again - he has NO authority to tell anyone anything) and started attacking people by spraying dangerous chemicals on people, including others in vicinity who were also exposed by his indiscriminate use, on citizens, INNOCENT until proven guilty in a court of law. What certification has he received to carry and use that weapon? What training? "None - he just started using it on people" - really? That's the qualifications for a superhero - they just decided it looked "cool".

    Who was arrested here? Anyone except Jones? Who was "saved" - no one? How many people had to narrowly escape being attacked by the mob Phoenix created (by the accounts of the author, himself and everyone in his party)?

    One hopes the "documentary" One suspects Jones is hoping to become famous for, is worth the harm he is doing to people. Ask a superhero "Is fame worth hurting innocent citizens?", and you're going to see them all come out and defend their actions. Fame is the ends to their means. Don't worry about the Means, just the Ends (Fame).

    -Lord Malignance

  9. If someone is being assaulted, you don't need to do those things. People were protected by his actions, hasty as they were.

    RCW 9A.16.020
    Use of force — When lawful.

    3) Whenever used by a party about to be injured, or by another lawfully aiding him or her, in preventing or attempting to prevent an offense against his or her person, or a malicious trespass, or other malicious interference with real or personal property lawfully in his or her possession, in case the force is not more than is necessary;"

    You're spot on about most everything else, unfortunately.

  10. One is left then believing that we must hear witness testimony from the parties said to be fighting. Were they in fact fighting, or was this some exuberant dance style that might be interpreted incorrectly? Was Jones then acting responsibly to fulfill the legal criteria you quote? Are there any hospital records (other than those caused BY Jones) to corroborate any injury to any of the participants?

    Jones made a series of judgement calls, based on his training as a - what exactly? An MMA Fighter? One is not seeing Trained EMT, Officer of the Peace, Military Medic, Paramedic, -anything other than some guy who likes to fight people in a cage in his repertoire of skills. He can only perform in the ways he's been trained to respond. He's no Cop - he's a brawler. That's how he sees, identifies, and reacts to situations. And that's what he did here. He didn't evaluate options, he jumped in to start a fight, try out his body armor, and his chemical weapons, practice his MMA submission moves on some drunks, get some footage for One supposes his upcoming documentary. Innocence? De-escalation? These don't sell T-Shirts! Only the character of a street fighter vigilante does. Cui Bono? A cop gets paid. What does Jones get? We are led to believe "his need for justice", but One wagers, This individual's motivation is more to the T-shirt sales side of this business.

    An individual One points out, who runs around playing batman with harmful chemical weapons. His judgement is already in question. What Sane person fights crime in a rubber mask? When arrested - One believes most would not find this a joking matter, his response to the Police Officer asking him to remove his mask was "Give me back my Face" - a Watchmen quote from the very insane character Rorschach.

    The reason why there is "An Insanity Plea" is that those incapable of knowing and obeying the law, are (somewhat) exempt from it.

    Superhero Vigilantes Are A Bad Idea.
    (And One is no lawyer. Can you Imagine what a lawyer would do to him, Any member of Princess Jacqueline's New York Initiative, or ANY superhero vigilante in a court of law?)

  11. LM, I think you're absolutely right on that last part. Vigilantism is never acceptable. There's a plethora of reasons why comic books are fictional. Unfortunately for everyone who thinks he walks on water, there's also a reason he's not in jail right now. He didn't fuck up completely. If he had, I'd feel a whole lot better knowing that he got his reality check before anyone got shot.

  12. Look, for the love Pete, Phoenix Jones and other RLSH are NOT vigilantes.

    Vigilantes take the law into their own hands and deal with lawbreakers as they choose.

    What Jones and other RLSH want to do is little more than a neighborhood watch program with an aggressive stance.

    Please. Get it right.

  13. From (Legal texts may differ);
    "any person who takes the law into his or her own hands, as by avenging a crime."

    3 Instances of Jones taking "the law" into his own hands;

    1) Indiscriminate and untrained use of an aerosol weapon in the most recent case. Those innocent bystanders who suffered for his attack had done nothing, but were punished by Jones.

    2) When Jones provokes confrontations with undesirables, in order to create the conditions he uses to make his citizen arrests. As reported in these pages.

    3) When Jones in a violent rampage, attacked citizens who were, with the aid of a good Samaritan able to drive him off at gunpoint. Jones was disciplined w/a broken nose in that instance, but what of his victims? What harm did they suffer? Assault certainly. Too afraid of his vengeance to press charges One suspects.

    Here's a quick rule of thumb on Neighborhood watch: You don't wear masks to scare people. You don't brandish weapons for "viewers". Find your Neighborhood watch with these characteristics. It doesn't exist. Fact is, Jones is making a movie, and we're all being spoon fed his story. It's a lie, and he's going to inspire someone else to follow his example, or he will die or be imprisoned before that.

    Please. Get it right. Look at the facts. Consider the consequences. Everyone wants to play batman. It's cool. But it's also childish and irresponsible. It's time to grow up, when you are causing people and society harm. It's time to take responsibility for your actions, like an adult.

    -Lord Malignance

  14. This could seriously end play time for the RLSH, reality has intervened.

    He approached a fight and then introduced a weapon into the proceedings - those are the basic clear facts.

    He has no super powers and in this case is probably not a hero. That just makes him RL.

    I commend all of those that I have seen initiating and completing charitable works in their communities but this is not helpful.

  15. Something to consider. All those that have been peppersprayed by PJ who have NOT been arrested/fined/punished by the police. Is this because the police (who are, officially or not, promoted/ranked on the number of arrests they make) are incompetent or because there was not enough evidence to act. To be sure, PJ has gotten a good number of people arrested/punished, but he's done his fair share of punishing as well.

    Pepperspray, batons, stun guns, etc are ONLY meant to buy time for the police to arrive and/or to get away from a bad situation. Ordinary citizens, and most unordinary ones, are not trained to actually handle situations like these. It's the same thing as with emergency medical care. A first aid certified person only works to get someone to the care of a EMT, who then keeps someone stable enough to get to the hospital.

    This isn't a comic book or a movie.

  16. I've watched the video several times and also heard the interviews and spoken with Phoenix. Frankly, I don't see another alternative to what Phoenix did. I think he chose the most peaceful way to de-escalate the beating of two men by a mob. If there is another workable answer here, I haven't heard it.
    - Geist