Fighting back against the library's homeless police
Kicked out: When the bearded son of a Dallas Morning News metro columnist gets kicked out of the downtown library for eating a banana, that's news—or at least it was to former columnist Sherry Jacobson, who wrote about her kid's plight last December. Apologies were in order, and they came swiftly.
When an actual homeless person gets kicked out of the library for something he says he didn't do, the "so sorry" takes a bit longer to arrive—or, in the case of William T. Mason, never does. So Mason is suing the city and the security company whose guards tossed him out, alleging a conspiracy to deprive homeless persons of their civil rights. (Library administrators declined to comment and referred Buzz to the City Attorney's Office, which didn't call us back.)
Mason filed his suit in January, but we're just now hearing about it because he recently sent the Dallas Observer a request for a copy of a story we did about homeless people in the J. Erik Jonsson Library in 2003. That story, "Make Yourself at Home," by Charles Siderius, took a less than charitable view of the homeless: They smell kinda bad; they have sex where they shouldn't; they bathe in the restrooms, etc. The story preceded the whole drive-the-vagabonds-from-the-stacks effort at the library the past few years. Yep, we smack the homeless and—in case you haven't heard—condemn gays on our blog, Unfair Park. We're the Observer, liberal media.
But back to Mason. He says he was using a toilet in the main library in September 2005 when some security guards showed up. As he left the john, they stopped him and accused him of banging on the walls. Mason, disabled by cancer and heart problems, was homeless at the time but now lives with relatives. He didn't bang on the walls, he says, but he was tossed out anyway by what were, in his description, some fairly smartass guards.
What really angered him, though, was that the guards were his judge, jury and executioner. In his federal suit, he complains that there's no administrative appeal for people kicked out of the library. (Even the cops wouldn't help him when he called, and he's reluctant to go back to the library for fear of being arrested for trespass.) "They need to put something in place to keep this from happening," Mason says, "because it could happen again and again." Unless, of course, you can persuade a newspaper columnist to adopt you. —Patrick Williams
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