Austin activist Antonio Buehler filed a lawsuit against several members of the Austin Police Department on Dec. 31 for preventing him from filming police behavior — which, according to Buehler, is a violation of his civil rights.

Buehler was first arrested on Jan. 1, 2012 after he filmed, what he described as, a brutal encounter between a woman and APD officers. Buehler said the officers’ behavior
surprised him.

“As I saw the cops putting [the woman] into a torture move; it shocked the hell out of me,” Buehler said. “I just never imagined I would see that.” 

When one of the officers, Patrick Oborski, noticed him filming, Buehler was arrested and charged with failure to obey a lawful order.

“When I was sitting in jail that night, it was just surreal. … I couldn’t believe what was happening,” Buehler said. “That’s when I realized that my world has changed.”

In April 2013, a grand jury dropped charges against Oborski of tampering with a governmental record and official oppression.

“It is clear that, after reviewing all of the evidence in these cases and applicable statutes, the grand jury found that interfering with officers during the course of their duties is, in fact, a crime,” Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement.

While filming police actions is generally lawful, Acevedo said failure to obey a lawful order and resisting arrest are not tolerated,

Since his first arrest, Buehler has been detained multiple times, once for disorderly conduct and a second time for failure to obey a lawful order. Buehler said APD’s failure to reprimand the officers who arrested him is part of why he’s suing the department.

“There is absolutely no accountability for police who commit a crime,” Buehler said. “This is a problem that certainly predates my incident.”

Buehler said the Office of the Police Monitor, which exists to handle cases of alleged violations of APD policy, along with APD’s Internal Affairs department, are not effective at holding APD officers accountable.

Biology freshman Aleyda Lopez said she thinks videotapes can serve as evidence in cases of police cruelty.

“The cops should not be afraid of being filmed, because if they act in a decent way they should have nothing to be afraid of,” Lopez said. “[Buehler] has been arrested because the cops do not want their corrupt behavior to be exposed.”

Soon after his first arrest, Buehler founded the Peaceful Streets Project, a nonpartisan police-accountability organization that organizes groups of citizens to film law enforcement officers.

Acevedo said APD strongly supports the right of members of the public to record, photograph or film APD officers.

“Evidence of the department’s support of this fundamental right can be found on the [Internet], which is replete with instances of the public lawfully recording the activities of departmental personnel,” Acevedo said.

In addition to APD, Buehler has also filed suit against the City of Austin, the police chief and several officers.

“We strongly believe that Mr. Buehler’s lawsuit is without merit and look forward to refuting his claims in court,” Acevedo said.

In 2010, author Toni Tipton-Martin created The Jemima Code project, curating hundreds of rare cookbooks written by African American authors. Tipton-Martin will speak on how to write about food in this new media age at UT’s Food Lab’s Women and Food Symposium this weekend.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Author, activist, culinary historian and food journalist Toni Tipton-Martin’s contributions to culinary traditions in America explore the breadth and depth of African-American cuisine. 

A journalism graduate from the University of Southern California and a former food writer at the Los Angeles Times, Tipton-Martin has spent more than three decades writing about food, nutrition and the impact of African-American cuisine on American culinary history. 

This weekend, Tipton-Martin is speaking at UT Food Lab’s Women & Food Symposium on writing about food in the age of new media.

“There was a time when the image of Aunt Jemima, which you can see on Quaker Oats packages, was so negative that it was used as

propaganda to keep black women in their place, which was in the kitchen — usually someone else’s kitchen,” Tipton-Martin said. “When I was at the LA Times, in the vast cookbook library, there were very few contributions made by African Americans, and, even in the Southern books, we were mentioned as an afterthought.”

Tipton-Martin didn’t experience a traditional Southern upbringing because her parents left for California when she was still young. 

“Any of those foods that were the emblems of Southern cooking — like corn bread or fried chicken or greens or sweet potatoes or beans — they were never called ‘soul’ food or Southern food. It was just dinner for us,” Tipton-Martin said.

It was while working as a food writer for the LA Times that Tipton-Martin met Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet Magazine.

