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.”
Within minutes, the officer had cuffed Tuma. The charge: disorderly conduct — just like Gates, who was arrested after police responded to a report of a possible break-in at his home and Gates protested their ensuing behavior.
“People talk about the Gates thing in terms of race, but it’s an ongoing problem of police using disorderly conduct to shut people up,” Tuma said.