Above: Photo of Charlie Grapski by Carlos Miller
Charlie Grapski a political theorist and scientist, had planned to travel to Ferguson, Missouri to study irregularities in local government and to investigate the police shooting of Mike Brown, but was detained. He was released Saturday afternoon after being held under Florida’s Baker Act. Police alleged Grapski had made threats to officials and was detained at Park Place Behavioral Health Center in Kissimmee, Florida for 48 hours, but not charged.
In the following interview, Mr. Grapski described his detention as an “gross misuse” of his constitutional rights. He told of his future plans to continue investigating the local government in Ferguson. He also offered some advice for activists working to expose abuses by local law enforcement.Grapski had planned to meet with the Saint Louis District Attorney and local government officials from Ferguson to investigate the August 9 shooting of Mike Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer.
DC Media Group interviewed Mr. Grapski following his release.
Zangas: Tell us about yourself.
Grapski: I have a very lengthy biography. In brief, I taught political theory and political science at the University of Florida, before I got caught up having been exposing corruption in Florida in 2006. And I taught Jurisprudence at the Faculty of Law at University College London.
Zangas: Why were you held prior to traveling?
Grapski: I was being held to prevent me from traveling to Ferguson and continuing the work I have been doing there and elsewhere regarding corruption in government and law enforcement. Under the Baker Act, a prosecutor can detain – yes, it is constitutional if used appropriately. This was a gross misuse of that authority, and thus clearly unconstitutional.
Zangas: Where were you held and what happened?
Grapski: I was held in a place called Park Place in Kissimmee, Florida.
I basically refused everything: food, water, meds, and just laid in bed and told them not to bother me. The staff was very cooperative and polite.
The problem was the “doctor.” I’ll explain why–I put that in quotes–and the administration.
I was legally entitled, and they were required, to have a psychiatrist review my case within 24 and 48 hours.
A day after I was taken in – I met with a person purporting to be that psychiatric doctor and the whole institution purporting that.
She was demeaning and dismissive – and as I pressed her – she clearly had no idea either about the Baker Act law – or psychiatry.
It started to become obvious to a “social worker” who had no business being present, that I was “on” to her. I told her that they had no legal or medical basis to hold me – and she said she could not release me. I stated as doctor she had that authority. She denied it-a first sign [to me] of a problem.
No matter what I said, further, she was stating “I said” things OTHERS said – not me. Like there was a “conspiracy to get me” and that I “got mad because people wouldn’t believe what I said” etc.
She then stated I showed signs of “bipolar disorder” – I challenged her on that – and she demanded I tell her what that diagnosis would be based upon – that’s when I was taken out. She also stated that I was “angry” – which I stated indeed I was – being unjustifiably taken and held against my will – but that was not a sign of bipolar disorder – but a very normal response).
I demanded they speak to my actual doctor.
My real doctor was never put through to anyone for two days despite trying. Until after they refused me the 48 hour review – I got him on the phone – and had someone put him through to the “doctor.”
But when I got back on the phone with him afterwards – he told me instead they had him put through to a nurse practitioner who he said was clueless. But what I confirmed during that time he was on the phone – the person he was speaking to – was the person impersonating the doctor!
So it got more ridiculous from there.
The next day – I put them on the spot – calling her out for fraudulently claiming to be a doctor. They then tried to get me to sign a “voluntary dismissal” and be released in another day – I stated they had no legal authority to hold me THAT day – and I was signing nothing.
A while later – they called me back – apologized – and told me they were releasing me.
Then when they released me they tried another trick – they wanted me to sign a treatment agreement. But they gave me the third of three pages – with only the signature page. I demanded the other two – and they were trying to get me to admit to “psychosis” and believing there was “a conspiracy out to get me.” I refused.
I was released at about 2pm Saturday.
They took my phone – Of course – I had it till the battery went dead getting the word out long before they took it – not realizing what I was doing. I got it back when released.
Zangas: What were your intended plans upon your arrival in Ferguson?
Grapski: I was going to live-stream, document, and report on events there and the background of what is going on as well as pursue a strategy regarding the Sunshine Law/Public Records laws by meeting and further organizing and teaching about the laws and how to use them to hold government agencies/officials to account, meet with lawyers to prepare litigation. I even had a meeting scheduled with the District Attorney regarding criminal violations by the City.
Zangas: Do you know why Florida police were detaining you?
Grapski: I don’t know any tweet I sent that could be seriously viewed as threatening or planning to do violence.
I don’t know about my ability to travel yet – but I intend on getting back out there and to Ferguson and Albuquerque. But we will be seeing this week – I have also made a demand for all the documents that they used to deny me that in the first place.
Zangas: What advice can you offer local activists trying to change things for the better in Ferguson-or anywhere?
Grapski: The advice I give is to remain consistent and persistent. But also become more strategic. In particular I cannot emphasize more the incredible untapped power and potential that we have if we utilize the Sunshine/Public Records laws strategically. It will turn the tables by placing the law in our hands and our side – turning us into the law enforcers and them into the law-breakers.
Zangas: Do you expect the Grand Jury will indict Darren Wilson?
Grapski: I am not very confident that the Grand Jury will indict – I think there is a 98% chance they will not. And that is going to set off a chain reaction like we have never before seen. It is very unfortunate – but the system refuses to hold itself or those within it to account. And this is what happens when government loses its legitimacy.