“She saw the work that I was doing — it was really kind of perfunctory and dull — and she called me into her office the first week she started working at the Times, and she asked me ‘What do you want to do?’” Tipton-Martin said.

Reichl told Tipton-Martin to go out and find what exactly she wanted to do. It was then that Tipton-Martin realized her love for how certain communities eat and prepare food.

“At that moment, I knew that I was much more passionate to tell the story of people and their successes and their accomplishments and using food as a mechanism for drawing others into that story,” Tipton-Martin said.

Shortly after, Tipton-Martin left the LA Times. Between 2005 and 2007, she served as the president of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an organization that documents and celebrates the different food cultures of the South. It was while she served on the board of the Southern Foodways Alliance and Foodways Texas that she met Elizabeth Engelhardt, a professor in the department of American Studies and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at UT.

“[Tipton-Martin] does truly, deeply believe that the foods that we share, the foods we value, the foods we remember, the foods we don’t like, the foods that we just found, the foods that we’ve eaten our whole life, they tell us something about who we are as people and they can bring us together,” Engelhardt said. “They can remind us about ourselves. Using food as a lens for culture is what [Tipton-Martin] is all about.”

In 2008, Tipton-Martin founded the SANDE Youth Project, a nonprofit organization aimed at promoting health and nutrition among the younger generation, and teaching them how to lead healthier and more productive lives. As director of SANDE, she is involved in fundraising and spreading the message of good food and nutrition.

In January 2009, when Tipton-Martin met Peace Through Pie Social founder Luanne Stovall at the organization’s first public pie social, she joined the board of Peace Through Pie soon after.

“[Tipton-Martin has] mentored me,” Stovall said. “She’s been a supporter. She struck me so much with her passion and her deep connection to history.”

In 2010, taking one step further toward preserving the South’s culinary traditions, Tipton-Martin began curating cookbooks written by African-American authors. She called this project The Jemima Code.

The Jemima Code, an upcoming book and pop-up exhibit, focuses on the 150 cookbooks that are a part of Tipton-Martin’s personal collection of 300 rare, African-American cookbooks.

Tipton-Martin said food has always been a part of the African-American lifestyle.

“My goal is to make sure that African Americans — women in particular and cooks in general — take their rightful place among the role models in the culinary industry,” Tipton-Martin said. “When they do that they will be able to be the voice that touches all those areas that I work in, whether it’s social justice, food insecurity, health and nutrition.”

Youth stand in a building damaged by tank shells in a neighborhood of Damascus, Syria on Thursday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BEIRUT — Syria launched a blistering assault Thursday on the outskirts of its capital, shelling residential areas and deploying snipers on rooftops as international envoy Kofi Annan demanded every fighter lay down arms in time for a U.N.-brokered cease-fire.

The bloodshed undermined already fading hopes that more than a year of violence will end soon, and France accused President Bashar Assad of trying to fool the world by accepting Annan’s deadline to pull the army back from population centers by April 10.

According to the plan, rebels are supposed to stop fighting 48 hours later, paving the way for talks to end Assad’s violent suppression of the uprising against his rule. The U.N. says more than 9,000 people have died.

“Can we be optimistic? I am not. Because I think Bashar Assad is deceiving us,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told reporters in Paris.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the crisis was getting worse, even though the Syrian government accepted Annan’s plan March 27. Activists have accused the regime of stepping up attacks across the country, and they described Thursday’s assault in Douma as among the worst around the capital.

“Cities, towns and villages have been turned into war zones. The sources of violence are proliferating,” Ban told the U.N. General Assembly. “The human rights of the Syrian people continue to be violated. ... Humanitarian needs are growing dramatically.”

He said the violence has not stopped and the situation on the ground “continues to deteriorate.”

Black smoke billowed from residential areas of Douma, about 8 miles outside Damascus, amid heavy cracks of gunfire. Douma, which has seen anti-Assad activities since the uprising began, has been subjected to several campaigns by Assad’s regime over the past year.

Activists said soldiers occupied Douma’s Grand Mosque, one of the largest in the area.

“No one dares to walk in the streets because of the snipers,” Syrian activist Omar Hamza told The Associated Press by telephone. “They are like stray dogs attacking sheep.”

