Pepin Tuma, 33, was walking with two friends along Washington’s hip U Street corridor around midnight Saturday, complaining about how Gates had been rousted from his home for not showing a proper amount of deference to a cop. “We’d been talking about it all day,” said Tuma. “It seems like police have a tendency to act overly aggressively when they’re being pushed around,” Tuma recalled saying.
Then the group noticed five or six police cruisers surrounding two cars in an apparent traffic stop on the other side of the street. It seemed to Tuma that was more cops than necessary.
“That’s why I hate the police,” Tuma said. He told the Huffington Post that in a loud sing-song voice, he then chanted, “I hate the police, I hate the police.”
One officer reacted strongly to Tuma’s song. “Hey! Hey! Who do you think you’re talking to?” Tuma recalled the officer shouting as he strode across an intersection to where Tuma was standing. “Who do you think you are to think you can talk to a police officer like that?” the police officer said, according to Luke Platzer, 30, one of Tuma’s companions.
Tuma said he responded, “It is not illegal to say I hate the police. It’s not illegal to express my opinion walking down the street.”
He got arrested for disorderly conduct.
I’m actually driven crazy by jackasses like Pepin Tuma. You started chanting “I hate the police” because you thought they had too many cars at what might have been a traffic stop, or something else entirely?
This is also the kind of case where I can see the reason behind disorderly conduct laws. Were citizens to start verbally abusing police on the street without cause and while they’re trying to handle a different situation, one can easily see how it might spread disorder and lead to dangerous situations.
Without more details, I can’t really say whether I think Mr. Tuma should have been arrested, but if not, he’s about the least sympathetic wrongful disorderly conduct arrest one can imagine. There is actually no way to write the law so that things will come out justly in every situation. A healthy relationship between the citizenry and the police requires a mutual reasonableness that can’t be codified into legalistic standards governing every situation. People like Mr. Tuma poison that relationship. He may not deserve arrest, but he certainly deserves opprobrium.