He said the shelling went on for eight hours, damaging homes and setting shops on fire. Hamza said the government appeared to be trying to put the heavily populated suburb under control before the cease-fire goes into effect for fear that there will be massive anti-government demonstrations near the capital if regime troops withdraw.

Douma-based activist Mohammed Saeed reported that troops shelled residential areas Thursday with tanks in one of the most violent campaigns against the area since the uprising started.

He said troops were using detainees as human shields as they marched into one of the suburb’s main squares.

“Soldiers in the Ghanam Square near the vegetable market were walking behind detainees,” Saeed said via Skype. “They do that so that members of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army do not open fire at the troops.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said troops clashed with army defectors in the northern towns of Hraytan and Anadan near Syria’s largest city of Aleppo.

Observers have expressed deep skepticism that Assad will abide by the peace plan, in part because large swaths of the country could slip out of his control if he pulls back the troops.

Analysts say Syria likely will to try to manipulate the terms of the plan to buy more time, or to argue that the regime cannot lay down its arms when “terrorists” are on the attack.

The regime denies that the uprising is the result of a popular will in Syria, calling it a foreign conspiracy being carried out by terrorists and gangs.

Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha said Syria was ready to cooperate with Annan’s plan “as long as long as it also puts an end to the criminal acts being committed by the armed terrorist groups.” The Syrian Foreign Ministry disputed the U.N. death toll of 9,000, saying 6,143 people — “civilians and military, women and children” — have been killed.

Hilal Khashan, political science professor at American University of Beirut, said the regime is trying to make gains on the ground before the deadline.

“What will happen afterward is something similar to a low-intensity guerrilla warfare, which can go unnoticed by the international community, while the regime tries to give the world the impression that it’s all over and the reform operations are under way,” he said.

Even as the death toll mounts, there is little prospect for international intervention of the type that helped topple Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.

Western leaders have pinned their hopes on Annan’s diplomacy, with the U.S. and its allies unwilling to get deeply involved in another Arab nation in turmoil. Several rounds of sanctions from the U.S. and the European Union have done little to stop the bloodshed, and Syria’s main allies of Russia and China are blocking strong action at the U.N. Security Council.

Still, the regime is under great pressure to comply with Annan’s plan in some way, because Russia and China have thrown their support behind it.

Annan traveled to Moscow and Beijing to secure that support. On April 11, the former U.N. chief is expected in Iran — Syria’s last significant ally in the Middle East — for another diplomatic push on Assad’s supporters.

“Clearly, the violence is still continuing,” Annan said from Geneva, speaking to the General Assembly in a videoconference. “Alarming levels of casualties and other abuses continue to be reported daily. Military operations in civilian population centers have not stopped.”

Syria has said it is withdrawing from certain areas, and Annan said Syria has informed him of a partial withdrawal from three locations in Daraa, Idlib and Zabadani.

But witnesses and activists deny that.

Mohammed Fares, an activist in Zabadani, denied claims that troops withdrew and said the army is still in the town with checkpoints backed by tanks.

“Troops and tanks are in Zabadani and around it,” he said by telephone.

Other activists reported attacks on both Daraa and Idlib on Wednesday. Activist groups reported about two dozen dead nationwide Thursday.

In planning for a possible cease-fire, a team led by Norwegian Maj. Gen. Robert Mood arrived in Damascus to begin discussing with Syrian authorities “the eventual deployment of this U.N. supervision and monitoring mission,” Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.

He said the U.N. is looking for a team of 200-250 soldiers to monitor a cease-fire.

The deployment of U.N. monitors would first have to be authorized by the 15-nation Security Council.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said the government has not yet agreed on a timetable for peacekeepers. “But we will discuss these issues in a democratic way,” he said, “because we do want to listen to them.”As the fighting raged in the north, more Syrians fled to
neighboring Turkey, where the Foreign ministry said some 2,350 people arrived Thursday. Some 1,600 refugees arrived Wednesday and earlier Thursday, according to its disaster management agency. That pushes the number of displaced Syrians in Turkey to 22,000. 

Printed on Friday, April 6, 2012 as: Syrian regime troops keep fighting despite UN